I have previously blogged on permitted development rights associated with seasonal worker accommodation (link), but the issue has now ripened in light of the COVID-19 pandemic owing to workers either self-isolating or staying at home.

Such is the urgent need for workers, recent reports detail that EU based farm workers are being flown in to the UK on charter flights to assist in harvesting fruit and vegetable crops. As large-scale fruit growers across the EU also look to harvest crops, the pressure to attract labour is intensifying.

So how might this relate to planning in Scotland?

As fruit and vegetable producers across the EU vie to attract workers, the quality of accommodation and facilities are a key consideration for migrant workers; as reports of poor living and working conditions in other EU countries such as Spain have recently been graphically documented (link).

In Scotland, it is possible to accommodate seasonal workers in caravans on agricultural land temporarily, for the duration of a season, without obtaining planning permission (Class 16 of the Permitted Development Order). However, the provision of additional facilities such as shower blocks, canteens or communal facilities to attract workers should be given careful consideration.

Class 16 does not extend to such facilities but provided that they are also temporary in nature, Class 14 (Temporary Buildings and Uses) may do, for the duration of the fruit picking operations (only).

Neither Class 14 or 16 has a prior-notification requirement, but advance discussions with the Local Planning Authority may be sensible nonetheless.

What’s the risk?

The alternative of just ‘getting on with it’ always carries the risk that the Planning Authority may take a different view and enforcement action ensues. Such action is always discretionary though, and perhaps less likely during the current crisis.

The time period for immunity from enforcement action would however be 4 years from the date of completion of any unlawful works.