“Clarkson’s Clause” Changes Come into Effect for Development Rights

Reportedly inspired by Jeremy Clarkson’s battles with West Oxfordshire District Council in his series Clarkson’s Farm, the Government says the extension of permitted development rights (PDR’s) will ‘turbocharge rural development’.

Farmers are now allowed to convert disused agricultural buildings into multiple homes & shops without planning permission under a new “Clarkson’s clause” which was announced today by the Government in a red tape cutting manoeuvre.

This will allow farmers to more easily diversify their businesses by putting old buildings to new uses. The Government has on Tuesday extended permitted development rights to allow farmers to convert unused agricultural buildings for new commercial uses. Mark Spencer, the farming minister, said the move would cut “needless bureaucracy” and in doing so make diversification easier.

“I am extremely pleased to support our farmers and provide them the freedom to decide the best uses for buildings on their land, without needless bureaucracy holding them back,” he said.
In Clarkson’s Farm, Clarkson is shown being forced to close his restaurant on his Diddly Squat farm that he had converted from a former lambing shed. The local council ordered the restaurant to be closed in August 2022 after it had rejected two previous planning applications.

Converting a barn to a residential property was already permitted under Class Q. The changes have removed several of the restrictions that were previously imposed and allow the construction of small extensions, which was not previously permitted. Under the old regime the fact that the barn might have partly been used for, say, the storage of domestic items caused many prospective beneficiaries of the Class Q rights to lose out. Relaxing the requirement for the barn to have been solely used for agricultural purposes will make Class Q that much more widely applicable. The old regime excluded agricultural buildings that had ceased to be part of an established agricultural unit. Subject to certain time-based constraints this is no longer the case. However, the old regime’s requirement to secure prior approval before commencing the conversion still applies and development now must provide suitable access to the public highway. The Government’s new rule changes also mean that farmers will now be able to convert a building into as many as 10 homes, double the previous limit of five homes.

Land can also now be converted into training centres and outdoor sporting facilities without the need to spend time and money on a planning application, which is great news for equestrian facilities. Under what was known as Class R it is already permissible to change the use of barns to commercial uses. The flexibility of Class R has been expanded with a broader range of permitted uses to include general industrial uses and outdoor sport and recreation uses, in addition to the existing storage and distribution uses, hotels and general commercial, business and service uses. This applies to up to 1,000 m2 of floorspace, up from 500 m2.

Lee Rowley, the planning minister, said: “Farmers are the lifeblood of communities, and these changes give them the freedom to grow their businesses and plan for their futures”.
Rishi Sunak told farmers ‘I have your back’ at the National Farmers’ Union conference back in February.

Rishi Sunak also said “This is all part of our long-term plan for housing to deliver more homes for rural communities and reform the planning system, removing unnecessary barriers to development.”

Rishi Sunak vowed at the National Farmers’ Union conference in February to “change the culture in government around farming”, adding: “I have your back.” Last week, he announced a number of policies to strengthen the agricultural industry, including doubling the funding for horticultural businesses to £80 million.

As with all permitted development rights, conditions and requirements apply, some generally applicable and some applicable to the Class of rights in question. These should always be checked before relying upon the PDRs.

More specific guidance as to the new regulations can be found here: Irwin Mitchell Changes to PD Rights 

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