Cumbria Crack

Farming Projects Maintain Momentum

John Sanderson H&H Land & Estates

With positive trends in planning and development across the North, John Sanderson, a Consultant providing Planning & Architectural Services to H&H Land & Estates, comments below on the continued progress for new agricultural projects.

Throughout lockdown, the Farming Community has shown their usual strength and determination to keep things moving. As Planning Consultant, I have seen a continuous demand for many agricultural projects, and the trends show no sign of slowing. With things very much ‘business as usual’, work for H&H Land & Estates has remained buoyant, seeing us provide a wide range of planning and architectural services for agricultural purposes.

The requests have been coming in for farm worker new-build housing as well as barn conversions for residential dwellings. Projects for agricultural infrastructure have also been strong, with applications for steel portal framed livestock and general-purpose sheds leading the way. It shows that farmers are proving resilient, keen to carry on in times of uncertainty.

Working with other teams at H&H, help has been given with grant applications for improvements on farms such as new rooves or silage pits. These comprehensive services have gone some way to support agricultural businesses in meeting their needs for a one-stop-shop for all things land and buildings. The trends also show consistent approvals for residential developments in places like Morpeth and Durham, which will be key for meeting regional housing demands.

With decades of experience, I can say that facilitating these plans comes down to preparation. With an 100% success rate, the key to getting approval relies on dealing with the process ‘back to front’. Planning and architectural developments can be assured by contacting all the relevant statutory authorities first, providing a chance to find a solution before the application is even submitted.

Delivering an application that is accompanied by “all these letters of support/agreement” puts applicants in an incredibly strong position from the get go. Like a pre-emptive strike,
we find we can deal with any potential problems and pitfalls before the application begins its journey through the planning process. Taking this kind of proactive approach means resolving any issues prior to the final stage.

Beyond this, keeping projects moving means meeting any new planning laws as they come in. In terms of the government’s new flagship planning policy reforms, it is wise to offer a word of caution about its transformational potential for house building in the short term. Not only will the devil be in the detail, but with any new system, it will take time to implement and will need sufficient resources to make a difference on the ground.

One change that has been introduced and is having an immediate impact however, is the Government’s amendment of the General Permitted Development and Use Classes Order. This is what enables the development and conversion of commercial premises into residential stock without needing planning permission. Owners and developers are now able to demolish free-standing, vacant and redundant commercial and residential buildings to re-build for housing purposes, within the footprint of the existing building.

This new right is intended to boost the number of homes built, but quite rightly will not apply in some protected locations like listed buildings, or where nature and the environment takes precedence such as in national parks or conservation areas. It is important to bear in mind though that, even if a Planning Application is not required, a Prior Notification Application will have to be submitted to the Local Authority. This allows for checks on the suitability and sustainability of the scheme.

Across the Planning and Architectural industry, there is an underlying concern that this could create a trend of rushed plans for construction, resulting in poor-quality, cramped accommodation, without adequate open space or local services. This is the risk that comes with the greater use of permitted development rights, ultimately opening up opportunities for a lack of due diligence in planning and design.

In the UK there has been a need to increase housing stock for well over a decade, and getting the country building again is a promising way to plan for a COVID-19 recovery.
Yet, the national experience of the pandemic proved how vital green spaces are to individual well-being, and has brought to the fore the responsibility we have as planners and developers to provide good quality homes with access to nature.

As such, even with the expansion of the permitted development rights, the strong demand for homes will continue to open up development in rural locations. I believe this can only benefit the farming community, especially if planning means repurposing abandoned stock and building a better and greener future.

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