“If you want to stake out a low impact home and livelihood on a piece of land in the countryside, you will probably, unless you are lucky, have to confront the planners. The best way to deal with them is to try and understand them and the system they work within.” – Simon Fairlie, DIY Planning Handbook
What is planning permission?
You can’t just build anywhere in the UK – you have to get planning permission from the local planning authority (LPA) to carry out operational development (building, mining or engineering works on or under the ground) and for material changes of use of land or buildings. Whether the change of use is ‘material’ is a judgment call for the LPA, based on past experience and help from the courts.
There are exceptions, where consent is granted through development orders (‘permitted development’) such as for the change from an office to a dwelling, or the building of a rear extension to a house. Planning permission is not required to use land for agricultural purposes.
Before you go any further, and certainly before submitting a planning application, it would be a good idea to familiarise yourself with how exactly the planning system works. Planning is a complicated subject, and there is a lot of information out there – too much for this introduction. We recommend these three:
- Here is a government guide to the planning system, ‘in plain English’.
- About the Planning System, on the Planning Portal website.
- Understanding the Planning System, part of a report by Shared Assets; this will be particularly interesting for those wanting to set up a sustainable, land-based enterprise in the countryside.
The rights to ‘develop’ land (and buildings) were nationalised by the Town and Country Planning Act 1947. The idea was that the public would benefit from the enhanced value of land (land increases in value when it receives planning permission).
The idea for planning controls evolved through concerns over unsanitary living conditions in urban areas, and protection of the countryside. Most of the housing stock in the countryside was built before 1947, and examples of sporadic and ribbon development (along roads from urban areas) were responsible for the objectives of urban containment and countryside protection that the 1947 Act was meant to address.
The shortage of rural homes has meant that they attract a premium in terms of price. Those built to meet specific agricultural needs that no longer exist (because of changes in agricultural practices) have mostly been sold off to those seeking alternatives or additions to their urban and suburban properties.
There are different types of land classifications – from green belts, national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) to conservation areas and sites of special scientific interest (SSSI), and there are national and local designations outlining these in local plans. The biggest division is between land adjoining existing settlements designated for development (or having ‘hope value’), which is expensive, and where you’ll find yourself in competition with commercial developers, and land in the open countryside, which is much cheaper, but where building is actively discouraged.
What are the benefits (and problems) of planning permission?
The planning system exists to stop the countryside becoming covered in commuter, second or retirement homes, increasing development and traffic in the countryside, and leaving less room for agriculture and nature. It’s also there to prevent urban areas from merging to form much bigger conurbations, and to protect listed buildings and biodiversity. It has been mostly successful in these aims (with the exception of biodiversity), but in preventing the spread of conventional housing for commuters, retirees or second-homers, it has also stifled the attempts of smallholders to build low-impact homes on their smallholdings, so that they can run small businesses, providing food and other land-based commodities for local markets. It has also blocked those wishing to build low-impact homes on the edge of settlements (but outside the development zone, where land is very expensive), so that they can practise traditional crafts, including processing food and raw materials, and providing services to farmers and smallholders, but with the need for buildings rather than land.
We believe that both these kinds of ‘low-impact development’ are in the public interest, in terms of local resilience, food and resource security, access to land, affordable housing and environmental protection. It’s up to all of us to convince the planners that this is the case. A major benefit of the planning system is that it’s very open to public engagement (see ‘influencing the planning system’, below). You can see local plans, you can object, go to committee meetings and appeals, become a councillor, comment, get involved. The whole system is very welcoming – unlike many other areas of public life. Problems arise because people don’t get involved – which allows the planning system to be used by commercial developers to their advantage.
The government recently stated that one of the aims of the planning system should be to help facilitate economic growth – but economic growth is at the root of all our environmental problems and therefore far from ‘in the public interest’. The low-impact developments mentioned above may not a) contribute much to overall economic growth, or b) be able to compete with developers for land, and so it can be very difficult for them to gain permission.
But also – because agricultural land is relatively cheap compared to land allocated for development (because you can’t build on it), some people who have no interest in farming buy it in order to try to find a way to build a cheap home on it – either by concealment or by hoodwinking planners. Similarly, farmers can get permission for affordable homes for agricultural workers, which end up being sold at a distinctly unaffordable price to people not involved in agriculture at all. These abuses might be rare (one ‘concealer’ has had to demolish his lavish dwelling-cum-castle), but in its vigilance, the planning system will be obstructing people genuinely wanting to start a new farm business.
What can I do?
The principles outlined below are the same for a rural or urban application, and are general to the UK, although there are differences in each country – the biggest one being the ‘One Planet Development‘ policy in Wales; the One Planet Council offers advice and support for OPD applications.
Since 2015 local authorities have been obliged to establish a register of potential self-builders (including groups), and a further 2016 Act created an obligation for local authorities to meet the demand of the register in very specific ways – with serviced plots, including roads, drainage etc. within 3 years of registration. Few people are aware of this register though, happily for local authorities (as it will create a lot more work) but unhappily for the government, who are relying on self-builders to do their bit for the housing shortage. We’re way behind other developed countries when it comes to self-build.
If you’re interested in self-build, register here. This could hugely increase the potential for self-build in the UK.
Choose where you want to live and what kind of home you want to build. Don’t choose land that’s susceptible to flooding, or in other places that are unlikely to receive planning permission (on top of a hill in a national park?).
Do lots of reading to eliminate the places where you’re least likely to get planning permission. The Planning Portal is the door to the planning system – it’s excellent, and will answer most of your questions. The other access point is your local plan. All local plans can be found online, so you can do all your research from home.
You probably don’t need a planning consultant – your best consultant will be your local planning officer. If they’re negative or unresponsive, you might then think about a planning consultant, but they’re expensive. You can also talk to your local councillor and parish council (which might be engaged in a neighbourhood plan).
But first, look at your local plan – which will include a portfolio of documents, including coloured map(s) to indicate local and national designations, as well as land allocated for development. In rural areas, undesignated land will be white on the map. Policies in the plan will apply to open countryside to discourage new building (apart from agricultural buildings on existing farms).
National planning policy is found in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which must be taken into account in all plan-making and decision-taking. Planning policy is designed to be updated at regular intervals as and when the government want to influence the way in which the system is being operated. It’s best to read as much as you can before making an application, to increase your chance of success. The above sources will tell you what you need to do to get permission and how to do it.
Scour the policies in your local plan, and you can also make a pre-planning enquiry to try to gain information and advice from the LPA, including about the likelihood of success of your application or conditions that might be imposed. Fees have been introduced for this, but there is a lot of free information available online, notably the Planning Portal and the online Planning Practice Guidance. Planners often say no to pre-application enquiries (it makes their life easier, after all), so maybe it’s best to do the work yourself and make an application. If they say no at pre-application, they’re ‘boxed-in’ and unlikely to change their mind, and then you’ve got a battle on your hands.
The Ecological Land Co-op purchase land in the open countryside and obtain planning permission for homes for smallholders that they lease the land to. Because they have strict environmental criteria that their tenants must adhere to, they are able to obtain planning permission where individuals would find it extremely difficult to do so. If we want to halt the loss of small family farms nationally, we either need a lot more organisations like this, or a new land-use class, where permission is granted based on ability to adhere to ecological criteria rather than ability to pay.
Planners will consult, and neighbours will get to know. You can knock on neighbours’ doors to inform them. You don’t have to ask for support – they’ll make up their own minds anyway – but you might gain some respect for doing this, and avoid misunderstandings. Inform the parish council too – talk to them before the planners do. If you get a large number of negative but reasonable responses, be prepared that it might not work.
The chances of your application succeeding will be greater if it fulfils the relevant criteria outlined in the local plan. Remember that at all times and you won’t go far wrong. Any objectors will have to show that it doesn’t, and if you ask for letters of support, make sure they show that it does. In the absence of relevant policies, more weight will be given to the individual merits of the proposal.
Download an application form from the Planning Portal or your LPA. You don’t have to own the land, although if you don’t, it would make sense to have an arrangement with the landowner and to make a purchase or lease offer subject to planning permission. Farmers are usually more prepared to lease land than sell it.
Your application will appear online, and you’ll be able to see who your case officer is (this may not be anyone you’ve had any contact with pre-application). This is the key person now, and they will deal with all interested parties. They are responsible for making the recommendation; build a relationship with them.
When they receive an application, planners will look at local policies and development plans as well as national policy and responses from neighbours and the parish council. If there are a lot of objections, it might go to committee (at which the public can speak, by prior arrangement), otherwise it will be dealt with by a planning officer (sometimes overseen by the chair of the planning committee, if there are a significant number of objections, but not enough for it to go to committee).
Once the application is live, it has to be determined in 8 weeks, or you can appeal (although it’s probably better to wait for a response, because it might be positive, and even if it’s not, you then get another bite of the cherry at appeal).
You may apply for, or through the imposition of a condition, obtain temporary permission, which can be used to create a trial period during which the impact (and the viability) of the development such as a smallholding can be assessed. The terms of this test should be established at the outset. In the open countryside the NPPF says that there should be an essential need for a dwelling. In urban areas there are other tests (eg neighbourliness, highway safety).
If and when a full permission is granted, it normally applies to the land, not a person or organisation, and it is granted for all time. However, there may be conditions attached to permission that might change that, as well as making other things either compulsory or forbidden.
Developments that are carried out without planning permission, or in breach of planning conditions can become lawful after an ‘immunity period’. In the case of material changes of use or breach of conditions then enforcement is only possible within ten years of the breach. Deliberate concealment could invalidate this, however. A four-year rule applies to buildings and a change of use of a building to a house or flat.
Here is some informal advice from friends of ours who managed to obtain permission for an off-grid, self-build home in the open countryside in Devon.
If your planning application is rejected, you can go to appeal. An appeal is actually just a planning application to be considered afresh by a planning inspector on behalf of central government. It can be dealt with through the exchange of written representations or via a hearing or public enquiry conducted by the inspector. All procedures are open to third/interested parties.
Influencing the planning system
If we want to be able build our own homes – including in the open countryside on working smallholdings – we need to engage with the planners and with the planning system. We need to teach the planners. They don’t have evidence that many people want to build their own homes, or live on smallholdings. We need to talk with them and let them know.
You don’t need any ‘insider information’ when it comes to the planning system. It’s very open, everything is there for you if you look, and there is huge potential for influencing it. For example, if we believe that agro-ecology and self-built, off-grid, eco-homes on mixed smallholdings is in the public interest, then let’s prove it, and then the planning system has to find ways to allow these things to happen, as long as it doesn’t clash with other areas of public interest, like national parks etc. There’s lots of scope for learning on both sides (by planners about agro-ecology and eco-smallholdings and by potential self-builders and smallholders about the planning system) and this can only be achieved by engagement. Commercial developers are not shy when it comes to engaging with the planners, and it shows. Now it’s our turn. Being fundamentally a political system, it is up to those with socially and environmentally progressive agendas to engage in both plan-making and in decision-taking; that is, in commenting on the merits of planning applications and also submitting proposals which demonstrate genuine sustainability.
Thanks to Dan ‘the Plan’ Scharf for information.
The specialist(s) below will respond to queries on this topic. Please comment in the box at the bottom of the page.
Daniel Scharf is a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute and for over 40 years has provided advice on land use planning in the public, private and voluntary sectors. Daniel’s ideas for regenerating local food systems and providing affordable housing through planning at national, local and neighbourhood levels are developed on his blog.
The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's
36 Comments on Planning permission
mark kent - January 23rd, 2017
Hi, Im looking for for whatever advise I can get at the moment regarding our timber frame low-impact home as we are battling with the LPA.
To try and cut a long story short we replaced an old steel sheet lambing shed with a timber frame fodder barn a couple of years ago.
We had a visit from the enforcement officer but at that point he said there was no problem.
A couple of months later my uncle who is 73 years old and owns the small farm (32 acres) was diagnosed with cancer and me being the only close reletive decided to convert the timber frame fodder barn into a dwelling.
First i applied to use my permitted development rights but because I had replaced the building was refused.
I was then told by the LPA to apply for a farm workers dwelling retrospectively because a lot of work had already been done.
I was then told this would be refused because we didnt have a large enough livestock count and advised to withdraw the application and reapply.
My uncle has lived on the farm in a small
mobile home for 25 years. The LPA said that I needed to apply for a Lawful Cert before I could continue with the conversion application.
This I did, backing it up with all the evidence required.
Now Ive been told that my application will be unsuccessful again due to the fact it could be used as a completely separate dwelling.
I have advised my planning consultant that I am happy to have conditions put into place such as a agricultural tie and Ive said that Im happy to sign a statutory declaration confirming that the building will only be used as part of the farm, by family members and will not be used as a separate independent dwelling.
As far as I can see we fall within all the policies and I was told by the planning officer that they didn’t have a problem with the building but they are going to turn me down again.
The only objection has come from the parish council who came up with absolutely ridiculous reasons to turn it down.
We have moved into the house now as we felt we didnt have much choice.
1) My uncles health, age, cancer and signs of dementia – if anything happens to him who will find him and when.
2) My aunt in the next village is now battling cancer for the 4th time and her 82 year old husband has had a stroke. Im the closest relative so again I need to be close at hand.
3) My eldest daughter suffers from anxiety to the point she has online schooling and is on a high dosage of medication. She cant be in crowded places or around people she doesnt know but since being at the farm full-time she will work her horses and cares for the sheep. When we lived in the town we couldnt get her out of her bedroom not to mention get her to go outside.
The farm is her sanctuary and she is making positive progress.
If we are forced to move out it will just set her back.
4) The house we were renting in town was being auctioned off due to the landlord owing 500k in tax.
As I said we felt we had no choice but to move in to the conversion even though its not completed and without planning permission.
Any advise will be much appreciated.
Daniel ScharfJanuary 25th, 2017
I am not evading your questions (there are several matters raised in you post that could be contested) but you refer to having a planning adviser and there is nothing to suggest that you are receiving bad advice. However, I would add two thoughts:
Firstly, it would be wrong for LPAs to grant a temporary permissions for a permanent structure as the purpose of a permission is to guarantee investments before they are made. However, in this case the investment has already been made and the LPA could reasonable consider imposing conditions making a permission both temporary and personal. The timing could be related to one or all of the personal circumstances. Secondly, I note the PC objection but would still encourage engagement with the district councillor. The planning system operates with a fair degree of discretion and there are clearly arguments in favour of granting permission even if, on balance, the officers are unpersuaded. In these circumstances the personal aspects might attract the councillor’s support.
Lastly you will have been advised of your right of appeal against a refusal of permission or against any condition you believe to be unreasonable or unnecessary. I hope that you and your adviser can get a result that does not mean leaving your home.
Gena Bond - April 21st, 2017
We own a woodland which is 2 1/2 acres . There is a pent roof building of twin walled brieze blocks with insulation. There us a bathroom and electric points/ lights. We have mains water but no power and are using solar as energy. This building has been in existence for at least 3 years possibly more .
It was built by the owner before the person we bought it from.
It appears on OS maps.
There is also a old bodgers hut which is barely standing but has clearly been lived in as it has 2 rooms , an aga and water boiler in it. We have kept this standing as evidence of previous use as residential.
There is also a water tower and well on the property.
We have owned this property for 7 months and been here for about 2 of those months.
How likely are we to get planning permission? Either as full time or holiday use . We travel around a lot and are abroad at least 3 months of the year.
And what must we do to obtain planning?
We are planning to keep bees, chickens and recoppice the hazel in the woods.
Any advice gratefully received
Daniel Scharf - April 23rd, 2017
You are likely to fall some way short of passing the test of essential need based on the agricultural/silvicultural regime you describe. The fact that you could leave the site for 3 months each year would not help. It might be more productive to pursue the lawful use angle. The burden would be on you to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that a building has been used as a dwelling, being equipped with the essential facilities required for day-to-day domestic existence. If the building has been so used in 1948 (an existing use) or on 1 January 1964 (an established use) or for a continuous period of 4 years (a lawful use) and not bee abandoned and Lawful Development Certificate should be issued. Whether a use has been abandoned is a reasonable judgement based on the following factors looked at independently or taken together; the condition, the time period, any new and incompatible use and the intention of the owners. There would also be a question of balancing the fact of long term occupation (by the bodger?) and opinions about what are now considered to be essential facilities. Evidence could be in the form of sworn statements, letters written on the basis that ‘providing false or misleading information would be a criminal offence, and preferable supported with documentation (eg maps, bills, registers, photographs). It would be possible to apply for an LDC having lived there for 4 years but this might not be granted if there has been any concealment of this use.
I can’t be more specific but this might give you something to go on.
Debby - August 21st, 2017
I think I saw the ” castle” on tv ,I’m sorry to hear it came down.
Debby - August 21st, 2017
Hope the guy with the farm barn gets/ has got pp
Cazzdenise - October 13th, 2017
I have lived on my own on my land (9 acres) for 5 years. I am a 62 yr old female. It’s not off grid but I try and live as sustainably as I possibly can. My main living space is a truck which is no longer driveable, with an added porch. The kitchen is a metal shed and my shower is in an adjacent caravan, I had no choice but to live here but have created a wildlife haven, using permaculture/agroforestry as a guide to grow food and manage the land. I should be sustainable in wood for fuel in a few years. I have my own electricity meter and mains water supplied through the uninhabited farm above. I have ‘hand laid’ a 160 metre track and have a 20ft container with a larch pole design barn extending off. It is known locally that I am living here. The nearest neighbours are approx. 200 metres above me.
I am tired of not having an address.
The question is – should I apply for a certificate of lawfulness or wait until 10 years is up and approach the planners then?
I have photos documenting the work I have done here.
The electricity meter was put here at least 5 years before I bought the land.
The caravan has been here at least 10 years.
I can’t afford any legal help.
I love it here but would like a bit more comfort than a a semi outside kitchen and compost toilet 30 metres away as I head towards my 70’s.
Any advice, thoughts please.
Daniel ScharfNovember 24th, 2017
Although the immunity period for enforcement against the unauthorised change of use to a dwelling is 4 years, your description of how you live does not appear to correspond with a ‘dwellinghouse’. In these circumstances you are right to be looking at a ten year period since a material change of use took place (with the burden of proof on you) before a lawful development certificate should be granted. In your case this would have to be the description on your ‘request’. You have to define the planning unit within which the residential use has been continuous and not deliberately concealed for ten years. I would suspect that the LDC would match that description and that you would then have to argue that as the fall back position were the council to refuse an application to construct a more conventional and convenient arrangement of the accommodation (ie a dwelling house).
joanna - November 20th, 2017
joanna said on November 20, 2017
Hi, just bought a lovely 2 acre plot just outside the village and applied for pre-app. this came back as not favourable although there were many discrepancies on the official letter, ie that there was a capped mineshaft on the land, no that is on the neighbours land, trees have been cut down and we need to consult the TPO, which we did before we chopped some of the trees down. We are in an area of the triple S site, that is 2 miles away and we are in an area where knotweed is know to thrive, that is over a mile away and we have had confirmation we have no knotweed, neither do any of our neighbours. The reply came back as extending into the open countryside. Now we are in between two houses, one of which has had planning permission to build a modern house, albeit I think there was something there already. There are 3 houses within a short vicinity who are all having renovations carried out. The Planning officer was aware that half the land was to be put to wild meadow as we keep bees and chickens. We are going to live off grid and have our own sewage system, sedum roof, small orchard, raised beds, in all be self sufficient. We have contacted the RSPB to come to look at how we can improve the wildlife situation as well as contacting the old Cornish apple orchard to make us aware of what we can plant. All this info was given to the Planning Officer but the reply is we are extending into open countryside, and as I say I can see our neighbours new build from the plot of land we have bought. The land has not been used for over 30 years and we had to hack our way in to see what we were going to buy. We have spoken with all our neighbours who came to see the land for the first time and who are fully in support of what we want to do and are willing to support us. How on earth can we live in a village where over 250 new houses have just been built on green land and yet what we deem to be an infill site with low impact dwelling, low impact on the nearby community be refused for extending into the oountryside when we are seeing everyone around us building. Once we had built the land and put everything in place for self sufficiency there would not be room for any other building on the land and I would not want it anyway. Has anyone out there got any way forward for us. I see remarks about planning consultants and planners but want to move forward on this fairly quickly as we are nearing completion of the sale of our house, which incidentally is going to be knocked down and 2 hours put on the site.
Daniel Scharf - November 24th, 2017
Assuming that you will be submitting a planning application for your proposed dwelling, I would suggest a three pronged attack.
The first is the ‘essential need’ for you to be living on the site to satisfy the test at para 55 of the NPPF. The second is that the plot meets the council policy to allow smallscale development in villages. If it does not exactly fit with the wording of the policy or the officer’s interpretation in the pre-app, the impacts are comparable (ie policy only makes sense if it has a purpose – normally landscape protection – and this would not be affected by your proposal). You can then list the benefits, some of which are and all should be material considerations.
Finally, you should have your name on the council’s register for those wanting to self/custom build. Unless the council offers a serviced plot to all those who have been on the register for three years it will be in breach of the duty under the 2015 Act. You could argue that by allowing you to build on your land you would be relieving the council of its obligation to you. These are not mutually exclusive arguments and could all be deployed in support of an outline application (and appeal).
joannaNovember 25th, 2017
Hi Daniel, firstly thank you for your positive reply. I do not think we meet the essential need for us to be living on site as we have gone into this in great detail. I think with regard to the officers interpretation, we cannot get past her idea of “extending into the open countryside” and she is adamant that this is the case. As stated in our pre-app the land would of course be shielded by mature shrubs which would lessen the impact from the single track road that runs along the land but which can be looked down upon from the road but we would address this with shrubbery. Interestingly I had a look at the local Councils Local Plan Strategic Policy regarding principle of development and I cannot understand why we do not “fit” into this as they are promoting wherever possible that the Council will work with applicants to find a solution which mean that proposals will be approved where possible. These approvals should include reduced energy consumption while increasing renewable and low carbon energy. The Planning Officer was very much aware in our pre-app that we were hoping to build an ICF low impact house, we were to be off grid, both water and electricity. That we were to put solar panels on the land to achieve more energy, that we were also going to be self sufficient with the use of the land and solar tunnels which give a longer season for food and emit nothing into the environment. She seems to have ignored our sustainability, low carbon footprint with the ruling that we are extending into the open countryside. She has stated that the old mill next to us was given permission because there was an old building already there, that is despite the fact it is probably twice the height of the original barn, but good on them if they got is through. She will not give any further advice or comment stating it is open countryside. We have taken your advice and registered on our local authority with regard to self/custom build and will argue the case you that advised.
As a matter of interest Daniel, I spoke with the local Parish Councillor and commented that there are discrepancies in her report. They could influence the Council if they are not dealt with. he has stated that I should write to her indicating that there are discrepancies in her report and once these have been acknowledged or dealt with then he will look at our pre-app and her response and take it from there. He is also a representative from the Parish to the Planning Committee and is very knowledgeable. I did a draft letter stating these discrepancies but also went into detail about various constraints that she had added which again bore no resemblance to our plot of land. Should I just state her discrepancies in a very short form and save the bigger discrepancies to add to our Outline Planning, ie not showing our full hand. I don’t know which way to go on this matter as I feel if I put everything down initially it will give her time to come back whereas if these referrals to Policies and such have been ignored and back up our planning submission it is added information to support our proposal. Any ideas. The discrepancies such as saying we have a mineshaft on our land is inaccurate, it is next door and the mining map shows no intrusion on to our land. She has stated there is a rickety old tin building on the land but failed to note that planning permission for a small stable block was gained in 1982 for this but managed to dig out 3 planning applications back in 1960 which we all rejected. How could she miss this. She says we are in a Triple S buffer zone which is over 2 miles away and yet 120 houses, as the crow flies, is nearer the buffer zone than we are. These are small discrepancies but ones which I think give weight to her argument about the land but which are not entirely true.
thank you for your time Daniel, it is very much appreciated and I do hope that we an fight onwards for this development as it is the way we wqnt to live and see to fit into a criteria that is being promoted by the Government but not by our Council
Tamsin Parkin - May 25th, 2018
I was very lucky enough to inherit 3 acres recently, it is a Victorian walled garden (falling down in places and needs repairs) used as a market garden way back when for the local nobles. It is part of what used to be owned by a relative but has been sold off in part. My mum owns the land on 3 sides and also the driveway which leads to the unmade lane that leads to a road. There is already a house at the end of the drive owned by someone else now…it is apparently classed as land not for development but is not greenbelt. It is on the edge of a really large village that has had much development since my mum was a child growing up there and just recently another large estate built on a field a few hundred metres away you can see it over the wall, we are close to all amenities and they claim that we are not. I think it is just agricultural land and along the drive built into the walls is a long bothy, now broken down probably not lived in for nearly a hundred years but I really don’t know to be sure, we have been clearing it out and it has a stove, which looks very old, in it. My mum tried to get permission for the field next to mine and was refused years ago she just gave up as the local planning put her off and her planning consultant was rubbish and make mistakes which they used against her. She initially consulted them and asked if a house or cabin was more likely and they said a brick house but I don’t believe they were telling the truth really. Recently we found an architect that came and had a look, he said that the only way they could think of was this special code that would cost a fortune in planning fees and I would never have the money to build the house after. I want a log cabin or eco home of some kind or to develop the bothy, I only have so much in my own home that I can use, about 50,000 but I would like to do it for even less really, even just live in a static and use the money to create a business there or a non profit to help others plus a cottage industry like bee keeping and selling herbs, veg etc. The only way I can do this is to sell my house and go live there but I am thinking i can’t get permission. Is there any way you can think of to live there, both mum and I are desperate to be there as it is where I spent my childhood and also I want a quiet place for my son who is autistic and can’t stand the noise of where we live now, he is constantly stressed. I don’t want to just use the barn building loophole as I don’t think could face the insecurity for my son’s sake but I would if I had to, plus I think the locals planners have an interest in not allowing anything to happen there for whatever reason and would hound me til I cracked up. i would be so grateful for any advice you can think of, many thanks, Tam 🙂
Daniel Scharf - May 26th, 2018
The first thing to say is that the criteria to judge development in ‘isolated’ locations would seem to apply to your site (see the reply to Jo above). The means the advice from the architect which implies that some outstanding and innovative design would not apply. However, you also imply that the LPA regards the site as outside the built up area in which supportive policies apply and you need to look at the Local and/or Neighbourhood Plan to see which policies are relevant. Having found (probably) that there are policies protecting the open countryside you have to balance that with all the ‘other material considerations’ (ie s38(6) of the Act); the lack of harm, closeness to facilities, landscape impact, previous dwelling putting the land to good use (might lead to conditions/obligations to do so). This is doable by yourself by simply following the formula in s38(6). There are professionals who could do as good a job but as you have found, many might not. Looking again at the judgement in Braintree you can see how the courts treat planning in a relatively straightforward fashion.
Joanne Lewis - May 30th, 2018
I am looking to buy some land to set up an equine facilitated psychotherapy farm. I have found 10 acres of land part of a farm that is broken up it is behind a new agri building, and house that is being built by the farmers family. I want to put up an agricultural building to house ponies and sheep plus storage a small kitchen wasroom and therapy room. How do i go about obtaining planning permission?
Dave Darby - May 31st, 2018
Hi Joanne – for general questions like this, the answers are in the article. If you have a specific question after you’ve read it, post it here and we’ll pass it on to our planning specialist.
Daniel Scharf - May 31st, 2018
Dave is right but you could also start your research at http://adlib.everysite.co.uk/resources/000/264/299/annexepps7.pdf
Earthkeepers - June 26th, 2018
Hello, I currently live in Essex and am in the process of setting up a community interest company working with young people, teaching them horticulture and animal care. I am looking to lease some farm land and have a mobile home on site so I can care for the animals etc at all times when the project is not open. Would I be likely to get planning permission for this as it is necessary to be on site for the project?
Daniel Scharf - June 28th, 2018
For any rural enterprise (eg wanting new residential accommodation in the countryside) you would have to demonstrate an essential need to be on the site. It is more than likely that the Council will also want to see a business plan to show that the enterprise is viable. The chances of getting permission would be increased by avoiding designated landscapes (including Green Belt) and even choosing a council area where the planners and councillors take a more considered approach to development management. You are unlikely to find any local policies (local plans or neighbourhood plans) that are relevant to what is clearly a very individual project so you would need to compile all the public benefits and the ways in which harm (eg traffic and landscape impacts) are reduced. These ‘material planning considerations’ need to be presented in such a way that the benefits outweigh the harm. Support from the parish council (and neighbours) would be very important. There is a right of appeal against a refusal of permission by the local council but the decision-making process (balancing goods against harms in the context of an overall policy of countryside protection is the same.
You would be presenting the scheme as ‘temporary’ so that the impacts can be assessed as well as the viability of the project. You could seek indications if not assurances that permission could be made permanent were the project to be beneficial/viable.
Forest - October 10th, 2018
Firstly thanks for your time not only in hopefully answering my question, but all the others above freely. A big thanks to lowimpact.org also for setting up a great informative website.
I have just this week put in an application with my local council under Permitted Development rights for a concrete base and poly tunnel (9x20metres 4 metres height), an open sided pole barn (12x12metres 4.5 metres in height) plus a small track 25metres long by 3metres (250mm mot1 and geomembrane) leading to a standing bay of 14.6×4.3m of the same make up to site a caravan of the same dimensions. The developments are adjacent to another agricultural building (40ftx40ft & 20ft high). This building is a purpose built agricultural shed that has water, electric and sewage connections. I run a small forestry business and it houses my equipment (tractors, hand implements and purpose built forestry machines) as well as having amenities for myself and workers inside it. The unit was built via permitted development in 2007. It was constructed after the LPA failed to respond to the original application made by the then owner of the land.
The area is in a green belt and has around 10 hectares of woodland/commercial Christmas trees. I lease the land from the owner and have ran my business from there since 2005 (a steel shipping container was originally used as base). I am applying for the development to allow my business to improve the products we sell to the local community (principally firewood and Biomass chip). The polytunnel will be used for dry seasoning converted firewood and the pole barn to cover the new firewood machinery we have recently purchased with the help of a European/UK grant. I have added the caravan in with the intention of using it as a residence as at present I commute 22 miles per day and with the increased demand of our products and services (we also provide forestry and tree surgery contracting services employing 12 people in the local area). I am often now traveling 6 to 7 days a week to site rather than 5.
I have put in the application the need to be on site to become more efficient in producing the wood produce ( I would save 1 hour a day in commuting a lone which over a week would be 5-7 hours). I am also looking at developing a charcoal produce as well with onsite burning. Onsite living will also improve security as we have had items tampered with and Christmas trees/firewood stolen (the site is quite literally on the edge of a town and easily accessible). There are also the added benefits of being on site to look after the 10 hectares more efficiently in terms of weed and pest control, shaping Christmas trees as well as being more easily accessed by the public for produce sales etc.
I am aware that caravans can be sited in woodland for seasonal use, but that the term season is open to judgement and has been agreed by the courts that it is most certainly less than a year. I have mentioned seasonal use in the permitted development application thinking that I have more of a chance of obtaining permission for living in the caravan for X amount of months a year than obtaining permanent dwelling rights. I do not own the land so I have no intention of building a house there myself I am only interested in developing the business in all aspects and improving the woodland associated with it. This puzzles people sometimes and my worry is it may puzzle the planners as well as sometimes it is hard to explain in built passions to some one who may not see the world as you do.
All the developments are clustered around the original building and of similar size and in a relevant area of the business ie the production centre. All developments are 25 metres from a metaled road or more. I sent in some supporting information (word document and autocad plans) with the application along with pictures of similar developments to give planners guidance of what I was proposing more clearly. The woodland also has a Forestry Commission Felling Licence in place that was obtained by myself in January 2018 and lasts until January 2023 ( a copy of this was also enclosed). The wood-chip and wood-fuel that we produce is now also registered on the government Biomass Suppliers List; so have an approved audited number for this.
I am guessing that I should tick the viable economic business box and that we are a genuine forestry business (it is the only job I have ever done). I think I should meet the criteria on the buildings but I am wondering what perhaps their stance is maybe on the caravan. So my question is do you think given all the above information there is a reasonable chance of obtaining a certificate of lawful dwelling at present or in the immediate future. I currently rent a property as I have put any money I have back into my business rather than a mortgage. Having the caravan as a place to live in (even if it is 11 months a year as with residential caravan centres) would be an economic saving in the long run and genuinely allow me to develop the business further and manage the woods to a much higher standard. The other question I have is that I have put the application into my LPA via paper format which surprised the lady on reception as she said most are now done by the planning portal. I have realised though she did not give me a receipt when I handed over the application. I have a receipt of payment of the £96 PD fee but nothing saying I handed a document over. Should I be in receipt of something more substantial that a receipt showing I have paid £96? If so I think I had better make a journey post haste back there to obtain one, as I would like to get the concrete base in place before December the 1st and our Christmas tree sales (hence why I am keen to obtain a response in 28 days as this will only leave me 3 weeks to organise this- my own fault). I read another article on this site by a couple who said they fell at the first hurdle as planning officers said the correct fee was not paid and the paper work was not correct. Hence my pontification now…..
My apologies for being so long winded but I appreciate any response advise you can freely give.
Thanks in advance.
Daniel Scharf - October 11th, 2018
I can only give a brief response to your detailed enquiry. You could ring the council regarding receipt of documents but the important date is registration of what I take to be a ‘prior notification ‘ when the clock will start if the council accept that they have the necessary information.
You can only get a LDC for the caravan if that is what you have actually applied for? If an application for planning permission is required I can’t say much on the ‘merits’ of the case and I doubt whether the local plan will have more to say than you will find in the NPPF. However, the council should be aware that if the site is not ‘isolated’, that paragraph in the NPPF does not apply. The council is still likely to apply open countryside policies. It is unlikely to have any experience of forestry operations and are likely to see viability as a material consideration. Conversations with the case officer can only be good as it is very unlikely that people like you will be given the benefit of any doubts.
Rosie Wibberley - March 6th, 2019
I am exploring options to include the provision of sites for small scale sustainable food production in our local neighbourhood plan. if successful, this could be used by the district council in their local plan and could be a supportive to people looking to live and work on a piece of land in the local area. However, in order to be able to include policy recommendations for the neighbourhood plan, I require evidence that there is a need for suitable sites. I am being told that there is a demand but I am going to need more concrete evidence in the form of reports, surveys or emails from relevant sources.
Are you aware of any surveys or reports that highlight the demand for sites? Or have any other information that may be of help in compiling the evidence I need? Any help gratefully received.
Daniel Scharf - March 6th, 2019
My NDP questionnaire asked the question “If a suitable area of land was available in Drayton, would you be interested in growing food locally on a smallholding (ie larger than an allotment)? This there was about a 66% return and 10% (about 200 people) expressed an interest. I think that the Soil Assoc estimate about 10% of people asked have some interest (it could be an individual or collective enterprise). The Ecological Land Coop also have data of demand based on their advertising smallholdings to rent under their auspices. I think that these figures justify carrying out a ‘need/demand survey’ of your target population that could ask for more information that we did in Drayton.
Chris the Stonemason - August 14th, 2019
Hi Daniel, my family and I are looking at purchasing a parcel of land in a National Park area. The land has a little wood framed and sheet metal clad ‘barn’ on it. I would love to convert the tiny barn into a home, albeit a small one! My first thought was to build a second barn (as permiyyed development, which you must ‘apply’ for ina national park) and stay on the land for 5 years as I build (!) during which time to apply for proper permission to convert the existing barn using the local plan and my occupation (stonemason) to my advantage. I wondered what your thoughts were on this idea..? Many thanks
Daniel Scharf - August 15th, 2019
You seem to have read the relevant local plan and interpreted this to say that the conversion of the tiny barn would accord with the policies? I have to say that seems unlikely and it is also also likely that the ‘conversion’ would amount to a rebuild. 5 years to live in a caravan(?) might not count as a construction project (esp without a valid permission). Some trades would assist in getting permission (ie agriculture and forestry) but I am not sure why stonemasons need to live on the land? There is a chink for self-builders if the council has not done enough to meet the demand illustrated on their self build registers. But this would be just one material consideration to weight against the generally restrictive policies in the park plan.
Chris the Stonemason - August 15th, 2019
Thanks for your thoughts Daniel. I guess the stonemason stuff contributes to sustainability in settlements and is a rural skill. My wife also grows flowers as part of her business and we hope that this would be the impetus for living on the land. As far as caravan living goes am I correct in my assumption that you have 5 years to build an agricultural building and you are allowed to live on the land whilst you are building? C
Daniel Scharf - August 16th, 2019
The flower business should be financially viable and require 24hr attention. Stonemasonery could be practiced within a settlement. Construction workers can live on the site of a construction project but this can exclude family. I am not aware of any time allowed for the construction which, as with all these matters, is open to reasonable interpretation by the local planning authority that is the best source of (reliable if sometimes challengeable) advice on all these matters. You can try to conceal the activities but any such investment would be at risk (and personal and emotion attachments) without a permission or lawful development certificate (the LDC confirms what the LPA believe would be permitted development rights).
Chris the Stonemason - August 16th, 2019
Thanks for your help Daniel, most appreciated. C
theothedog1 - October 11th, 2019
Its been enlightening reading the above comments and your replys, thank you and lowimpact.org for this open forum.
My dilema is” I am about to purchase land in Scotland with a view to setting up an off grid, self sufficient small holding and am forcasting similar hurdles.
I have a question please!
1. Is it possible that “animal charity status” could lend sway to static home occupation?
I ask because I know of a trust charity with on site living quarters which intrigues me as to how they acheived this. Theo
Daniel Scharf - October 12th, 2019
With the caveat that I have never worked in Scotland, it is also a discretionary system where the decision-maker balances the material considerations in reaching a decision that is within the bounds of reasonableness. Giving weight to some personal aspects of the applicant is not unreasonable so long as this is carefully argued and reflected in the decision; often in the form of a temporary/personal condition.
Barbara Robinson - November 12th, 2019
Hopefully a very quick question. We got temp permission in 2012 for a cabin on our land, the business is canine, equine and rare breed goats. Council put a 106 agreement on us stating canine and equine enterprise. We had a time extension and put in a pre app in 2017 for a permanent dwelling, giving 4 years of accounts, all in profit.profit over 20k. Planning officer said he would refuse us because he wont accept earnings from the canine side if the business. Surely the 106 must work both ways?
Daniel Scharf - November 13th, 2019
It would be interesting to see the officer report providing the reasoning behind the requirement to enter a s106 Obligation. Clearly ‘equine’ implies a rural location, but does not often justify a dwelling. ‘Canine’ (if this means boarding kennels) also implies a location away from other houses and is more likely to require a manager’s dwelling. If the temporary permission was justified on the grounds of both being developed into a viable business, then the same applies to the permanent one. I can see that dog breeding might not require a rural location, although that would be desirable, but that would have been decided in deciding the original application.
Barbara - November 13th, 2019
Thanks for your reply Daniel. I’m just relieved someone has the same understanding as I do, that if the council 106 restricted activity on site to equine and canine that earnings should be taken from both in order to satisfy financial justification for a permanent dwelling. I’ve not seen a 106 on any other temp dwelling. You can imagine how deflated I was after 4 years to have the goal posts moved, then to have the planning officer send and email accusing me of operating without any planning after he assessed our planning history! telling me I must stop trading, we have done everything by the book. He verbally admitted that was incorrect but went on long term sick and left his email on file which resulted in licensing trying to shut me down based on his email.
All we ever wanted was a small house to be able to offer useful services to the community, be very low impact, be sustainable, mindful of the environment.
The original officers report is not listed on the online details, but a friend dug it out, we had never seen it. It does list the equine as the main business with my home boarding business being relocated from our previous address, but the 106 clearly states equine and canine enterprise. We do have 34 horses and ponies, so equine is clearly not just a smoke screen.
Daniel Scharf - November 13th, 2019
I would say that there would have to some express exclusion at the stage of granting the original permission and signing of the s106 for the canine not to count.
Barbara - November 13th, 2019
Daniel, thank you, I’ve had 2 planning consultants on it. I have shown it to a solicitor, who says he thinks we have been treated unfairly, but is obviously going to want instructing (£) to go any further. Trying again in January, by which time we will only have 12 months left on the temporary dwelling permission. You have given me hope ? take care and keep up the very useful sound advice.
sanorona567Anne Norona - December 17th, 2019
Hi Daniel Scharf…may I ask your advice, I have lived on my own 0.8 acre agricultural field since 2012 and have obtained a cert of lawfulness under 4 yr rule. Basically nobody noticed me living there until a nightmare neighbour made a real mess of his field with static caravans..and they then noticed me. I was in the rocess of putting up an extension then and received a pcn for the entire lot. The Cert of lawfulness discluded the extension. The planners approved it and the curtilage but the parish council lead lives in my lane and took it to committee… they refused it. I will now have to appeal.. but on what grounds can i? Do I have a right to my curtilage and future pd or planning .. in an agriultural field even though I have a right to my dwelling there?
Thannk you for any advice…best regards
Daniel Scharf - December 18th, 2019
The officer report on the LDC should have been based on legal advice and is likely to form the basis of your appeal. In respect of the pd extension, there is a curious/wrong case that differentiates the legal status of those uses with permission and those ‘just’ with a LDC. If that case is known to the inspector you might be required to apply for the works. Building works (ie the dwelling) and land uses (ie the curtilage) have different immunity periods; 4 years and 10 years respectively. It is therefore possible to get the LDC for the dwelling but not the curtilage. That would leave a house surrounded by agricultural land, with an argument about what domestic uses can take place outside the building (probably de minimis) and the access. If the access was an engineering work then the 4 year rule applies and, I think, implies a right to use it as am access (that could be contentious). I trust that helps even if not very comforting. I hope that the officer report agrees with this.
Ant - October 18th, 2020
Hi Daniel, I’ve just happened across this page as part of my continued search on achieving planning permission on 6 acres of land that has been passed to me following the loss of my father and was hoping you might be willing to offer some insight.
The land has been under the ownership of my family for close to 100 years as it was passed to my Dad by his Uncle and as such holds a great deal of significance. The land rests alongside a road that serves as a main route to the closest village approx 2 miles away. The road houses a number of properties that run its length into the village itself however whilst it is without question that these properties form part of the community any development would be considered ‘open countryside’.
The land was actively farmed by my Dad until the late 90’s and then kept as meadowland and harvested for hay. It has an old timber barn which is approx 50 years old and planning for 2 stables was achieved in 2004.
It is our dream to replace the barn with a small, low impact modular bungalow that shares a very similar footprint to the existing barn
I had initially explored the possibility of a class Q conversion of the barn and was advised to “improve the robustness’ of the barn prior to application and then seek a fallback position for the modular build however my concern is that this approach would have a detrimental impact on funds plus it seems a little convoluted to improve the barn in order to justify its demolition!
I’ve very recently read about the 2019 Swadlincote decision re; self build and have been considering how this might weigh in our favour. I’ve yet to approach the council but I suspect that they may have fallen short of their obligations for self build as I have noticed a number of plots now being made available as part of larger developments.
To the best of my knowledge I signed up to my local self build register in 2017 but have never received any correspondence from my council and so was considering approaching the LPA and making the suggestion that granting permission would “relieve them of their obligation to me”
I figure the next step would be to put forward a proposal for pre-application advice and was wondering if you had any insight that might help?
Many thanks in advance for any help.
Daniel Scharf - October 19th, 2020
I have to say that I have no direct experience of applying Class Q and the contradiction between the LPA requiring a ‘robust’ building that would then be demolished does not surprise me. However, I would not expect a replacement to succeed and would look at ways of reinforcing the barn (unless it is really too small) and then working through Class Q.
6acres might be a bit small got a viable holding and you don’t mention that as a possibility?
On the self-build front I doubt that the LPA would regard one dwelling as a meaningful contribution to the deficit in the revision of serviced plots. However, There are likely to be inspectors who would be very unhappy with a council that had made little or no attempt to meet their statutory duty. Such an application/appeal would stand more chance if the landscape impact of allowing the dwelling were inconsequential.
Finally, I am cautious about pre-apps. It is too easy for officers to say “no” and, having boxed themselves in, complain when an application is submitted. I don’t think an inspector would worry if you had not started with a pre-app. I would suggest that you pursue a pre-app but on the basis that you will be making an application ie you are not asking for an opinion about whether to make an application but what form the application would take to have the best chance of success.
Ant - October 19th, 2020
Hi Daniel, Thanks for taking the time to reply. The land was originally 15 acres and has it’s own agricultural holding number however this has since been split between myself and my brother but we have kept chickens, pigs, ducks and turkeys in the past and do still have a couple of horses and a cow!
The timber barn is approx 20m x 11m so plenty big enough for conversion however it is in a pretty poor state which is why a local planning agent advised us to improve its robustness prior to an application for Class Q. Whilst not ideal this does still remain our last resort plan!
The land is surrounded on all sides by trees and mature hedgerows and so any development would have non to very little visual impact from the road or any surrounding properties which is in its favour.
I will certainly take your advice re: pre-app, many thanks for your guidance.