Councils: Rural services missing out due to permitted development

Rural communities risk missing out on vital local services due to planning laws which have allowed a surge of almost 225% in homes converted from barns and farm buildings without planning permission in the past five years, councils have warned.

Latest figures show 734 homes in England were created as a result of agricultural to residential conversions in 2019/20 under permitted development rights, which allow developers to bypass the planning system, compared with 226 in 2015/16.

As they do not need full planning permission, developers are not required to contribute towards local infrastructure, such as roads, schools and GP surgeries, nor do they have to provide any affordable housing.

Devon saw the highest number of agricultural buildings turned into homes in 2019/20 with 127 conversions, followed by Dorset (73), Kent (68), Northamptonshire (33) and Essex (30).

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils, says it is concerned that rural areas could be missing out on these essential local services.

It is calling on the government to revoke the nationally prescribed permitted development right, which has also been used to convert nearly 65,000 homes from offices since 2015/16.

According to the LGA, this alone could have led to the loss of more than 16,000 affordable homes as a result.

Residents are also unable to have their say on these conversions to ensure they meet high-quality standards and are both sustainable and suitable for their local area.

The LGA said that communities having a say on individual planning applications is an integral part of ensuring a locally led planning system.

They also said it is good that the government has moved to allay the negative impact on communities of permitted development rights by introducing space standards for new homes.

However, they said concerns remain about the quality, design and safety, as well as location of this type of housing and does not address the standards of housing previously delivered under permitted development.

Commenting, LGA Housing Spokesperson, Councillor David Renard said:

“Councils are absolutely committed to working with the government to build the housing the country desperately needs.

“However, it is a growing concern that we are seeing more and more barns and farm buildings in rural areas turned into homes without planning permission.

“Residents in any area need to have the support of strong infrastructure in place, whether that is schools, surgeries or adequate road networks.

“If developers are not obliged to provide any of these, then there is a real risk some communities could miss out on these vital services.

“This is why it is really important that all new housing developments go through a locally led planning system, so these checks can be made, with the oversight of local communities.

“This needs to be at the heart of the government’s planning reforms, as we await the detail of its Planning Bill later this year.”

PSE Oct/Nov 21

PSE Oct/Nov 21

Power & Positionaility

Our October/November 2021 edition of PSE delves into a number of key areas for public sector progress, including decarbonisation and digital transformation. Equally read our exclusive interview with Sir Richard Leese, as he reflects on a remarkable 25 year career with Manchester City Council, while elsewhere we learn how to evolve our green capabilities in public sector transport.


View all videos
#PSE365: Digtial Transformation in association with Cisco

Be A Part Of It!

14th October 2021
PSE365: Digital Transformation in association with Cisco

PSE has created a full calendar of events to address the most important issues that influence the delivery of public sector services. 

Over 365 days you’ll have the opportunity to hear from a range of highly motivating, informative and inspirational speakers. These speakers will equip you with knowledge and unique insight to enable you to overcome the challenges that you face.

Magazine Feature

Keep communities at the heart of planning

Chris Borg, NALC policy manager

Chris Borg discusses the Planning for the Future white paper and explains the importance of residents and local councils having a say when it comes to planning

More articles...

View all