Is there support for sustainable rural development?

Richard Shield

Planning and development changes are a constant hot topic in the residential and commercial sector, and indeed for urban areas.  However, often it is overlooked, not the benefit it seems, or remains shrouded in mystery and confusion when it comes to the agricultural sector and rural areas. 

Here, Richard Shield, Director of Residential and Commercial Development at H&H Land & Estates, talks about the challenges facing rural businesses when it comes to diversification through development:

“It is well documented that we have not been building enough homes in the UK for decades and whilst many of the local authorities across our region understandably focus on urban centres, there are others faced with the challenges of supporting local services in largely rural areas.  

“It is incumbent on all councils to support the rural economy; and never more so than now in the face of the seemingly endless and unprecedented uncertainty over the core fabric of the rural areas.

“For as long as I can remember, farmers and landowners have been advised to diversify. In the context of planning and development, there have been some planning policy initiatives that have offered such opportunity; vacant building credits which can be applied to reduce planning obligations (specifically affordable housing); the written ministerial statement exempting small residential schemes from the requirement to deliver affordable housing; and class Q permitted development rights. However, none of those three examples have really assisted landowners and farmers.

“The first of these, vacant building credits, applies on brownfield land and whilst the definition in the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is open to interpretation, whether farm steadings are brownfield land has been tested at appeal and lost. 

“In 2014, the then housing minister Brandon Lewis set out revisions to the Government’s position on the affordable housing exemption on smaller sites in a Written Ministerial Statement.  It stated that due to the disproportionate burden of developer contributions on small scale developers, for sites of 10-units or less, and which have a maximum combined gross floor space of 1,000 square metres, affordable housing and tariff style contributions should not be sought….

“This was challenged through the courts and ultimately upheld becoming formalised in National Planning Policy Guidance (NPPG). However, in 2017 the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) provided clarification to the effect that the NPPG did not necessarily override local policy, thus providing councils the ability not to follow it in some circumstances.

“Then Class Q Permitted Development Rights - much has been written about Class Q, introduced in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015, providing an opportunity to secure conversion of existing agricultural buildings to residential use.  However, PINS statistics show that traditional applications for full planning permission are more consistently approved by Authorities, and these are unarguably a more expensive and slower route to planning permission. 

“Whilst there is understandable frustration felt at the perceived lack of support for those seeking planning permission, (either to raise capital to re-invest in other diversified enterprise, reduce gearing or to hold as part of generating other income) the planning regime requires support for rural business to be held in balance with the need to provide appropriate housing to meet local need. 

This begins with the NPPF’s definition of sustainability as being a balance between social, environmental and economic needs, and filters down to local area statutory Development Plan Policy (upon which an application for development must be assessed).  The balance between these three strands of sustainability recognises that flexibility of interpretation is necessary to achieve true sustainability across our rural areas, in order to vitally support our economy, communities and our environment appropriately.”

Richard concludes that when considering specific opportunities for development of any scale:

“It is important that full consideration is given to the demonstration of feasibility and viability of the proposals in the context of planning policy to properly assess the risks of the substantial investment in the preparation and submission of a planning application, and where an application is found to be a commercially sound way forward, to ensure robustness of the case is put to the decision makers.”

H&H Land & Estates is one of the leading firms of independent rural property advisors operating across the North of England, Yorkshire and the Scottish Borders and can support on all planning and development matters. Its land agency department advises businesses and the agricultural sector at all levels, with services including farm business advice, estate management, farm sales, landlord and tenant matters, utility work, land management and more recently focussing on planning and development. 

Residential Sales

How is the property market faring in these uncertain times?

Read Next Article

Read more about this news article

Back to News

What Our Customers Say

  • We found Andrew and Kathy to be extremely professional. They guided us through the whole process seamlessly. Cannot recommend H&H highly enough. Thank you.

    Rhona King

    28th February 2019

  • Friendly and professional service at all times. Great service. Tracey is fabulous.

    Saiorse Cosgrove

    10th September 2019

  • Excellent service from valuation through to completion. Very friendly staff and extremely professional. Thank you very much Andrew and Kathy in the Penrith office for your help. Can’t praise them enough.

    J Carver

    13th September 2019

  • Personal, professional and friendly, the team at H&H in Penrith truly give you five star treatment. They help you through all the issues which always arise when buying a property and give you peace of mind that everything is being dealt with. We would definitely recommend this great team and would use again in the future.

    Carol Edmondson

    15th September 2019

  • Thomas, Shirley & Alan, we would like to show you our appreciation for everything you did in the preparation and sale of the (now successful) sale of the farm. Thank you.

    The Hill Family

    1st November 2019

  • Over the past few months, I’ve been dealing with Jenna to sort out some issues with a tenant that left and to find a new tenant for my property. You’ve been the managing agent for my flat since 2005 and the service that Jenna has given me recently has been nothing short of superb. She has promptly answered questions, given me reassurance and generally been a godsend over a fairly stressful time. You have a tremendous asset in Jenna.

    J Rowe

    25th February 2020

  • From my first dealings with the valuer who came out to look at my property and telephone dealings with the staff in the office, I have had nothing but excellent service and I would like to thank them all for that. My biggest thanks must go to Gillian, who has helped me all the way from start to finish, she has gone beyond my expectations and helped me in every way possible, her enthusiasm and humour along with her professional service has made my experience of selling my property a very pleasant experience and for that I am very grateful.

    J Hill

    21st August 2019

  • Nothing but praise for the service offered by Andrew and Kathy at H&H King, Penrith. They really put themselves out, not only to ensure that we sold our house but also to find us a house that suited our requirements in the right area. We have no doubts that they are worthy of a 5* rating. N&T

    Neil McGeown

    1st October 2019

  • Thank you so much [Mike] for all your help with the Mid-Tier Application. I couldn't have possibly done it myself and it was such a relief to be able to hand it over to you.

    L. McArthur

    22nd August 2018

  • We are very pleased with the way you dealt with the Scroggs Wood programme. There seemed to be a number of difficulties, but you overcame all these problems and got the timber extracted in good time, and sold it well - we were delighted with the cheques we received. So we wish to thank you warmly for all your efforts, your expertise and your thoroughly professional approach.

    H. Summerson

    31st January 2020