New permitted development rights on farms may have removed one element of planning difficulty but they have delivered another of a different kind, says a surveyor.

Farmers and rural land owners who want to use new permitted development rights to convert certain buildings into up to three homes should be aware that exercising the right could stifle other farm development for the next decade.

Rural surveyor Ben Myerscough, of Carter Jonas in Marlborough, warns that converting existing buildings into residential units under new permitted development (PD) rules because they are unsuitable for current farming needs will remove the PD rights to put up structures on farms such as barns for a decade.

“It’s natural to think that the new rights will release buildings for new uses but exercising these rights must be balanced against the future needs of the farm,” said Mr Myerscough.

“Planning ahead for possible business changes on the farm will be critical before any decision to convert existing buildings because they cannot then be replaced with anything more suitable via agricultural PD rights, although a scheme may be successful via a full planning application.

“While converting a building into a new home of up to 450 square metres seems attractive, especially when it allows retiring owners to continue to live on the farm after handing over the enterprise to the next generation, the business could be constrained from moving forward as a result.

“My advice is to assess farms and estates for potential development sites, including taking account of the new rights, and then select carefully the best route for each opportunity.

“This is a live issue on a number of estates.

"The legislation is not clear as it does not define the agricultural holding when using the PD rights. So converting a building using PD rights could seriously inhibit the prospects of developing other parts of the business.

"This is becoming a concern and preventing landowners from doing what on face value the Government was trying to encourage.

“The main concern is that following previous press coverage, farmers who do not take advice may move forward with a PD proposal only to find they have lost their agricultural PD rights, potentially limiting other options for the rest of the farm in the future.

“It’s also uncertain how long these rights will remain.

"A change of government in a year’s time could see a reversal of policy so farmers should get on with schemes quickly once their suitability for the business has been assessed.”

Ben Myerscough can be contacted on 01672 519712 or via email at