• Fresh worry over new planning ‘free for all’

    6th July 2012 | News | Claire
  • Landowners could be allowed to convert disused barns into shops, cafes and even rock music venues without planning permission.

    Under radical plans to boost the rural economy, changing the use of a barn would be treated in the same way as a small conservatory built by a homeowner.

    Planning Minister Greg Clark said the controversial idea would make it easier for firms and entrepreneurs to create jobs in the countryside.

    Cutting edge venue: New laws could make it easier to turn old and derelict barns into shops, cafes and music venues.

    The measure is part of a package published yesterday aimed at speeding up the planning system and cutting red tape for businesses wanting to expand and diversify.

    The proposals would also make it easier to find new uses for abandoned shops in town centres and high streets.

    They will force planners to speed up their decisions, and could allow developers to claim costs against Government agencies that delay their projects unnecessarily.

    And councils will be able to increase planning charges by 15 per cent to recruit extra staff to speed up the process.

    Planning minister Greg Clark claims the plans will boost the job market in the countryside
    Mr Clark said the changes, which are going out to consultation for three months, would make the planning process ‘simpler, clearer and more accessible’.

    Farmers and other landowners have complained for years that it is too difficult to get planning permission to use old barns for new purposes, even if it would create jobs.

    Initiatives to open farm shops, food processing units, workshops or other enterprises have often been delayed for years or blocked altogether.

    Under the proposals, landowners would be allowed to convert disused barns or other agricultural buildings without planning permission.

    Proposed uses include shops, restaurants, hotels and ‘leisure’. Detailed guidance suggests possible uses could even include betting shops, car showrooms, retail warehouses and music venues.

    They would be able to claim ‘permitted development rights’ – similar to those that allow homeowners to build a modest extension or conservatory without planning permission.

    The Department for Communities and Local Government insisted the new rules would apply only to ‘relatively low impact’ proposals. It said it was consulting on the exact scope.

    Paul Miner, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, warned the change could create a planning free-for-all.

    He said most barns were originally built without planning permission and should not be switched to other uses without a proper assessment.

    ‘There are very big problems with this, and a danger that if we don’t get it right we will see a rash of inappropriate development,’ he said.