Planning Permission for Agricultural Buildings

Do you need planning permission for agricultural buildings?

As with all types of property, certain rules apply when it comes to building on agricultural land. Farms must comply with the same planning regulations as all other types of land, although some special conditions apply to the rules for agricultural land and buildings.

Full planning permission is required in circumstances where you wish to change the use or purpose of agricultural buildings or land from farming to something else. Permission will also be required if you wish to build a house on farming or agricultural land.

Planning permission for agricultural buildings or barns is not required:

  • In circumstances where there are general permitted development rights
  • If you wish to make changes to the inside of an agricultural building, or small changes to the outside of the building
  • For any farming operations
  • If you wish to use any buildings on your land for farming or agricultural purposes.
planning permission for agricultural buildings

What is a permitted development?

According to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (TCPA), agricultural land can only be used for specific purposes like growing fruits and vegetables, raising animals, grazing, and running nurseries or woodlands related to farming. However, the General Permitted Development Order, found in Schedule 2, Part 6, grants larger agricultural properties (over 5 hectares or 12.5 acres) certain rights to construct and expand agricultural buildings, build fences, do excavations, and even operate caravan sites with some limitations.

If your farm is 5 hetacres/ 50,000 square metres or more, permitted development rights will apply. This means that you will not need planning permission to:

  • Erect, extend or alter a building
  • Undertake engineering operations or excavations required for agricultural purposes. However, certain details of the development may still require approval.

Examples of permitted development encompass:

  • Temporary use of land
  • Agricultural structures that fall below specific dimensions
  • Forestry buildings
  • Caravan sites and associated buildings under certain conditions

Before making any changes to your land, you should always check with your local planning authority to find out if a prior approval application is required.

Permitted development rights do not apply in all circumstances, for example, listed buildings, areas in a safety hazard zone, near a military explosives storage area, near protected land, such as an area of outstanding natural beauty, world heritage site, or site of special scientific interest.

Agricultural to residential use


There is a provision known as Class Q within the General Permitted Development Order (GDPO) that allows for the conversion of agricultural units into residential properties under agricultural permitted development rights. However, there are certain conditions that must be met, and it’s important to be careful not to violate these rules:

The first condition is that the building must have been actively used for agricultural purposes on or before 20th March 2013. This means it was used for storing agricultural equipment, livestock, grain, and so on. Having an agricultural holding number is crucial for proving this. Please note that this rule will soon change to a rolling ten-year period. For example, if today is January 1, 2024, the unit must have been used for agricultural purposes on or before January 1, 2014.

It is essential that no work has already started on the conversion, and most importantly, the building must be suitable for conversion without any significant changes to its external structure or raising the roof.

Depending on the size of the building being converted, it may be possible to create up to five new residential units from one agricultural building. This can consist of smaller dwellings up to 100m2 and larger ones between 100m2 and 465m2. The maximum allowed conversion area under Class Q is 865m2, which includes any newly created mezzanine floor space as well as the ground floor area.

Furthermore, any new garden space being established cannot exceed the size of the associated dwelling.

Ecological constraints in obtaining planning permission for agricultural buildings

If you wish to make a change to agricultural buildings or land that fall outside of the exceptions above, you will be required to make a planning application.

Ecological constraints are an important consideration for planning rules in the UK. Local planning authorities assess the potential impacts of proposed developments on the natural environment and protected species.

The presence of protected species, such as bats, birds, reptiles, amphibians, or great crested newts, can impact your ability to obtain planning permission for agricultural buildings. If your project could impact habitats or species protected by law, you may need to conduct ecological surveys to assess their presence and propose mitigation measures to minimise harm.

Development proposals must also consider the impact on habitats and biodiversity. This includes protected habitats like ancient woodlands, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), or designated nature reserves.

Additionally, large-scale or environmentally sensitive developments may require an Environmental Impact Assessment. An EIA assesses potential ecological impacts on habitats, protected species, and the overall environment. The EIA report informs the planning decision and may require mitigation measures or alternative site options to be considered.

Development near watercourses or flood risk areas must consider the impact on water quality, hydrology, and flood risk. Local planning authorities often require assessments and flood mitigation measures to safeguard ecosystems and prevent adverse effects on habitats and species.

How can Collington Winter assist?

Our team at Collington Winter are able to assist clients with planning permission for agricultural buildings by carrying out any of the necessary ecological surveys or assessments that may be needed.

Whether you are looking to erect, extend or alter a building and need ecological advice, our consultants are happy to assist.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our environmental consultancy today for more information at or call the team on 01204 939 608.

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