The charm offensive continues this week with a new multi-departmental Government announcement titled “Unleashing Rural Productivity” and presented as the launch of a new drive to support rural communities. Of particular interest to us is a quotation from Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, Michael Gove, who says “We will be unlocking a new pipeline of rural housing as we continue to reform our planning system and offering greater freedoms on farm buildings to support a new supply of affordable homes and businesses.”
After the toughening up of planning enforcement powers in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill it would be welcome to see more flexibility around the re-use of farm buildings for dwellings. We had a glimpse of what is being considered in an interview that Minister of State (Minister for Biosecurity, Marine and Rural Affairs) The Rt Hon Lord Benyon gave to Farming Today this morning in which he said that one of the aims of the planning reforms is to provide housing on the family farm for the next generation who may prefer not to have to live in the same house as their parents and to provide skills and jobs close to where people live.
Given the fact that Class Q permitted development rights already allow the change of use of suitable agricultural buildings to residential use, it would be good to see the reforms framed in a way that enables the new policy to be used to provide new housing in the “protected areas” (National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) where the Class Q rights do not apply and where housing needs for local people and others are often at their most acute.
It would also be helpful for the new policies to be on the books and in use as quickly as possible so that they do not get de-railed by the general election next year.