Anna MacLeod, Senior Solicitor with Murray Beith Murray, writes in the spring edition (March 2020) of Scottish Land & Estates LandBusiness magazine.
Read the full article below:
Faced with uncertainty due to the upcoming reform of support payments and the UK’s exit from the European Union, an increasing number of rural businesses in Scotland are turning to diversification to bolster their financial income. Whilst diversification may not be possible for all rural businesses, it also has the potential to enhance facilities and prevent de-population in rural parts of the country.
Once analysis of the existing rural business has been carried out and the potential for diversification identified, it is essential to consider what (if any) planning consents may be required from the relevant Local Authority.
The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development Order) (Scotland) 1992 allows certain classes of development to proceed without the need for a full planning application. Class 18 of Schedule 1 of the Order sets out that generally, building operations for agricultural and forestry purposes are within permitted development.
There are a number of exceptions to this general principle, for example planning permission is required for development on a small holding of less than 0.4 hectares; works to a building or structure to be used for the housing of livestock, sewage or slurry within 400 metres of a protected building (i.e. a building not involved in agriculture); or a development within 25 metres of a trunk road. In addition, planning permission is usually required for any alteration of appearance of buildings, change of use, or the construction of car parks and new accesses.
In recognition of the role of diversification in supporting the agricultural industry, the Scottish Government have recently carried out a consultation on the further relaxation of permitted development rights, including those for agricultural developments. The proposed changes would extend permitted development rights to encompass larger agricultural sheds, the development of polytunnels, the conversion of agricultural outbuildings to residential or commercial use, and the use of micro-renewables within protected areas.
In November 2019, Planning Minister Kevin Stewart commented: ‘These reforms will help support work aimed at increasing the rural population, will support succession planning for farmers and will provide an opportunity for the planning system to positively contribute to the long-term sustainability of rural businesses and communities.’
Whilst the proposed amendments are welcomed, it is important to note that where land is located within a designated area such as a Special Protection Area (SPA), Special Area of Conservation (SAC) or Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), permitted development rights may be stricter. Likewise, if existing farm buildings are listed, it is likely that additional consents will be required. In these instances, consultation with the local Planning Authority is recommended at an early stage. Even when diversification falls within the range of permitted development, it may be that the Local Authority will still need to be notified of the proposals to enable them to review the environmental impact of the development, and a Building Warrant, Stamped Plans and Completion Certificate obtained to ensure that the development complies with building standards.
Murray Beith Murray act for a large number of farms and Estates across Scotland who have diversified to support their main agricultural interests.
The solicitors in Murray Beith Murray’s Rural and Commercial Property Departments would be pleased to discuss proposed opportunities for diversification and provide further advice in relation to the planning requirements that may arise.