William Eichler 31 August 2021

Council chiefs warn rural communities risk missing out on vital services

Council chiefs warn rural communities risk missing out on vital services image

Rural communities are at risk of missing out on vital services due to a surge in the number of barns being converted into homes, local authority leaders have warned.

The latest figures show 734 homes in England were created as a result of agricultural to residential conversions in 2019/20 under permitted development rights (PDRs). In 2015/16, only 226 barns were turned into homes.

PDRs allow developers to bypass the planning system, which means that developers are not required to contribute towards local infrastructure, such as roads, schools and GP surgeries, nor do they have to provide any affordable housing.

The Local Government Association (LGA) says it is concerned that rural areas could be missing out on these essential local services and called on the Government to revoke PDRs.

‘Residents in any area need to have the support of strong infrastructure in place, whether that is schools, surgeries or adequate road networks,’ said Cllr David Renard, LGA housing spokesperson.

‘If developers are not obliged to provide any of these, then there is a real risk some communities could miss out on these vital services.

‘This is why it is really important that all new housing developments go through a locally-led planning system, so these checks can be made, with the oversight of local communities.

‘This needs to be at the heart of the Government’s planning reforms, as we await the detail of its Planning Bill later this year.’

Devon saw the highest number of agricultural buildings turned into homes in 2019/20 with 127 conversions, followed by Dorset (73), Kent (68), Northamptonshire (33) and Essex (30).

An MHCLG spokesperson said: 'Our reforms to the planning system will protect our cherished countryside and green spaces as well as deliver high-quality and sustainable homes.

'The permitted development right for the change of use from agricultural buildings supports farmers to diversify and provides much needed homes to buy or to rent, including in rural areas.'

The Brownfield Land Release Fund image

The Brownfield Land Release Fund

To what extent does this early initiative of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities deliver on the ‘levelling up’ agenda? Lawrence Turner reports.
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