Dwellings in Rural Areas

19th July, 2018 by Natasha in General

Gaining planning permission in rural areas involves the same process as in an urban context but the ‘rules’ and issues can be quite different. Urban planning generally depends on allocations, development boundaries and design, whereas in rural areas exceptions to more protective policies are the norm.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) promotes sustainable development in rural areas where a proposed scheme would enhance and or maintain the vitality of rural communities.  

Paragraph 55 of the NPPF outlines what would be considered acceptable residential development in isolated areas:-

•    The essential need for a rural worker to live permanently at or near their place of work in the countryside.

A need to live on site would have to be proven.  Normally agricultural/occupational dwellings are granted in this respect when they serve established, profitable and sustainable businesses where livestock and/or crops need constant supervision.

•    Where development would represent the optimal viable use of a heritage asset or would be appropriate enabling development to secure the future of heritage assets.

This depends on the individual site.  As an example, Acorus recently won a case at Appeal where a scheme which protected a Grade II listed barn enabled development of the whole site to be granted even though it was two miles from the nearest settlement.

•    Where development would re-use redundant or disused buildings and lead to an enhancement to the immediate setting.

Permitted development rights such as Class Q, change of use of agricultural buildings to dwelling houses, have improved the number of options developers have to create dwellings in rural areas, but where development is required for example in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and/or it does not meet the Class Q rules policy is still positive.

•    The exceptional quality or innovative nature of the design of a dwelling for example truly outstanding reflecting the highest standards of architecture.

This is often a more difficult route to obtain planning permission.  The dwelling must be unique and would clearly involve considerable architectural input in order to achieve a successful outcome.  

All of the above has been challenged recently following a High Court decision and subsequent Appeal Decisions addressing what is meant by ‘isolated’.  Some cases have successfully proven that not all rural areas are isolated which opens the door to a more flexible approach, for example development near small groups of dwellings.

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