Retail in the Countryside

1st May, 2018 by Natasha in General

The countryside can be a fantastic place to operate a business.  Some businesses can take advantage of location whilst others complement existing activities, be that agricultural or other commercial enterprises.

Although there is a general presumption against non agricultural development in the countryside, the planning system does offer significant encouragement.

Full Planning Permission

Re-use of agricultural buildings is supported in planning terms both in National and Local Policy.  

Provisions introduced within the planning system over recent years have expanded the options further for re-use of agricultural buildings.

However, there are issues which will require careful consideration such as access, design, traffic movements, effect on local shops, if any, and planning conditions may be imposed by the Local Authority such as opening hours, produce sold and granting temporary permission only.

Alternatively, some buildings may qualify for conversion under permitted development rights which may help obtaining permission.

Permitted Development

Class R of the General Permitted Development (England) Order 2015 allows for some agricultural buildings to be converted to a variety of commercial uses such as shops effectively without the need for planning permission.

The right is subject to various criteria such as the building/s need to have been solely in agricultural use since 3 July 2012 and the cumulative floor space should not exceed 500m2.  For larger schemes that are between 150m2 to 500m2, there is a prior approval procedure to follow and although the ‘use’ can be changed under these provisions, any ‘physical changes’ to a building cannot and therefore will require planning permission.  However, a useful provision is for small schemes up to 150m2 where a notification process only is required.  

In a recent case handled by Acorus this was sufficient to change the use of a lean-to into a gift store.  This provision can also be quite useful to plant nurseries wanting to sell non home grown products in a small building. 

The Fall Back Position

The ‘fall-back’ position may be relevant to your proposal.

If the principle of commercial development can be established this can form the basis of a subsequent full planning application to try and expand on permitted development rights often making best use of a site by achieving development that isn’t within the rules of the permitted development right but is similar.

A recent Court of Appeal Case, Mansell v Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council (2017), deals with the fall-back position in terms of Class Q development, change of use of agricultural buildings to residential dwellings, whereby it was accepted that the Council was entitled to conclude that there was a “realistic” fall-back and that it was clear that the owners were intending to develop the site.  

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