The UK government pledged earlier this year to ease planning restrictions for the conversion of some disused farm buildings into homes for first-time local buyers as part of its upgrade scheme, but changes are likely will only apply in England, not Wales.
It is expected that the plan may also apply to disused buildings in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is intended in part to help alleviate the shortage of affordable housing in rural communities.
Although the finer details have yet to be released, this appears to be welcome news for farmers and landowners in Shropshire, who may now be able to create an asset from a liability. And although the move was planned under a government led by Boris Johnson, there is no indication so far that the new leadership of Prime Minister Liz Truss is seeking to change the plans. The government is expected to set out ‘its vision for unlocking home ownership for a new generation by building more homes in the places where people want to live and work’ later this fall.
The creation of new housing can also contribute to the vitality and sustainability of the local economy by helping people to stay in rural areas.
The shortage of affordable housing in rural areas has contributed to a “brain drain” of talent, with young people forced to move to towns and cities in search of cheaper properties.
The changes follow intense pressure on the government from agricultural and rural interest groups, and CLA Cymru is continuing the campaign in Wales. They fear potential investment could cross the border if the changes only applied in England.
Whichever side of Offa’s Dyke you grow, the key is to get good legal advice on your options before you start converting a building. Scheduling rules can be complex and costly if you get them wrong.
Suzanne Tucker is a partner at FBC Manby Bowdler