CPRE warns that proposals to turn farm buildings into houses will prove a disaster for the countryside

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has warned that Government proposals to allow farmers to turn buildings into houses are badly thought through: they will lead to a rash of housing development in the countryside but without the safeguards provided by the planning system.

Proposals to grant rights to build up to three houses and demolish existing buildings could lead to suburbanised farmsteads, with local communities powerless to intervene. The character of The Yorkshire Dales, for example, would be damaged irretrievably if even some of the field barns there were allowed to be converted following these Government proposals. The Yorkshire Dales has 4,000 field barns, some built with exceptionally rare materials.

Paul Miner, CPRE’s Senior Planning Campaigner, says:

‘These proposals will mean housing popping up in unsuitable locations in the remote countryside. And it’s not just the housing but the garages, sheds, lighting and fences that will come with them that will destroy the character of rural areas.’

The Department for Communities and Local Government is consulting on proposals to allow existing farm buildings to be converted to flats or houses. CPRE supports provision of affordable homes in rural areas, including for farm workers. But the lack of safeguards means the changes would enable farms of any size to convert buildings to flats or houses for sale on the open market.

Paul Miner continued:

‘Landowners and farmers may welcome these proposals as a licence to print money and get around the planning system by throwing some homes up and selling as soon as possible to the highest bidder. If this happens, any new housing won’t even need to be affordable or be required to meet the housing needs of local people.

‘The Government really should abandon these proposals and live up to its claims that it wants local people to have a say about development in their area.’