New Government policy helps turn granny annexes into separate homes

The Government has just updated its rules making it easier to get planning permission to turn a “granny annexe” into a separate dwelling.

The Government sets out national planning rules in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The NPPF was updated in July.

One change relates to granny annexes, i.e. a building within the garden of a house that provides additional accommodation space for a relative, an office or a holiday let. These annexes normally include conditions restricting their use as a separate dwelling, but the new NPPF makes it easier to get these conditions removed, and use them or sell them as a separate dwelling.

Paragraph 79 of the new NPPF restricts “the development of isolated homes in the countryside” unless a series of conditions are met. One of these is that there is an essential need for a rural worker to live there (see earlier blogs), but the new condition allows “the subdivision of an existing residential dwelling.”

An application to remove a condition restricting the use of an annexe as a separate dwelling was refused and taken to appeal recently. The Inspector decided that the new paragraph 79 meant that national planning policy allowed the use of the annexe as a separate house, so they allowed the appeal.

If you have a house in the countryside, and you have an annexe or holiday home in the garden, there is a chance that you could now get planning permission to use it as a separate dwelling.

Get in touch with Vision Planning to find out more.

(If you do get in touch via email, it would be great if you could include either the application reference and Council area, or the property address in the email.  Then we can give a more helpful response.)

Equestrian Worker’s Dwellings in the Green Belt – Success!

Stuart Miles, Vision Planning’s Director, has recently helped two applicants to live on site at their equestrian holdings in the Green Belt.

Vision Planning recently obtained planning permission for the retention of a caravan to provide a temporary equestrian worker’s dwelling in the East Hertfordshire Green Belt.

The holding provides a full livery service, and cares for sick and damaged horses which can require 24 hour care.  Vision Planning convinced the Council that the accommodation was necessary to enable the business to continue, despite the Green Belt location, and the application was approved (see East Herts Council ref 3/18/1074/FUL).

And in December 2017 (while at DPDS), Stuart submitted an appeal against Wiltshire Council’s refusal of an application to retain a log cabin for an equestrian worker in the Green Belt near Bath.

Stuart argued that, based on the Embleton Court Judgement (see, there is no need to demonstrate that a business is economically viable or to support an agricultural worker on a minimum wage; all that matters is that an essential need for a rural worker is demonstrated.

The Inspector agreed that the Council had been over zealous in requiring the business to be financially viable in the conventional sense, and allowed the appeal (see Wiltshire Council ref 17/06080/FUL).

Court Judgement makes getting permission for new homes in some small villages easier

A recent Court of Appeal Judgement may make it easier to get planning permission for small housing developments in small villages.

The Court of Appeal’s decision focussed on the meaning of the word “isolated” in paragraph 55 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This notes that “Local planning authorities should avoid new isolated homes in the countryside unless there are special circumstances”. A number of potential special circumstances are then listed, which includes dwellings for rural workers.

This is important because development outside defined settlement boundaries is described as being in the “open countryside”. Councils often assume that a development in the open countryside must be isolated, so they refuse the application partly based on paragraph 55 of the NPPF.

The Court of Appeal has determined that this is wrong, and that “the word “isolated” in the phrase “isolated homes in the countryside” simply connotes a dwelling that is physically separate or remote from a settlement.”

When does this matter?

This matters if there are too few homes being built in the local area.

Where the local Council cannot demonstrate an adequate five year housing land supply, then policies in the Council’s development plan that restrict housing cannot be relied upon. Instead, the decision is made based on the NPPF.

If a council can argue that the NPPF restricts development because it would result in “new isolated homes in the open countryside” then they can still refuse a planning application based on the NPPF, even if they don’t have enough housing supply.

The Court of Appeal Judgement means they can’t always make this argument. A development in a small village, even one without a settlement boundary, should not be considered to be isolated.

Vision Planning can help you find out whether or not the local Council can demonstrate an adequate five year housing land supply. If you want to get planning permission for a house or two in a small village, even one without a settlement boundary, please get in touch.

Converting Agricultural Buildings to Dwellings – an update

In February I explained how Planning Inspectors were dealing with appeals relating to the change of use of an agricultural building to housing.

The Government has decided that Councils are refusing too many of these applications, and made a few changes to the rules to make it easier, or at least clearer.

From 6 April 2018, you will be able to create up to five new dwellings, rather than three, with a total area of 465 square metres rather than 450 square metres.  Each of the five can be no larger than 100 square metres.

At the same time the Government has updated its Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) to clarify what building works are allowed under this permitted development right.

This specifies that the following building works are allowed where they are reasonably necessary to convert the building: “the installation or replacement of windows, doors, roofs, exterior walls, water, drainage, electricity, gas or other services to the extent reasonably necessary for the building to function as a dwelling house; and partial demolition to the extent reasonably necessary to carry out these building operations.”

It also specifies that: “Internal works are not generally development. For the building to function as a dwelling it may be appropriate to undertake internal structural works, including to allow for a floor, the insertion of a mezzanine or upper floors within the overall residential floor space permitted, or internal walls, which are not prohibited by Class Q.” If something is not development, it does not need planning permission.

The PPG still includes the caveat that: “It is not the intention of the permitted development right to allow rebuilding work which would go beyond what is reasonably necessary for the conversion of the building to residential use. Therefore it is only where the existing building is already suitable for conversion to residential use that the building would be considered to have the permitted development right.” This relates to the Hibbitt High Court judgement I described in February.

The Government also announced that it would be relaxing the size limit on new agricultural buildings on larger farms (greater than 5 hectares) from 465 square metres to 1,000 square metres.

In the case of both conversions from agricultural to residential, and new agricultural buildings on larger farms, although these are permitted development, you still need to apply for prior approval. Vision Planning can do that for you. Please contact us to discuss further.

Rural Worker’s Dwellings

Do you need a new home for a worker on a farm or other rural business, to supervise livestock for example? There is a way.

Normally, new homes in the open countryside are restricted by planning rules. However, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), introduced in March 2012, includes a number of exceptions in paragraph 55. These include:
“the essential need for a rural worker to live permanently at or near their place of work in the countryside”.

This means that if you can demonstrate an essential need for someone to live on your farm or other rural business, then it should be possible to get planning permission for a new home for them to live in.

Often this will be for a temporary three year period to start with, to check that the business is viable on an ongoing basis, and then this can be turned into planning permission for a permanent dwelling.

Before the NPPF was brought it, national planning rules relating to this issue were set by PPS7, Annex A. This has now been withdrawn.

PPS7 set two tests to help planners decide whether or not to give permission: a functional test and a financial test.

The functional test would determine whether it is essential for someone to be on site at most times, for example to care for animals or deal quickly with emergencies.

The financial test determined the size of dwelling that the rural business could sustain. In other words, the more profitable the business, the bigger the house, in very general terms.

Now that PPS7 has been replaced by the NPPF, Council planners and appeal inspectors often look to PPS7 Annex A for more detail, even though it has been withdrawn. A legal judgement suggests that they shouldn’t always do so. This case is known as “Embleton” (R on the application of Embleton Parish Council and Anor v Gaston (2013) EWHC 3631 (Admin)).

The Embleton case relates to the need for a rural worker’s dwelling on an existing arable farm, to which the landowner proposed to introduce cattle rearing.

The applicant made the case that the cattle rearing generated an essential need for a rural worker’s dwelling, and the Council granted planning permission.

Embleton Parish Council amongst others challenged the planning permission in the High Court. They argued that the calf rearing part of the business was not economically viable, and that it was implicit in paragraph 55 of the NPPF that for an essential need to be demonstrated it must be economically viable.

The judge in this case noted that:
“… the test under paragraph 55 of NPPF is different from the test under Annex A, paragraph 12(iii) of PPS7. In particular I do not accept … that the NPPF requires that the proposal is economically viable…  The NPPF test simply requires a judgment of whether the proposed agricultural enterprise has an essential need for a worker to be there or near there.”

This may make it easier to get planning permission for a rural worker’s dwelling than in the past. If you would like to discuss this further, please get in touch.