Lincolnshire farmers claim their bid to ease housing crisis is being held back by local planning authorities

Farming news.
Farming news.

Farmers and landowners in Lincolnshire say they are being frustrated in their attempts to convert old agricultural buildings to much-needed homes in the countryside.

Figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) reveal that almost 40 per cent of agricultural to residential planning applications made in the county between January and June this year were refused in the county.

This compares to an average refusal rate of approximately 36 per cent across the Country Landowners Association’s eastern region during the same period.

A total of 13,879 new homes were created nationally in 2015-16 via the relaxed planning regime of Permitted Development Rights (PDR) – which has been designed and implemented by the Government in order to make it easier to convert buildings to other uses – but just 226 were from agricultural or forestry buildings.

The Central Lincolnshire Local Plan for the next 25 years is predominantly addressing local housing provision for the future via ‘sustainable urban extensions’ to towns such as Sleaford and North Hykeham, with a percentage of permitted development in larger villages with adequate local services.

CLA East Regional Surveyor Claire Wright said: “There is no question the housing shortage is being felt just as keenly in the countryside as it is in our towns and cities. The problem with rural areas is that house prices are on average 22 per cent higher than in urban areas and fewer homes are available.

“Rural landowners want to help ease the major housing crisis we’re experiencing in the countryside, but we consistently find local planning authorities standing in the way of the conversion of agricultural buildings into new residential properties.

“Some farm buildings are clearly not suitable for conversion so it would be unfair to pin all the blame on planning departments, but the high rates of refusal and the small number of completions serves as a wake-up call for Government that this policy requires attention.”

Ms Wright said local planning authorities persistently ignored the Government’s intention behind converting farm buildings into homes, which undermined the development of sustainable rural communities.

She added: “In some parts of the CLA’s east region we have seen refusal rates soaring past 50 per cent, which only serves to set back the aspirations of young people, retiring farmers, and rural workers who need homes to live in.

“The Government needs to make greater effort in stressing to local planning authorities that PDR should be playing a vital part in the delivery new homes in rural areas. Converting barns into homes brings these redundant buildings back to life, and addresses the rural housing shortage.”