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A Guide to Developing in Rural and Heritage Settings

You may have a project in mind or you may be considering the development potential of a site. We offer some initial guidance on how to best approach a project strategically. How do you overcome the planning restrictions? How do you add the most value to a site?  How does a grade listing affect your potential to develop? What does permitted development mean? Can I build on agricultural land? I am in the green belt, what can I do?

The Route to a Successful Development 

It’s all in the planning, in more ways than one!

Is this a business venture or a personal project? This greatly affects the direction a development brief will take. If it is business you need to plan out what the business case is for any development with a detailed business plan. This will begin to define the development brief. What is your market? What do you need to take to this market? What are the physical requirements of accommodation and services needed to provide for your business?

If it is for you and your own home you need to consider what your hierarchy of needs and wants are. What do you like and dislike about the home you have and what would you like to see from your new home? If you have a site, what are its outstanding features and what are its constraints? If you are looking for a site what do you need from it?

The more you know about your development needs the better your brief will be for your architect. You can then begin the journey of identifying, defining and refining the development opportunities. This should start with a feasibility study to help analyse what the development potential is, where the added value is and what the returns might be.

You can then move on to forming a strategic planning brief and developing concepts which have the best chance of achieving the biggest planning gains for your site. If you manage the process with your architect and work with them to analyse the risks and benefits at every stage then you have the best chance of arriving at the end of the process with a success and secure in the knowledge that the right decisions have been made. One that you can be proud of.

Development in a Rural Setting 

If you are a business or property owner in a rural setting the planning system can feel very prohibitive. Planning policies are there to protect the openness of the countryside, land use and character, and you may or may not think rightly so.  As described above the planning system can seem like a bit of a maze. Which is why you need to think strategically.

Planning Policy Guidance

Do you need planning permission?

You would have thought the answer is simple. However, planning policy is present at a number of levels from the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework), to Local Development Plans, to Neighbourhood Plans.

NPPF set out broad policies which Local Plans have to conform to. However, the NPPF does give some Permitted Development Rights for certain types of development that don’t require planning permission. These include change of use from commercial or agricultural to residential.

If your proposal does not fall under Permitted Development you will need to gain planning permission for any change of use or extension or new build development. This will then be governed by the Local Plan policies as set by the borough or district council.

How do I get planning permission?

The NPPF has an overriding presumption in favour of sustainable development. What constitutes sustainable development is a hotly debated subject in the planning world but it is worth noting the NPPF paragraph 79.

It is part e) of paragraph 79 that is of particular interest and has allowed many ‘Grand Designs’ projects to go ahead. The nature of the wording here does imply a spectacular project that needs to be extremely well executed in the concept, planning and presentation to demonstrate that it is exceptional.

Listed Building Consent

A building’s listing could be perceived as a set of somewhat prescriptive restrictions, however this is not to say that alterations to the building or its setting are not possible. The case can be made for alterations to a listed building if this enhances and preserves its use, thereby securing its longevity for future generations.

Listed Building Consent is required for any alterations to the building fabric, regardless of the grade of the listing or the listing description.

Housing Development

Even small scale housing development is closely controlled in the rural environment. However, there is an acute need in many locations and therefore a strong market offering substantial returns for the right scheme. It is worth noting the NPPF, which sets out the national position.

As an agricultural landowner your best chance to get the land use designation changed is by offering your site for consideration in the local authority’s Local Plan for a possible housing opportunity site. An application of this type will require consideration of the location and available local amenities and services.

You can download our educational guide ‘A Guide to Developing in Rural and Heritage Settings’ which outlines in far greater detail our advice on all the subjects covered here, using the following link:

You can pick up a printed copy on our stand no. 3293, which is located in Hall 12 between Keynote Theatre 1 and Theatre 5

If you have any questions please contact us to discuss these on 0207 183 2285.

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Top image: 'Space to Grow' - RIBA Competition for rural development

Second image: Cottage barn converted and extended in a rural setting

Third image: The Pavilion - Grand Design House in the setting of Grade II* Listed building

Bottom image: Contemporary intervention to Grade II Listed Macartney House

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