EMERGENCY BRIEFING PAPER, OCTOBER 2003
Our Guide to the New Rural Planning Guidance
The draft version of PPS7, the government’s new planning guidance on the countryside has been released. You can respond to the draft and help influence the final version which will appear next year. The deadline for
responding is 12 December.
What Changes Does PPS 7 Make?
The most obvious departure from previous policy (in PPG7) is that it allows for houses on agriculture land in connection with enterprises other than agriculture and forestry
Other changes include:
´ Increased general emphasis on sustainability „ but still no firm definitions or criteria to apply to developments.
´ The notorious ñCountry Houseî policy is dropped.
´ Barn conversions allowed for essential workers.
´ Subsistence agriculture accepted as being potentially viable; otherwise guidance on agricultural dwellings is substantially the same as before
In general, the proposed guidance is favourable to tourism, diversification and horseyculture, but does little to help agriculture or forestry.
How Will PPS7 Affect Chapter 7 Members?
The draft guidance is quite helpful for smallholders, forestry workers and other low impact developers in two respects:
´ The financial test now allows for subsistence agriculture:
ñSome enterprises which aim to operate broadly on a subsistence basis, but which nonetheless provide wider benefits (eg in managing attractive landscapes or wildlife habitats), can be sustained on relatively low financial returns.î (Annex A para 8.
´ If your project can be cast as something which isnÍt agriculture/forestry, or is only partly so, then there may be a basis for allowing a dwelling, if it is necessary to make the operation ñsafe and effectiveî. This is ra ¬ther complicated and is explained in full on page 3 of this leaflet.
Chapter 7, The Potato Store, Flaxdrayton Farm, S. Petherton, Somerset TA13, 01460 249204, email@example.comHow Will PPS7 Affect the Countryside?
The draft PPS7 takes a more relaxed approach to development in the countryside in general. It makes little attempt to distinguish between activities which are appropriate for the countryside, and those which arenÍt. We view that if the guidance remains as it is at present it will lead to a number of outcomes, not all of them desirable:
´ More Diversification
The guidance is likely to result in more of our farmyards being turned over to activities other than agriculture. There might be merit in this if it were drafted with care, but PPS7 makes no attempt to differentiate between different kinds of ñdiversificationî. Horseyculture and visitor accommodation are actively encouraged.
´ More Houses on Farmlan ¦d
The guidance will lead to more applications for houses in connection with horseyculture, tourist accommodation and other forms of ñdiversificationî. As worded at the moment, PPS7 makes it potentially easier to get permission for a dwelling associated with a diversified enterprise, like tourism, than for a dwelling connected with agriculture or forestry (see next page.)
´ More High Impact Developments in the Countryside
Despite these relaxations in policy, and obvious opportunities for speculators „ and despite singling out sustainable development as a priority objective „ there are no measures or criteria to ensure that these new developments have lower environmental impact or are any more sustainable than anything which has gone before;
´ More Speculative Scam Houses
Occupancy conditions, far from being tight
The effect of the new guidance may be to raise the price of agricultur Y«al buildings, and also, possibly, of small plots of agricultural land, especially ñpony paddocksî.
How Chapter 7 will be Responding
Chapter 7Ís response will welcome:
´ the recognition that subsistence agriculture can be viable;
´ the dropping of the Country House policy;
´ the increased emphasis on sustainability, but suggest that this should be reflected in criteria for specific forms of development, rather than just a general (and token) objective;
and we advocate:
´ that a distinction should be made between forms of diversification that are linked to land management and so have a need to be in the countryside, and ñfootlooseî urban enterprises (eg retail, offices, industrial storage) which could take place anywhere.
´ tighter sustainability and environmental criteria for diversification projects, and dwellings associated with them;
´ that local authorities should formulate policies which encourage a balance of uses in the countryside, so as to ensure that agricultur ®e is not outpriced by other more lucrative uses; and that activities such as horseyculture do not become too dominant or become the focus for a rash of speculative ventures.
´ that guidance for dwellings associated with diversification should not be more relaxed than that for agricultural and fo
´ that the functional test should be extended to allow for dwellings where ñthe necessity to perform a range of tasks sporadically over a long day makes residence essential for the safe and effective operation of the enterprise.î
´ a wider range of strong occupancy conditions, including tying dwellings to the land which justified them, personal conditions, section 106 agreements; and making it harder to get the condition revoked.
Ways to Respond
We suggest that ideally you get a copy of PPS7, read it for yourself, make up your own mind and send in your own comments to the ODPM (see address in box on the front page of this leaflet).
However ma òny readers will not have time to do this, so you may wish simply to send in a letter supporting Chapter 7Ís response; or to echo some of our proposals and add some of our own.
If you can respond on behalf of an organization, this will carry more weight than if you respond as an individual. Give a brief description of your organization and its membership.
Most of all we urge you to make some kind of response. This will not be a waste of time; it is possible to get things changed. Last time the guidance was revised (in 1997) Chapter 7, with the Permaculture Association, managed to get changes into the final version, including the specification that ñeasily dismantled timber buildingsî are
suitable for temporary agricultural dwellings. 16,000 people responded to the Planning Green Paper last year, forcing the government to shelve proposals to rush major infrastructure projects through by Act of Parliament without a public inquiry.Some of the Policy Changes in DetailSustainability
There is increased emphasis on sustainability in the general introductory sections. However this is still not translated into policies or criteria for specific forms of development. For example Annex A, contains four pages of advice and criteria on agricultural dwellings „ it is a quarter of the entire 16 page document; but environmental impact is not included as criteria and the word sustainability is not mentioned once.
The policy on diversification mainly echoes advice inserted into the previous version of PPG7 in March 2001 (para 3.4). There is no attempt to differentiate between different forms of diversification: anything seems to be allowed, including retail, offices, industrial storage etc, as long as it is ñwell-conceivedî and ñin scale with the rural locationî, which presumably means no bigger than a 500 sow pig unit. (paras 30-31)
Local authorities are encouraged to set out criteria for diversific ?ation in their plans, but no hint is given of what these should be, or what might make some forms of diversification more
sustainable or environmentally acceptable than other kinds. There are no warnings about the increase in road traffic occasioned by farm diversification schemes.
Horse-based development is given active support in para 32 and conversion of buildings for tourist accommodation in para 40. So also is ñadding value to primary produceî in para 27. No consideration is given to the environmental and social impact that horseyculture is having upon many areas of Britain, and the affect it is having upon land prices.
Annex I, the guidance in the old PPG7 concerning agricultural and forestry dwellings, remains largely unchanged in what is now Annex A. The functional test is exactly the same, requiring applicants to show evidence of an emergency. However the financial test now con ícedes that ñsome enterprises which aim to operate broadly on a subsistence basis, but which nonetheless provide wider benefits (eg in managing attractive landscapes or wildlife habitats) can be sustained on relatively low financial returnsî. This reflects the decision made by Petter and Harris v Chichester DC, which many of our readers will be familiar with.
Dwellings for Other Enterprises
The guidance on this is perverse and muddled, although some of this may be due to poor drafting which could be cleared up in the final version.
Part 2 , para 11 now stat
es: ñThe need to enable farm, forestry or certain other workers who are essential for the effective and safe operation of rural-based enterprises, to live permanently at or near their place of work, may constitute special justification . . . In these and any other cases where special justification is claimed, planning authorities should examine applications for isolated new houses particularly carefully an †d, whenever appropriate, follow the advice in Annex A.î
Annex A para 15 states: ñThere may also be instances where special justification exists for isolated dwellings associated with other rural based enterprises. Before a planning application for such a dwelling can be considered, the enterprise itself, including any development necessary for the operation of the enterprise, must have planning permission. Local planning officers should apply the same criteria and principles in paras 3-13 of this Annex [ie the financial and functional tests], as far as they are appropriate to the nature of the enterprise concerned, to applications for other occupational dwellings in the countryside.î
What this seems to mean is that if your dwelling is not associated with an ñagriculturalî occupation and the functional and financial tests are not ñappropriateî, then these tests do not apply. But if your occupation is ñagriculturalî and the tests are ñnot appr
opriateî, then you are stuffed.
’One solution for smallholders, permaculturalists, woodland workers etc is to apply for permission for something other than agriculture (ie a ñpermacul-ture projectî, or a ñwoodland skills centreî, which would be pretty hard to refuse) and then argue that the tests are ñnot appropriateî and that residence is necessary for the ñsafe and effectiveî operation of the enterprise. But the whole policy is very poorly drafted, and we will be arguing that it should be changed so as not to be prejudiced against genuine agriculture and forestry workers.
The use of occupancy conditions has been weakened in PPS7 by dropping the advice (in PPG7) that a dwelling can be tied to the land that justified its existence. Local authorities are referred to occupancy conditions in Circular 11/95.
Model condition 45 of 11/95, the standard one for agricultural dwellings, states that the dwelling should be occupied by somebody employed, or last employed in agriculture, or their dependents.î This ?allows the land which justified the dwelling to be sold off separate from the dwelling. The owner of the dwelling can then apply to get the condition removed, on the grounds that the enterprise is unviable and there is no demand locally for an agricultural dwelling. This is highly unsatisfactory, and leads to speculation.
Model Condition 46, on staff accommodation, is what Annex A advises for dwellings connected with non-agricultural occupations. This states that ñthe occupation of the dwelling shall be limited to a person solely or mainly employed in the business occupying the plot edged red in the plan etc . . .î. In some ways this is better than the agricultural condition, because it ties the dwelling to the business that justified it. However, the owner only has to fold the business and the house becomes vacant „ and para 17 of PPS7 states that ñSuch dwellings should not be kept vacan ?tîand allows for the condition to be removed.
The answer to this problem is a rural smallholdings use class, allowing for a measure of land based diversification within strict sustainability and environmental criteria. Any such dwelling/holding would easily find a buyer should an owner wish to sell up. However we are not going to persuade the ODPM to look at this solution at present; we therefore advocate that planners should be encouraged to look at a wide range of options for conditions „ including tying the dwelling to the land and personal occupancy conditions „ so that they can adapt to the circumstances of different applications.
We also consider that the removal of conditions should be made harder. Any tied dwelling is saleable if the price descends to the what it is
worth on the open market; adhering to this ensures affordable opportunities for new entrants and discourages speculation.O zther News
This briefing is not a proper issue of Chapter 7 News but a sort of snack between meals. Normally our next issue would appear in December, but because we are devoting our attention to responding to PPS7, we are unlikely to get a full issue out until early next year. Subscribers will receive their full quota of issues, but delivery will be set back a month or two.
The Effect of PPS7 on Applications
The new draft of PPS7 is already a material consideration in appeals and applications, even though it is not yet officially policy. This is because it indicates that existing policy is unsatisfactory in some respects, and because the draft proposals are likely to be confirmed at least in part. In September, only ten days after the new draft came out, we helped with an appeal for some smallholders in Sussex, and the Inspector, the Local Authority and ourselves all agreed that ç the new draft of PPS 7 was an important consideration.
In other words, if you have an ongoing application or appeal, you need to update it in respect of PPS7. Get hold of a copy and make submissions to the committee or the inspector on any factor that assists you. If you need any help with this, phone us up.
Hats off to Caroline Barry . . .
. . . whose straw bale house was threatened with an enforcement notice by Mendip District Council on the grounds that it was a permanent structure (even though an appeal inspector stated that in his view it was suitable as a temporary agricultural dwelling).
The enforcement notice stated that the building should be demolished and taken off site. Caroline, with help from friends, over a period of about 10 days, dismantled the entire dwelling, took it off site, demolished the concrete foundations, then brought the building back on site and re-erected it on footings made from old tyres. The enforcement notice ± has thus been complied with.
This was in the face of advice from Chapter 7 that Mendip might be able to apply for an interim injunction preventing the re-erection of the building until the planning issues were resolved, which would mean that Caroline would go to prison if she tried to rebuild her house. Mendip planners, who (like most planning departments) arenÍt keen on making people homeless , didnÍt apply for an injunction, and the house, now indisputably temporary, is back in place.
Penwith Planners on the Rampage
One local authority with little compunction about making people homeless is Penwith in Cornwall. This summer the planning department at Penwith carried out two ñdefault actionsî (as they are euphemistically called) against smallholders living in caravans.
We first heard of this when Jim Newton who manages a small woodland in the district, phoned us up saying ñIÍve got some council officers here and they are about t üo tow my caravan away!î. That is what they did and so now Jim is living in a barn on the same holding. Just before we went to press his application to stay in the barn was turned down by Penwith „ but Jim tells us that, as a result of the publicity, his application had 200 letters of support from local people.
Even worse was the case of Andy and Janet Wright, who were living on an acre smallholding where there had been a caravan for years. The couple lost an appeal for a certificate of lawful use because the previous occupants had tried to deceive council officers. According to Andy, the council bailiffs couldnÍt remove the caravan so instead they smashed it to bits, together with many of the coupleÍs belongings. Janet is disabled, and her Zimmer frame was broken. Fencing was pulled down and the electricity supply was severed, resulting in the death of 100 recently hatched chicks. Andy and Jane took the local authority to court, but los žt. They are now living on the side of a road in a transit van.
We phoned up Penwith and asked Roger Harnet, head of planning, for their side of the story. He told us that the caravan fell to bits when they tried
to move it, but didnÍt know anything about dead chickens or a smashed Zimmer frame. He stated: ñI understand that these are peopleÍs homes. If I was on the receiving end IÍd feel pretty miffed.î But he viewed that planning policies and the credibility of the planning system had to be upheld. We asked him if there were any policies in the local plan providing for people who wanted to live a low impact life in caravans or shacks „ just as there are policies to provide so many thousand new houses „ and he admitted that there werenÍt.
Deadline for Appeals Reduced to 3 Months
Some new procedures for development control have recently been introduced, the most significant being that you now have only 3 months in which to appeal after the refusal of a planning application. This also applies to non-de étermination, which means that if the local authority is sitting on your application and saying ñyes we will deal with this shortlyî, beware! The planning department is supposed to deal with your application in eight weeks, and after this eight weeks has elapsed you now normally only have 3 months in which to lodge an appeal for non-determination.
Setting Up Housing Coops and Communities
We now have like-minded neighbours next door to the Potato Store, namely UpStart, who specialize in setting up co-ops and community enterprises. They will be running a
residential course in Somerset on the 6-7 December on ñSetting Up Co-operatives and Communitiesî. The course will cover establishing a Housing Co-op, writing a viable business plan, identifying sources of finance, legal structures, the rights and responsibilities of membership etc.
Contact UpStart, The Polishing Room, Flaxdrayton Farm S Petherton, TA13; 0845 458 1473; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.upstart.coop.