Rural Diversification and Permitted Development Rights

The Government’s efforts to boost the rural economy have seen a directional shift by farmers and landowners in regards to the use of their land for purposes other than agriculture. Pop up campsites, classic car and motorbike meetings, drive in cinema and music festivals, running events, fetes, fairs, and weddings are all featuring as the Covid restrictions continue to be relaxed. In our latest article, Mike Bracegirdle takes a look at Permitted Development Rights, and discusses how farmers and landowners can best prepare to use land for non-agricultural use. 

What are Permitted Development Rights?

The Government introduced a range of simplified planning permissions back in 2014 which allowed landowners to vary the use of their farm building. Known as Permitted Development Rights, these rights were extended in 2018. The rights allow what is normally agricultural land to be used for non-agricultural purposes on a temporary basis.  The time period of this use was previously restricted to 28 days per annum but has been increased to 56 days until January 2022, and it remains to be seen if this will be further extended.

Note:  care needs to be taken as although the Permitted Development Rights have been extended,  the 28 day restriction remains as the limit in relation to claims under the Basic Payment Scheme.  

If the farmer or landowner believes they may exceed the allowed  56 day period there may be an option to apply to the Local Authority for permission for temporary change of use , but it’s by no means guaranteed that such an application would be successful. There is also an extensive application backlog at present due to the pandemic. From a commercial perspective there is also the cost of such an application which, if successful, are normally limited to three years permission.

Important information for organising non-agricultural use of land

In practice, farmers and landowners tend to allow those using the land to take the responsibility of organising the events themselves. A contract should be prepared setting out the agreed terms such as what is the land being used for, for how long, what are the payment terms, responsibility for health and safety compliance and insurance. Failure to address these fully in the contract could lead to disputes in the event of an accident, or even if the site is left in a mess after the event has finished.

For the farmer or landowner going it alone and organising the event themselves, considerations such as insurance, access, sanitary arrangements, water, electricity and health and safety are a must,  not to mention marketing, booking terms and contingency plans for the ever variable English weather.

For the tenant farmer, consent is likely to be required from the freeholder and / or landlord. Failure to obtain this  consent may well constitute a breach of the Farm Business Tenancy or Agricultural Holdings Agreement.

Butcher & Barlow LLP

As demonstrated above, every situation is different and there is no one stop solution to ensure that the correct consent and conditions are in place. Therefore, we highly recommend that advice should be taken prior to entering into any legally binding arrangements regarding non-agricultural use of farmland. 

Our Agricultural team will work in conjunction with our Commercial and Dispute Resolution experts to provide advice from the very outset. We will consider the terms of your tenancy agreement, if required, and assist in obtaining the necessary consents. We can work with you to negotiate and complete any commercial contacts, and ensure that the whole event is ‘derisked’ as much as feasibly possible. If the worst should happen and a dispute occurs, our Dispute Resolution team will assist in the resolution.

If you would like to contact us, our Agricultural team can be reached on 01606 334 309, or Mike can be contacted directly at

Mike Bracegirdle

Mike Bracegirdle