Fast-tracked barn conversions to boost rural economy?

Disused barns could be given fast-tracked planning permission under new plans to boost the rural economy. The controversial plan, part of a package published yesterday, could cut red tape for businesses wanting to use derelict farm building as shops and cafes.

fast-tracked barn conversions to boost rural economy

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Planners would be forced to make quicker decisions and in some cases, landowners would be permitted to convert agricultural buildings without planning permission, provided their plans would create jobs within the rural community.

According to the Daily Mail, among the proposed uses given were shops, restaurants, hotels and 'leisure', with car showrooms, retail warehouses and even music venues also feature within the guidance.

Such conversions would be eligible for 'permitted development rights' similar to those afforded homeowners building a small extension or conservatory.

Planning Minister Greg Clark said yesterday that the proposed new laws would make it easier for entrepreneurs to create jobs in rural communities and make the planning process 'simpler, clearer and more accessible'.

But while landowners will no doubt welcome the idea, critics fear rural areas could suffer as a result.

Paul Miner of the Campaign to Protect Rural England said that most barns were originally built without planning permission and a thorough assessment was necessary should a change of usage be requested.

He told the Mail: "There are very big problems with this, and a danger that if we don't get it right we will see a rash of inappropriate development."

The proposal, which would allow councils to raise planning charges by 15 per cent in order to staff the speedier process, will go out to consultation for a three-month period.

What do you think? A welcome boost for rural communities or encouraging 'inappropriate development'? Leave your comments below...