“Wales must respond to the UK Government’s planning reforms to allow more redundant farm buildings to be converted to residential use,” says Fraser McAuley, Senior Policy Advisor, CLA Cymru.
“Wales’ affordable housing crisis requires pragmatic solutions. Changes and technical advances in farming practices have left many agricultural buildings redundant. Many can be re-purposed to create family homes and this can provide the shot-in-the-arm many Welsh rural communities need to reinvigorate the economy.”
The call comes after the Westminster Government announced new measures to ease planning restrictions on the conversion of disused farm buildings into residential property in National Parks and AONBs (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty).
“This has been a major lobbying win for the CLA’s Rural Powerhouse campaign,” Fraser says. “The Welsh Government should take the same logical step. Many land owners have property they are prepared to release: as things stand, a redundant barn is a liability and often a problem – and it should be a vital asset to contribute to tackling a major social issue.”
“The planning system needs to become the enabler for responsible development and must stop being the barrier for communities evolving to be fit for the future.”
“Making it easier to convert thousands of redundant farm buildings into rural homes is a key part of our Rural Powerhouse campaign. This was just one of the many recommendations we made in our March 2021 policy document, A planning system designed for the rural economy in Wales. We propose that these buildings sympathetically and responsibly be put to good use for housing and a range of commercial uses. This can be achieved very easily by introducing Permitted Development Rights.”
“Rural communities throughout Wales see talented people forced to leave because of the lack of housing. This brain-drain holds back our rural economy, depriving Welsh villages of workers, entrepreneurs and money-spending consumers.”
“The Welsh Government must be alert to the risk that investors will be attracted to the change in England driving the investment our rural economy needs over the border. Equally, rural property-owners in Wales expect the government to do everything possible to ensure Welsh farms and businesses are competitive. Our Agricultural Pollution Regulations require many farms to dig-deep into their pockets to invest in improving plant and systems – and capital support for agriculture usually requires initial investment from farms. A great deal of uncertainty still shrouds the new Sustainable Farming Scheme, Welsh farmers will need to consolidate their assets and manage-down their business liabilities. Meanwhile, rural communities urgently need affordable homes.”