We’d like to thanks Planning Aid for these notes from their 2011 presentation ‘City Farms, Allotments and Community Gardens’.
Planning permission is required for works or a change of use amounting to ‘development’.
‘Development’ includes many types of building work - some of which may be undertaken as part of food growing projects. It also includes the change of use of a building or land from one use to another; which could impact on certain projects.
Some minor works are granted planning permission automatically if they meet certain criteria, avoiding the need to make a formal planning application. Work falling into this category is called ‘permitted development’.
A piece of land (or building) will have a legal planning use - either permitted by a planning permission, or acquired because its been used for that purpose for a certain time period. If land is used for a purpose other than its legal planning use, that may amount to a ‘change of use’ requiring planning permission.
Most groups growing food will either be using agricultural land, or land within gardens.
What is ‘Agriculture’ as defined in planning law?
‘Agriculture’ is defined at section 336 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as including “horticulture, fruit growing, seed growing, dairy farming; the breeding and keeping of livestock (including any creature kept for production of food, wool, skins or fur for the purpose of its use in the farming of land); the use of land as grazing land, meadow land, osier land, market gardens or nursery grounds; and the use of land for woodlands where that use is ancillary to the farming of land for other agricultural purposes”
Points to remember about planning
The best advice about planning is to get advice! There are a few different sources:
• Making an appointment to see a Planning Officer at your District or Borough Council
• Contact an organisation like Planning Aid
• Chapter 7 - about low impact development
When seeking advice its good to prepare for the meeting:
• Any sketches, maps, designs & layouts as drafts
• Any questions you have
• Have clarity over your intended use
• Key issues
During the meeting try to establish whether the proposal is likely to be acceptable in principle, or not. If it isn’t ask why not and what, if anything, would make it acceptable.
Make sure you write down what the planner says. If permission is not likely to be required, ask the Planning Officer if they could put this in writing for you.
Making a Planning Application
Anyone can make a panning application in respect of any piece of land or building. You do not need to own the land or building. If you don’t own the land, you should confirm that the landowner is happy for your project to proceed if and when the necessary planning permission is in place.
A planning application needs to be accompanied by a completed, ownership certificate, plans and application fee. A design and access statement may be required too, and other surveys of documents may also be required in some cases.
Once the Council has registered the application, you will receive a letter advising you which Planning Officer is dealing with the application and the target date for the decision. Most minor applications take up to 8 weeks to be considered.
Once the decision has been made, a printed decision notice will be issued by the authority. If the application as been approved, it may well be subject to conditions. Make sure you read these carefully.
If the planning application is refused, the decision notice will set out the reasons why. If the authority’s concerns can be overcome by amending the proposal in some way, it may be worth submitting a revised proposal - and often no application fee is required for this re-submission.
If however, a revised proposal would not overcome the authority’s concerns, of if you do not agree with the reason given for refusing the application, it is open to you to appeal against the decision. Appeals are considered by the Planning Inspectorate, a body entirely independent of local authority that originally considered the application.
Don’t go through the process alone! Many others in Somerset have been through the planning process themselves and can share their experiences and tips. Local networks of people can also write supporting statements and organisations such as Somerset Community Food, are very often willing to write letters of support for food-related projects.
Further contacts & resources
• Your Local Authority
• Planning Aid
• The Planning Portal - www.planningportal.gov.uk
• The Planning Inspectorate - www.planning-inspectorate.gov.uk
• A fantastic guide is the HogCo Planning Toolkit - Planning Matters: Community Groups’ Guide to Planning Issues
• Community Land Advisory Services’ Planning Reform Advisory Document (download here)