Agricultural Buildings Regulations

Do you know the law when it comes to building on a smallholding?

To most who own a smallholding, whether a recent purchase or a long serving family home there is usually a plan for expansion on the horizon. But how much do you really know about the rules around building consulting and planning permission for building on your own land?

Is Planning Permission Always Required?

If you own land which you wish to develop on you can add an agricultural building with the approval of local planning permission providing the agricultural building meets the following criteria:

  • it is less than 465 square metres in size
  • built more than 25 metres from a motorway or other classified road
  • livestock buildings must be over 400 metres from any resistance other than your own
  • must not be specifically a dwelling

There are some small exceptional circumstances were permitted development rights are more relaxed. For example, if you smallholding is between 0.4 hectares and 5 hectares, you can extend any agricultural building by put to 10% of its cubic content. Providing the external appearance remains mostly the same and the distance restrictions described above still apply.


How Long Does Planning Permission Take?

An application for Prior Approval must be determined within 56 days. If the local planning authority fail to do so, then Permitted Development rights apply.


I Already Own Land, Can I Build A House Or Agricultural Building On It?

Without planning permission, no. If there was an enterprise established on the land making it essential to be living within sight and sound for most times of the year, excluding dealing with emergencies or security, assuming there were no suitable and available existing dwellings which could serve the need.

The only other possibility is the conversion of an agricultural building to a residential dwelling. In this case the building must have been in agricultural use on March 20 2013, be structurally capable of taking the loading arising from the conversion and no more than 450 square metres, with no extension, subject to further detailed criteria.


There is a common misconception agricultural buildings or the land they occupy would constitute brownfield land, and that this would in some way enable new residential development. This is not the case.


Because of the labyrinthine nature of the planning permission system, it is always a good idea to talk through the proposals with your local planning officer as well as your neighbours before doing anything which might need to be undone.

Timmins Engineering hold no responsibility over this information and it is down to the proprietor to check all guidelines with a local planning officer.