FARMERS want Scotland's planning authorities to take a more realistic approach to their industry's need for both agricultural and residential buildings on-farm.

In its submission to the Scottish Government’s planning review, NFU Scotland has called for permitted development rights to be extended to larger farm sheds, to better accomodate modern machinery, and a loosening of the rules governing occupancy of new-build farm houses to allow the younger generation back onto family farms.

The union also suggested that permitted development rights be extended to traditional farm steadings for conversion to residential and small business use, which could provide farmers with an additional income stream, whilst safeguarding rural heritage and play a valuable role in assisting towards the shortfall of housing in rural areas.

Legal and technical committee chairman Jamie Smart said: “The union has extensively consulted with its membership on this matter, and it is clear that the current allowance of 465 sq. metres for farm sheds allowed under permitted development is no longer reflective of agricultural needs of today.

“We have asked Scottish Government to consider extending this to 1000 sq. metres to help provide resilience to the farming sector, and to ensure the legislation is reflective of modern machinery sizes.

"The continuing application of Section 75 occupancy restrictions on farmhouses has also been raised as an issue," said Mr Smart. "Once these are in place they are very difficult to remove, and as properties tied by these cannot be borrowed against they can have a real effect on the farm businesses’ ability to raise finance.

“They can prove a substantial hurdle for farm succession too, precluding the younger generation from coming back to farms where there is limited accommodation," he explained.

NFUS also raised the "grey area" of polytunnels, and said it wanted to protect its soft fruit growers from a requirement for full planning permission, a possibility currently under review by Heads of Planning Scotland.

SAAVA President Rob Forrest agreed that Scotland's rural areas were currently suffering from an 'ineffective' planning system which was neither consistent within regions and across the different regions.

"I hope all interested parties have responded to the consultation," said Mr Fprrest. "We have the opportunity to strengthen the planning system and how it functions by enabling greater flexibility and more responsive solution driven approach.

"If the aim is to enhance and create further rural development, it is fundamental that the access to high-speed broadband and other supporting infrastructure is high on the agenda, as much of rural Scotland is sadly lagging behind with lack of broadband access," he added. "People are not going to move their businesses or indeed relocate to reside in rural areas, if they cannot access high speed broadband."

In its consultation response, landowner body Scottish Land and Estates said that Scotland’s planning system needed to take better account of the needs of land-based businesses and communities.

Policy officer Gavin Mowat said: “The Scottish Government has a target to build 50,000 affordable homes over the term of this parliament and the planning process can support delivery of rural housing and self-build homes by creating more flexible rural housing policies."