PERMITTED DEVELOPMENT rules on Scottish farm steadings are to be relaxed.

In a move that is anticipated to boost rural business development and diversification, the Scottish Government is proposing the following changes to PDRs:

• To increase PDR for agricultural sheds to 1000sqm, making them more reflective of modern machinery and needs of industry and bringing them into line with England;

• To extend PDR for conversion of farm buildings to residential and commercial use, creating opportunity for retirement housing and farm diversification;

• Clarification over position of polytunnels and intention for further guidance.

NFU Scotland warmly welcomed the proposed changes, as extending PDR's has been a long-standing lobbying priority for the industry. Union head of policy team, Gemma Cooper, said: “The proposal to allow larger sheds is particularly welcome as it will mean that these Rights are more reflective of the needs of modern industry. We would urge Scottish Government to progress with these proposals as soon as they are able.

“Given the importance of the buoyant soft fruit sector to Scotland’s food and drink industry, the intention to provide further guidance for polytunnels is welcome. It is encouraging to see that Scottish Government has taken a pragmatic approach to this particular issue, as our soft fruit growers seek to extend the seasons when fresh, tasty Scottish fruit is available on our shelves.”

Landowner lobby organisation, Scottish Land and Estates said the ScotGov plans were a ‘positive step' toward achieving a balance between flexible regulation and 'inappropriate development’.

Policy adviser Gavin Mowat said: “There is a fine line between a planning system that delivers appropriate checks and balances on development and one that stifles the needs of business, making it difficult for the built environment to be adapted to meet changing circumstances.

“SLE has long pressed for the need for planning changes to better enable rural businesses to adjust their premises to suit local requirements. For many years, rural businesses have been encouraged to diversify or deliver housing by converting existing agricultural buildings into commercial or residential property, but all too often the planning system has proved a real impediment to that process," said Mr Mowat.

“The Scottish Government has listened to the case for change and we believe their proposals are a positive step toward achieving the right balance between flexible regulation and continuing to provide protection against inappropriate development.

“As rural Scotland continues to look to a future where land-based businesses are focusing on environmental outcomes as much as they are on traditional sectors such as food production and tourism, we need a planning system that can respond appropriately. If implemented, these reforms will go some way to helping achieve that.”