How to Build on Agricultural Land

How to Build on Agricultural Land

‘Agricultural land’ is any land which is exclusively used for cultivation and farming purposes. This can be pastureland, which is suitable for grazing livestock, and arable land, which is best for growing crops. As of June 2022, about 8.9 million hectares of land are used for agricultural purposes in the UK, which is 69% of the land.

This article will lay out everything you ought to know about building on agricultural land, including:

  • When do you need planning permission?
  • Types of planning permission
  • What are permitted development rights?
  • How to apply for planning permission
  • What our experts have to say about building on agricultural land


Agricultural land is protected to an extent, as it plays a crucial factor in our food production. Still, there are many reasons why landowners may want to develop and build upon their land. If you’re hoping to build on agricultural land, it is very important to be informed first of whether your project is possible. 

When do you need planning permission on agricultural land?

It is not always necessary to apply for planning permission to make certain changes to your agricultural land. Farms are included in the same planning regulations as other property types, although there are some special conditions for agricultural buildings and land.

You only need to apply for agricultural land planning permission if:

  • You need to change the purpose of your land or builds from agricultural use to something else – for instance if you intend to build unrelated commercial properties
  • You plan on building housing on the land (worker housing or other)
  • You’ve applied for a grant for a project that needs a new building or other forms of development


There are some exceptions to requiring planning permission, such as:

  • You’re planning on using buildings that already exist on your land for farming reasons, so new structures do not need to be erected
  • You’re developing for farming operations, perhaps to keep up with changing agricultural practices
  • You only need to make minor changes to the building’s exterior or the changes are to the interior
  • You have permitted development rights, which we will explain next.

What are permitted development rights?

If you have permitted development rights, then there is no good to apply for planning permission when building on agricultural land. 

Permitted development rights are part of the General Permitted Development Order 2015 (GPDO). They allow specific building works and developments to be completed without having to apply for full planning permission.

There are different types of permitted development rights, some of the key ones being Class A, Class B and Class Q.

Class A permitted development rights are only applicable for agricultural land of five hectares or more. These rights are granted for excavation or engineering projects, as well as for works that will erect, extend or alter a building.

Class B permitted development rights are for agricultural land of 0.4-5 hectares in area, and they are granted for:

  • Extending or altering an agricultural building
  • Replacing machinery, or installing additional machinery
  • Provisioning, rearranging or replacing a sewer, main, pipe, cable or other infrastructural equipment
  • Provisioning, rearranging or replacing a private way
  • Provisioning a hard surface
  • Depositing waste
  • Specific operations relating to fish farming


Lastly, Class Q permitted development rights are applicable if you plan on changing your agricultural building to a house, meaning it would no longer have any agricultural purpose. It allows for up to five dwellings and for 865 square meters of floor space to be converted. Under Class Q, you must have been using the building for agriculture on 20th March 2013 and you cannot develop it beyond the existing dimensions externally.

Class Q is not applicable if your building is:

  • A listed building
  • Within conservation areas, like national parks 
  • Within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • A World Heritage Site
  • A site of special scientific interest


You can learn more about agricultural permitted development rights on the Government website.

How to apply for planning permission on agricultural land

Understanding and applying for planning permission on agricultural land can be a complicated, drawn-out process. It is crucial to undertake a lot of research before you start your process to heighten the chances of your plans being approved.


Before you apply for planning permission, you must:

  • Ensure you can afford the planned renovations. There is little point in going through the planning permission process if you’re unable to see your plans become a reality.
  • Understand every aspect of your proposal, including the purpose, precise locations, sizes, timeframes to build, vehicular access and any other relevant details. Planning officers will want to ensure you have a thorough plan, and vague plans are more likely to be rejected.
  • Consider the impact your new development may have on your local neighbourhood – rural communities are protective of their privacy and peace, so large construction endeavours may receive a lot of pushback.
  • Consult with experts – from contractors and surveyors to rural business solicitors, the more people you discuss your plans with, the more likely it is to get accepted.
  • Submit a detailed application, with full plans and as much information as possible, to your local planning office.
  • Be patient – it can take time for planning permission to be granted, particularly if the land needs to be surveyed first. Many people will be consulted about your application before a decision is made, including local councils, neighbours and environmental health officers.

What our experts have to say about building on agricultural land

If you are unsure of whether or not you need planning permission to build on your land, or you want to ensure you’ve thoroughly addressed every aspect of the project in your application, we at Whitehead Monckton have the expertise to bring your agricultural building plan to fruition. Our Rural Business services can assist with everything from buying and selling rural land and farm tenancies to the use of land. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns.