Ask the Architect – Development without Planning and Enforcement

2020 Architects get asked on a regular basis by farmers what can be done legitimately without planning and what are the rules and consequences of development without planning. These are particularly relevant issues presently as the Northern Ireland press have publicised a case in which a couple have recently been fined £30,000.00 for attempting to develop a cow shed without planning.

The legislation associated with development which does not require planning permission changed on 30th of August 2013. The following is a simplified version of the planning legislation; however, because of the individual nature of every site please seek professional advice from either the local authority or an Architect specialising in Rural Planning before commencing any works.

What can be done without planning permission?

The erection, extension or alteration of a building on agricultural land as long as the building:

  • Is not on agricultural land less than 0.5 hectares in area.
  • Does not consists of or include the erection, extension or alteration of a dwelling.
  • Is for the purposes of agriculture.
  • Is not the first agricultural building on the unit.
  • Is not more than 75 metres from the nearest part of a group of principal farm buildings.
  • Is not less than 75 metres from a neighbouring house.
  • Does not exceeds 500 square metres or 12 metres in height.
  • Is more than 9 metres from the middle of a road.

The construction, formation, laying out or alteration of a lane or a means of access to a road as long as:

  • It is not required in connection with development for which a planning application is necessary
  • The land is within a site of archaeological interest.


What if I have built something without Planning?

It must be remembered that the penalties for unsanctioned development are sever and it is ill advised for anyone to begin any development without all the statutory approvals. The enforcement section of planning appears recently to be more willing to use all the powers under their discretion as indicated by a number of high profile cases of fines and the destruction of the offending development. The legislation in relation to enforcement of unsanctioned development has changed recently and while these amendments have simplified the process advice should always be taken from an expert. Where the breach consists of carrying out development without planning permission no enforcement action may be taken after 5 years beginning with the date on which the operations were substantially completed.

2020 Architects offer a free service to all farmers where we advise on the potential of a farm holding for any type of development from sustainable technologies to rural planning, if you wish to utilise this service all you have to do is send us a copy of your DARD maps and contact details.