South Cambridgeshire District Council was in the top ten councils for the most approvals for agricultural to residential conversions in 2018. According to analysis by Planning Resource released this month, South Cambridgeshire District Council saw 38 applications in 2018, with a 76 per cent approval rate. With 29 of these approvals agreed, the district featured in the top five Councils for the most conversions allowed. 

Ben Pridgeon, from the Cheffins Planning & Development team says: “It is our experience that South Cambridgeshire District Council takes a pragmatic and proportionate approach when it comes to determining prior approval applications to convert agricultural buildings to dwellings. 

We have seen that, since the regime was introduced, the numbers of applications have increased year-on-year. Some Councils see this as opportunity to provide additional dwellings in the countryside and have allowed conversion where it meets the relevant criteria. Other Councils are less open-minded and continue to oppose or refuse prior approval applications for new dwellings. This is often on subjective grounds, such as ‘convertibility’ or the extent of building works. 

We are also seeing some instances where Councils are allowing new dwellings on sites where a prior approval has been allowed. This is known as the ‘fall back’ position where the principle of a dwelling has already been accepted by the Council. If the impact of the new dwelling on the site and wider area is no greater than the existing prior approval permission, then Councils often accept this position. Essentially, any new dwelling would be determined on the policy criteria for a replacement dwelling, which is judged on matters such as visual impact, design and location within the curtilage. 

For farmers and landowners looking to convert agricultural buildings, it is important to remember that not every structure is suitable for conversion because of its condition or size etc. However, there are numerous conversions in the region which have been realised and offer the landowner a smart new property to live in, rent out or to sell on with a prior approval permission. Indeed, where many farmers and landowners are looking to consolidate their land holdings and operations, a prior approval in the right location could release significant funds. Prior approval applications may take three – four months to prepare and determine, depending on what plans/assessments are required. However, the values achieved for a permission may pay dividends when it comes to selling the building.”


South Cambridgeshire District Council was the eighth council to receive the highest number of agricultural – residential applications in 2018, after Wiltshire, Cornwall, Ashford, Mid Devon, Stratford-on-Avon, Teignbridge and Daventry. It was the fourth council to approve the most conversions in 2018, after Ashford, Cornwall and Daventry.