Farmers in the UK now have greater flexibility to convert disused farm buildings into homes and shops without planning permission.

The new laws introduced last week are reportedly inspired by Jermey Clarkson’s battle with West Oxfordshire District Council on his TV show and have been dubbed ‘Clarkson’s clause’.

The changes have doubled the amount of floorspace that can change from agricultural to ‘flexible commercial use’ from 500m² to 1,000m² without planning.

The number of homes that can be delivered through this conversion of agricultural buildings has also doubled from five to 10.

There has been an increase in the size of new buildings or extensions that can be built on farms over 5ha from 1,000m² to 1,500m² without planning. On smaller farms, this has risen from 1,000m² to 1,250m².


MEP candidate Cynthia Ní Mhurchú has called on Ireland to follow suit.

Ní Mhurchú said Ireland should grant planning exemptions for farmers who wish to open farm shops, farm cafes or convert older farm buildings into agri-tourism accommodation.

This would support small family farms who may wish to diversify their activities into agri-tourism and small-scale farm produce retailing, she said.

Farm incomes

Ní Mhurchú added that farm incomes are low and any kind of diversification should be a welcome step to keep farm families afloat.

“Farmers are the backbone of rural Ireland. Farming communities keep the local shops, post offices and pubs open and trading.

“It is imperative that we support them in whatever way we can.

“This small measure would encourage more agri-tourism accommodation which could take pressure off the long-term rental market."

The Ireland South MEP said she would like to see a whole new approach to rolling back red tape for farmers.

“Planning restrictions in rural areas are hindering development which is exacerbating the housing crisis,” she added.