The current high level of interest in farm infrastructure and, in particular, new developments is reflected in the number of planning permission applications approved in the last 12 months.

The latest Central Statistics Office (CSO) data for quarter one of 2021 recorded 332 planning permission approvals.

This includes 286 approvals for new builds, 38 approvals for shed extensions and eight applications for a significant change of use of farm buildings.

The figure compares to 302 approvals in quarter one of 2020, 295 in quarter one of 2019 and 308 in quarter one of 2018.

There were 498 approvals granted in quarter three of 2020 followed by 474 approvals in quarter four of 2020

There were 128 approvals in the southern half of the country, 100 in the west/northwest and 58 in the east/midlands.

The higher figure in quarter one of 2021 follows a surge in approvals in the second half of 2020, as reflected in Figure 1. There were 498 approvals granted in quarter three of 2020 followed by 474 approvals in quarter four of 2020.

The higher level of activity in the second half of 2020 was driven by coronavirus restrictions curtailing both the flow of applications and approval process, with just 193 applications granted in quarter two of 2020.

The total number of approvals granted in 2020 was recorded at 1,347, which is 126 more than the number approved in 2019 and about a similar figure behind the level recorded in 2018.

The south of the country has typically dominated the number of approvals in recent years, which is not surprising given the number of new developments in dairying.

Exempted developments

The first port of call when considering carrying out farm building projects or indeed any farmyard infrastructure activity is to establish if planning is required. There are exemptions to planning if structures are under certain thresholds or depending on how close they are located to other structures. This is not just confined to sheds.

For example, handling facilities are classified as a Class 8 structure under exempted development planning rules, with other structures in this class including the provision of roofless cubicles, open loose yards, self-feed silo or silage areas, feeding aprons, assembly yards, milking parlours or structures for the making or storage of silage.

The general rule for these structures or any other structures of a similar character or description is that they must have an aggregate gross floor space that does not exceed 200m2.

The 200m2 figure is for these structures as a single entity. A second consideration states that the gross floor space of the proposed structure or any other such structure situated within the same farmyard complex or within 100m of the farmyard cannot exceed a total of 300m gross floor space. If it does, then planning permission is required.

Structures cannot also be constructed within 10m of a public road without planning permission while no such structure can be constructed within 100m of any house (excluding the house of the person providing the structure), residential building, school, church, etc, without the written consent of the owner or, if appropriate, the occupier or person in charge.