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14/06/2018

Class Q of permitted development rights – a new everyday story of country folk

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What do you get if you cross the planning system with The Archers? Chris Shepley rewrites the script

“Arrr,” said Jethro Trescothick, leaning on the bar of the Jolly Roger, Penpal’s finest cider emporium. “Give us a pint of your foulest scrumpy and an award-winning pasty, Trefusis.”

He settled himself in the snug, alongside Demelza Penhaligon. “I see old Jago down on Pennysillin Farm is wanting to build a new barn,” he said. “Not surprising I suppose ’cos he’s converted all his old barns into houses.”

She contemplated her Stargazy Pie. The fish, which protruded miserably from the delicacy, reminded her of one of the more prominent Cabinet ministers – she couldn’t remember which.

She observed that local farmers spoke of little else but Class Q of the permitted development rights (‘agricultural buildings to dwellinghouses’), and that down at St Gwithian’s the vicar read a prayer in thanks for the amended clauses every Wednesday afternoon.

Fierce debates raged in the farming community about the meaning of “a site which was not used solely for an agricultural use as part of an established agricultural unit on 20th March 2013 or, in the case of a building which was in use before that date but was not in use on that date, when it was last in use, or in the case of a site which was brought into use after 20 March 2013, for a period of at least 10 years before the date development under Class Q begins”. Jago had been abroad, in Plymouth, on 20 March 2013, but apparently that was not a problem.

The recent increase to five allowable new houses on each farm had led to a frenzy of activity down narrow country lanes. “There’s so much traffic now, m’dear, that I can hardly get the clotted cream away from the mine,” said Demelza. “There seems to be a 4x4 on every bend. I was stuck on that narrow bit by Pennanink an hour the other day, blocked by a flock of delivery vans from John Lewis. Morwenna was knocked off her bike Tuesday, down Newlyn way. Proper job!”

"Then they goes an’ makes an exception for reusing redundant or disused buildings" 

They hadn’t noticed the man in the Barbour jacket reading The Times in the corner, but now Jolyon came over and joined them. “I say! I heard you talking, and I thought this column was suffering from an overdose of Cornish stereotypes so I’d better come over and redress the balance, so to speak, what!”

He explained that he was from Surrey; he’d bought one of farmer Jago’s dwellinghouses as a second home, and he was down for the jolly old weekend. Nice little place, good view of the wind farm, very nice chap from Oxfordshire next door. But it was an awful long way away from anything. He’d had to drive seven miles to the pub, the nearest shop was another 20 minutes, and he’d had to go to Truro for an avocado.

“Eyup,” said Barry, a passing planner from Yorkshire. “I’m a Northern stereotype to improve t’regional balance of this column.”

“Th’art quite reet about all this drivin’ around. ’Appen that’s why t’new draft revised NPPF says planners should avoid t’development of isolated homes in t’ countryside. Tha’ll have read paragraph 81 of t’revisions? Planners ’ave always seen this as sheer bloody common sense. We’re a bit mithered about all this climate change that they ’ave now, what with t’Arctic meltin’. Stop folks ’urtlin’ around in cars all t’ time an’ polluting t’place. Put ’ouses near to other things, I say, so as people can engage Shanks’s pony to get to t’pub, reet?

But old Jago’s barn was full of ’ay last time I saw it! They’re just faffin’ about – don’t know whether they’re comin’ or goin’.”

The Jolly Roger fell quiet as they contemplated the future of the planet, pessimistically. “Anyone like some more scrumpy?” asked Trefusis.

Chris Shepley is the principal of Chris Shepley Planning and former Chief Planning Inspector

Illustration | Oivind Hovland

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