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Flintshire County Council Unitary Development Plan 2000-2015
Adopted 28th September 2011

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Chapter 14

Rural Enterprise and Agriculture

Relevant Strategic Aims

a. Economy, b. Social and Welfare, d. Community Identity, k. Culture and language

Policy Objectives
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Policy List
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  1. resources - to safeguard and improve the agricultural economy by protecting the best and most versatile agricultural land and enabling necessary farm development
  2. diversification - to sustain rural communities by facilitating agricultural diversification and the development of small scale rural enterprises
  3. harmony - to ensure that development has minimal detrimental impact on the natural environment and rural character of the area

RE1 Protection of Agricultural Land

RE2 New Agricultural and Forestry Buildings

RE3 Intensive Livestock Units

RE4 Small Scale Rural Enterprises

RE5 Small Scale Farm Diversification

Indicators of Policy Performance

Targets

  1. No. of diversification schemes permitted
  2. Conversion of rural buildings to employment/commercial uses
  3. Area of agricultural land lost to development by grade
  4. No. of agri/forestry buildings permitted
  5. Monitoring of environmental impacts
  6. Employment/wealth creation
  7. Take-up of grant assistance
  8. Changes in number/size/structure/type of farm holdings

 

 

14 Rural Enterprise and Agriculture

Introduction

14.1 The difficulties in the agricultural industry and the growing emphasis on the need to sustain rural communities has focused attention on ways of improving and diversifying the rural economy. Nevertheless, agriculture will inevitably remain the major user of land within rural areas and will make an important contribution to Flintshire's economy. It will also greatly influence the rural character and appearance of a large part of the County. This chapter includes policies both to provide a positive framework for agricultural development, and to protect the best and most versatile land, so that future generations are not deprived of important natural resources.

14.2 However, the industry no longer provides the level of employment opportunities that it once did. Therefore, policies are also included to facilitate the development of a range of alternative, environmentally acceptable enterprises, which, by enabling people to continue to live and work in the rural areas, will help to sustain and diversify the local economy and local communities, whilst protecting the traditional qualities of the countryside. The Plan also provides specifically for farm diversification initiatives in order to facilitate the long term viability of farms.

 

National Planning Policy

14.3 The key concern of the Welsh Government is the promotion of sustainable development. In respect of rural areas, the following policy priorities have been set:

14.4 The Welsh Government’s objectives for economic development, in respect of rural enterprise, are to:

14.5 In terms of rural enterprise, the Welsh Government advises that development plans should:

14.6 In drafting the Chapter, regard has also been had to two research papers ‘The Rural Economy and the Planning System’ and ‘Farm Diversification and the Planning System’ which formed part of the Welsh Government’s Wales Planning Research Programme (now named Wales Planning Policy Development Programme).

 

Flintshire Context

14.7 Previous plans have sought to allocate specific sites for rural development within or adjoining villages with little success. In rural areas it is difficult to match demand with supply therefore a positive policy approach in support of rural diversification initiatives is more likely to be successful rather than the allocation of specific sites. This recognises the embryonic nature of many business initiatives in rural areas, being based on existing activities, premises, local skills or local resources.

14.8 There are other initiatives indirectly related to land use issues which have a role in sustaining and diversifying the rural economy which are relevant to Flintshire. The Coed Cymru initiative seeks to encourage better use of Welsh hardwoods by supplying new markets and producing added value products. Other initiatives seek to promote local foods and other added value products. The Small Towns and Villages Enterprise Initiative operated in several villages in the north of the County targeting small rural businesses and brought about local economic initiatives and community enterprise.

14.9 The Council’s Regeneration Strategy (2009-2020) provides the context in which the Plan’s policies will seek to bring about rural diversification and regeneration. Key goals of the Strategy include:

 

Policies

RE1 Protection of Agricultural Land

Development which would result in the loss of agricultural land of Grades 1, 2, or 3a will be permitted only where:

  1. there is an overriding need for the development;
  2. the development cannot be accommodated on derelict, non-agricultural or lower grade agricultural land; or
  3. available lower grade land has an environmental value or designation which outweighs the agricultural considerations.

14.10 In recent years measures to curtail excessive food production have created surpluses of agricultural land. Nevertheless, it cannot be assumed that this situation will continue over the longer term. Increasing awareness of the environmental impacts of some modern farming methods may lead to the reintroduction of less intensive practices and a renewed demand for land. It is important therefore that the best and most versatile agricultural land should be protected from irreversible development.

14.11 Agricultural land is classified in terms of quality, based on the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Agricultural Land Classification. However, the Agricultural Land Classification Map, given its scale, can often only give a broad indication of the agricultural quality of a specific piece of land. In cases where developments may impinge on ‘best and most versatile’ agricultural land, it will be necessary to establish the actual classification based on a detailed site survey. Where development proposals affect 20ha or more of agricultural land developers are advised to consult the Welsh Government regarding the likelihood of their site containing significant amounts of ‘best and most versatile’ agricultural land. Where this is the case the applicant should consult the local authority on whether there is advantage in commissioning field survey work by specialist consultants and on survey requirements.

14.12 The loss of ‘best and most versatile’ agricultural land is only likely to be considered where there is an overriding need for the development to take place. Applicants will need to demonstrate that the development cannot be accommodated on derelict, non-agricultural or lower grade agricultural land where that land is available and suitable for the development proposed. However, the use of lower grade agricultural land will not be acceptable where it has an environmental value or designation (landscape, wildlife, historic or archaeology) which outweighs the agricultural considerations. In all cases where agricultural land is affected by a development proposal, it will be necessary to take into account the size, structure and viability of the farm unit and the location of the proposed development in order to minimize unnecessary disruption to agriculture and farm structure.

 

RE2 New Agricultural and Forestry Buildings

The erection of new agricultural and forestry buildings, or extensions to existing buildings, will be permitted provided that:

  1. they are reasonably required for, agricultural or forestry purposes within the farm or forestry unit;
  2. they are, wherever possible, located close to and well related to an existing group of buildings within the farm or forestry unit;
  3. their siting, design, materials and external finish harmonise with neighbouring buildings and the rural character of the local area; and
  4. in the case of intensively farmed livestock, proposals are assessed against policy RE3.

14.13 Given the importance of the local agricultural industry, it is clear that proposals will arise for buildings which are required to maintain or improve the efficiency or viability of farm holdings, or to comply with new environmental, hygiene and welfare legislation. Certain agricultural development may be undertaken without the need for planning permission in terms of agricultural and forestry permitted development rights, although it should be stressed that this relates to meeting farming and forestry needs and is not for the purposes of farm diversification.

14.14 Generally speaking, proposals for agricultural and forestry development will receive sympathetic consideration. Wherever possible existing buildings within the farm complex should either be adapted or sensitively extended before consideration is given to new buildings. However, it is important to ensure that new farm buildings harmonise with the landscape. To this end, the siting, design and external appearance of new buildings will be considered in relation to agricultural requirements, their relationship with existing buildings and the natural environment.

14.15 Where buildings, normally permitted under the provisions of the General Permitted Development Order 1995 (as amended), are considered to have a material impact by virtue of their size, design, materials and siting, the local planning authority will require details to be submitted in accordance with the prior approval procedure within the Order.

 

RE3 Intensive Livestock Units

Development associated with the intensive rearing or accommodation of livestock, including the extension or conversion of existing buildings, will be permitted only if:

  1. it is located at least 400 metres away from a settlement boundary or protected building unless satisfactory mitigation measures can be implemented;
  2. it is designed and sited so as to minimise any environmental impact including the character and appearance of the site and surroundings; and
  3. the highway network (including site access and egress) is adequate to safely cater for the type and volume of traffic generated by the proposal.

14.16 Developments associated with the intensive rearing and accommodation of poultry, pigs or other livestock often give rise to various problems. In particular, the type and scale of such proposals can be seriously harmful to the appearance of the landscape; they can generate significant traffic, including heavy goods vehicles, which can cause serious problems of highway safety when access involves the use of narrow country lanes; and the concentration of livestock in confined conditions can create problems of noise, dust and smell from effluent. Careful control over their location and siting is therefore necessary.

14.17 Some types of development such as houses, schools and hospitals, are particularly sensitive to nuisance and disturbance, and are classified as a ‘protected building’ in the General Permitted Development Order 1995 (as amended). In the interest of public health and amenity it is generally not considered appropriate to allow the development of intensive livestock within 400 metres of such buildings unless satisfactory mitigation measures can be implemented to reduce to an acceptable level, or negate, any nuisance or other impacts of the development.

 

Other key policies:

 

RE4 Small Scale Rural Enterprises

The development of small scale rural enterprises, outside settlement boundaries will be permitted through the following:

  1. conversion of existing buildings provided that:
  2. the building is structurally sound and capable of conversion without major or complete reconstruction, tantamount to the erection of a new building;
  3. the building is suitable for the specific re-use; and
  4. any inherent traditional historic or architectural features of merit in the building are retained;
  5. b. the development of land on the edge of settlement boundaries of category ‘B’ and ‘C’ settlements provided that:
  6. there are no more suitable sites or buildings available either within a nearby settlement boundary or on brownfield land;
  7. it is specifically for a rural activity which cannot be located elsewhere;
  8. the development is well related to the form of the settlement and does not exacerbate ribbon development or result in a fragmented pattern of development; and
  9. a logical new settlement boundary is formed, utilising existing features wherever possible, or suitable boundary treatment, supplemented by sensitive landscaping measures.

In all cases the development should:

  1. be of a form, bulk, design and materials and sited so as to respect the character of the site and surroundings;
  2. not have a significant adverse impact on features or areas of landscape, nature conservation or historic value;
  3. not involve external storage or operations which would be harmful to residential amenity or to the character and appearance of the area;
  4. provide satisfactory on-site parking, servicing and manoeuvring space for the nature and volume of traffic likely to be generated which is capable of being served satisfactorily by the highway network; and
  5. be accessible, wherever possible, by a choice of means of travel, particularly by foot, cycle or public transport.

14.18 This policy recognises that it is not always possible to identify those rural areas where the need for employment diversification will arise in the future. Therefore, rather than allocating specific employment sites where demand may never materialise, it sets out criteria to assess rural development proposals as and when they arise.

14.19 Small-scale enterprises can play a vital role in promoting a more diverse rural economy. With the advent of new technology, the range of businesses which can be successfully located in rural areas is expanding. Apart from traditional agriculturally related enterprises, other commercial and light manufacturing activities can often be carried on in the countryside without causing unacceptable disturbance.

14.20 The policy is not aimed at those developments which by virtue of their scale and type should be located within settlements or specific employment allocations or areas. Rather, it is aimed at satisfying the needs of smaller scale enterprises which require a rural location for a variety of reasons such as proximity to a resource, site or workforce or due to the nature of the product or service offered. The policy intentionally does not attempt to define ‘small scale’ as each proposal must be assessed on its own merits taking into account location, characteristics of the site (including buildings) and surroundings, and the nature and intensity of the proposal.

14.21 As a general rule, the Council would prefer to see new rural development take place either within village boundaries or through the sensitive re-use and adaptation of existing buildings and brownfield land. Such development will generally be permitted unless there are specific objections such as visual intrusion, noise, smell, excessive traffic generation or highway safety. However, it is essential that in the case of conversions, existing buildings are suitable for the specific re-use proposed. Proposals which involve poor quality prefabricated or temporary buildings and structures will generally not be looked upon favourably. In some instances, the Council will seek to secure improvements to the external appearance of such buildings as part of the scheme.

14.22 It is accepted that re-use of brownfield land or buildings may not always be possible. In such circumstances new small scale development on greenfield sites adjacent to the settlement boundary may be permitted, provided that the proposed use is one which by its very nature is dependent upon a rural location. Such uses might include the processing of local food products, or woodland and forestry related businesses, which need to be located close to the source of raw materials. However, these developments will be resisted if their scale, siting and design do not respect existing settlement patterns, or if they would adversely affect the quality of the life for local people, or would harm the natural or historic character of the area.

14.23 The policy is aimed at facilitating genuine rural employment schemes and the Council will not look favourably upon speculative proposals which do not have a specific use or user.

 

Other key policies:

 

RE5 Small Scale Farm Diversification

Small scale farm diversification proposals comprising the conversion of existing buildings, the limited extension of existing buildings, and in exceptional circumstances small scale new build, will be permitted where:

  1. the proposed diversification activity is run in conjunction with the main farm enterprise;
  2. the proposal would not have a significant adverse impact on features or areas of landscape, nature conservation or historic value;
  3. the proposal would be accessible, wherever possible, by a choice of modes of travel, particularly by foot, cycle or public transport;
  4. any retail proposals are small scale, related to the farm operation or farm diversification scheme, take place within an existing farm building and do not unacceptably harm local shops or centres;
  5. the proposal does not involve external storage or operations which would be harmful to residential amenity or the character and appearance of the area;
  6. satisfactory provision is made for on-site parking, servicing, and manoeuvring space for the nature and volume of traffic likely to be generated which is capable of being served satisfactorily by the highway network;
  7. in the case of conversions:
  8. the building is suitable for the specific re-use; and
  9. any inherent traditional historic or architectural features of merit are retained; and
  10. in the case of new build the buildings are of a scale, siting, design and materials appropriate to the site and surroundings and are well related to existing buildings in the main farm complex.

14.24 In order to ensure long term survival, many farm holdings are embarking on farm diversification schemes as a way of supplementing farm income. This can take many forms such as providing serviced or self catering accommodation, food and timber related commercial activities, business uses, storage and distribution, and tourist attractions such as outdoor activities or arts and crafts. The policy intentionally does not attempt to define ‘small scale’ as each proposal must be assessed on its own merits taking into account location, characteristics of the site (including buildings) and surroundings, and the nature and intensity of the proposal.

14.25 The preference will be for proposals which involve the conversion of existing buildings or the limited extension of existing buildings. It is essential that in the case of conversions, existing buildings are suitable for the specific re-use proposed. Proposals which involve poor quality, prefabricated or temporary buildings and structures will not be looked upon favourably. However, in some instances, the Council will seek to secure improvements to the external appearance of such buildings as part of the scheme.

14.26 Where there are no existing buildings which can be extended or converted, then consideration may be given to small scale new build. Any new buildings must be well related to existing buildings in the main farm complex and sensitive in terms of scale, siting, design and materials to the site and surroundings.

14.27 The diversification element must be run in conjunction with the main use of the farm and applicants may be requested to submit a ‘farm plan’ in order to demonstrate how the proposal fits in to the operation of the farm and the contribution the activity will make to the viability of the farm. The inclusion in a ‘farm plan’ of details of the proposed diversification will make it easier for the pros and cons of the proposal to be assessed, and possibly speed up the decision making process.

14.28 Notwithstanding that the opportunities for reducing car use and increasing the use of public transport, walking and cycling are more limited in rural areas, it is considered that wherever possible, diversification schemes should be accessible by means of travel other than the car.

14.29 In certain instances, retailing may be permissible where it is related to either the farm operation or to the diversification activity e.g. the sale of farm produce or value added food products, the sale of arts and crafts, or the sale of equipment in association with a particular outdoor activity. The retailing element should remain ancillary to the main farm operation and should not harm either existing local or village shops or district shopping centres.

14.30 Consideration will be given to the preparation of a supplementary planning guidance note on the issue of farm diversification. In addition to simply setting out planning considerations in more detail, the note could also address other issues likely to arise in farm diversification proposals such as building control, public protection, licensing and contacts, including economic development, to simplify the process.

14.31 The policy is aimed at facilitating genuine farm diversification schemes and the Council will not look favourably upon speculative proposals which do not have a specific use or user.

 

Other key policies:

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