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Can A Steel Frame Building Future-Proof A Farm?

Steel frame buildings can be extremely useful for farms. They are quick to build, comparatively easy to maintain and exceptionally versatile, being able to house animals, equipment, or food supplies.

For all those reasons, any planning application to get one built is important. Refusal can be a significant setback to future plans. Usually, however, there will not be a good reason to refuse permission.

However, planning permission for all kinds of developments can be harder to obtain in certain places, such as heritage sites or national parks, where criteria are stricter.

The latter may be of particular interest to many farmers now, as the number of national parks in the UK is about to rise by at least three. That means many farms will soon be inside areas where getting planning consent for a new steel frame building may not be as easy as before.

It could make sense, therefore, to plan ahead and add one now. It may add spare capacity for now, but it would future-proof against any difficulty in getting planning permission should national park status cover your farm.

Lest this be considered an excessive concern, the testimonies of Scottish farmers and crofters would suggest the experience of the agriculture sector in the two national parks established in the 2000s - Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and the Cairngorms - has not been positive.

A meeting of 110 members of the Scottish branch of the National Farmers Union (NFU) earlier this month revealed unanimous opposition to plans for a third national park. This has prompted NFU Scotland to express its objection to the proposal. Increased planning bureaucracy that stifles development was one of the key issues raised.

To add to the uncertainty, it is not at all clear yet where the new national park would be. The Isle of Skye is one of the candidates, but so too is the Isle of Harris, Wester Ross, the area covering Ben Nevis and Glen Coe, the Galloway Forest and the Borders area, as well as a coastal and marine national park proposal that would be of greater concern for fisheries.

However, if the plan does go ahead despite the Scottish NFU views, even those outside the new national park may still wish to invest early in a steel frame building and other developments, because there may be more in the future. Moreover, as happened to the Cairngorms in 2010, national park boundaries can be expanded.

In England, where the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales have been expanded in recent years, a similar scenario is set to unfold, with another national park to be designated and no certainty yet where. The three candidates are the Chilterns, Cotswolds and Dorset.

Wales is also on course to have a new national park, although in this case it is known essentially where it will be: The area currently designated as the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with some additions such as the Lake Vyrnwy reservoir.

That reduces some uncertainty, except for those close to the possible boundaries who will be unsure if they are in or out. It may be very wise for farmers in the area to move ahead now with projects that might be harder to achieve under national park status.


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