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Planning Resources

It is always advisable to consult with a planning professional before purchasing land. The following is intended to provide useful guidance but not to substitute professional assistance.

Practical guides

The following are must-reads for anyone who wishes to live on the land and for whom rural and low impact planning is an unknown world.

  • Shared Assets guide on Understanding the Planning System provides an easily digestible, practical and comprehensive introduction for smallholders and community food enterprises on the main issues involved in putting together an application. It provides and excellent starting point for anyone wishing to set up a residential smallholding.
  • Chapter 7 campaign for a planning system that actively encourages sustainable, low impact and affordable homes. They have published a highly recommended, in-depth guide on low impact planning, the Rural Planning Handbook for Low Impact Developers which was updated in 2018. The handbook also includes a list of planning consultants who specialise in this type of application.

If you are looking to live on the land in Wales, it may be that One Planet Development Policy (OPD) is suitable for your proposal.

  • Information and guidance on this innovative policy is available from the One Planet Council, an independent voluntary body which enables and promotes OPD policy.
  • Welsh Government OPD Practice Guidance provides a detailed and useful account of what is needed to fulfill the requirements of OPD policy
  • Some Local planning Authorities in England are also looking to adopt similar Low Impact housing policy into their local plan. See the following:

Useful Planning Applications

Reading through successful planning applications can help provide a greater understanding of how to put a planning application together. Officer's reports, which assess the proposal and then recommend the application for approval or refusal, can be relatively lengthy and jargon-heavy but provide useful insight into how applications might be assessed. 

Appeal Decision Letters perhaps are the most valuable resource from previous applications. They often provide a succinct assessment of the issues involved and the Inspectors comments on these matters represent the opinion of senior planning officials who work on behalf of the Secretary of State.

  • Lammas, 9 low-impact smallholdings allowed at an Appeal for non-determination . The application was submitted under Pembrokeshire’s Policy 52, a forerunner to OPD. Appeal decision ref: APP/N6845/A/09/209672.

Case Law

Petter and Harris v. Secretary of state for the environment (1999)

Though case law may be a little heavy to trawl through, this important ruling by the High Court is significant for many low impact cases and is worth a read. It finds that profitability is not an essential component of financial viability and establishes the importance of the underlying intention of policy when assessing proposals (the intention of the financial test is to ensure the certainty of the agricultural activity).


For a holistic understanding of planning issues, the following reports provide a more analytical perspective on the role the planning system plays in setting up landbased enterprises.

  • Shared Assets report Planning for the Common Good provides insight to how the planning system works, the role it plays in developing land based social enterprise, how best to understand it and what could be changed for the better.
  • Rebecca Laughton (LWA) and Zoe Wangler (ELC & LWA) have written a report on planning barriers faced by new organic horticultural businesses in England, which includes input from Simon Fairlie (Chapter 7)

National Policy

Applications are determined in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. As such, the primary policy you will need to digest will be the local plan in the area in which you wish to submit an application / purchase land etc, which will be available on your local council's website. If you do not know which local authority the land is in you can find out here

National policy is a material consideration in deciding any application.

  • The National Policy Planning Framework sets out the government's planning policy for England. Of particular relevance to agro-ecological small holdings are paragraphs 11 & 79
  • In Wales national guidance is set out in Planning Policy Wales, which is supported by several Technical Advice Notes (TAN). Of particular relevance to small holders is TAN 6- planning for sustainable rural communities.

Permitted development rights for agriculture and forestry are set out in this document.

Policy change

For those wishing to get involved in shaping planning policy in the future, Sustain has produced this excellent guide to getting local food into your neighbourhood plan.

We recently engaged in consultations on North Devon and Torridge Council’s Rural Workers Dwelling's SPD and Cornwall Council’s Climate Emergency Development Plan Document. Our submissions (found below) may provide useful comments and a starting point for future engagement in local plan consultations.