The increased focus on sustainability is encouraging local production to reduce "food miles". Whether planning permission is required is one of the many regulatory issues to consider.

Change of use

Planning permission is required for a material change of use.

The good news is that planning permission is not required for a change to agricultural use. So if you want to scale up from growing for your own consumption to growing for sale, it's unlikely that planning permission will be required.

For other changes in use, the materiality can turn on whether the new use is still ancillary to the existing one. For example:

  • An on-site shop selling produce grown on the site is probably an ancillary activity and does not require planning permission (but any building works might still require permission – see below)
  • The more off-site produce sold in the shop, the more likely it is that there is a material change of use to retail, requiring planning permission. But new rules introduced in Scotland on 1 April 2021 extend the circumstances in which there are permitted development rights for retail/ commercial use on agricultural land, removing the need to apply for planning permission. 
  • Some cleaning and processing of on-site produce might be an ancillary use, but if that becomes extensive and includes imported produce, there might be a material change of use requiring planning permission – a point to note if the jam or gin making expands from small beginnings.
  • Installing solar panels or an AD plant for green energy production could be a material change of use if most of the power is exported to the grid rather than used on-site

New/ converted buildings

There are extensive permitted development rights for new/ converted buildings on agricultural land, meaning that no application for planning permission is required or the abbreviated prior notification system is used. (The new PD rights for retail/ commercial use were mentioned above).

But the agricultural use must be established before permitted development rights can be claimed: the pigs must be on the site before any piggeries can be erected (although small structures might not need planning permission regardless).


Depending on the size, extent, scale, movability and permanence, polytunnels might not require planning permission at all; or might benefit from agricultural permitted development rights (if on agricultural land); but large schemes are more likely to require planning permission.

Future-proofing your business

Even if your neighbours are unlikely to complain to the planners, the sustainability of your business can depend on having the necessary planning permissions. External investors/ funders/ lenders will insist on the right paperwork being in place.

Planning rules are complicated and very dependent on the specific circumstances. Specialist planning law advice should be obtained at an early stage. No matter how good your idea, your project might still fall foul of planning rules/ policies.


Neil Collar