Director Stephen Litherland (right) considers strategic land promotion for housing development – and what farmers can do about it.

If you’re a farmer, the opportunity to develop your land can be a glittering – and lucrative – lure, providing long-term financial security. However, engaging with the planning system can be a potential minefield. So, what can be done to maximise success? The key is to act early, seeking the advice of a planning expert who understands not only the issues but also the commercial drivers of developers and housebuilders.

If you are contemplating selling land for housing development, even if your site is not currently allocated, it may be appropriate to apply for planning permission. To boost the chances of success, early engagement in the local plan cycle along with the local planning authority, is essential.

As planning inspectors are currently mandated to steer local plans through the system, you are unlikely to be successful with any speculative, unevidenced or late proposals when the plan comes to its examination in public.

Therefore, in promoting developments, it’s important to note that the revised NPPF (2019) reaffirms some handy concepts, which farmers should consider:

  • A delivery test – councils must deliver on their housing requirements. Delivery is key and when promoting sites, applicants must show how a site is able to come forward and this must be backed up with appropriate evidence
  • Plans must be up to date – councils must review their local plans every five years, presenting an opportunity to further promote sites down the line if they come to the table late on in the planning cycle, or miss out on an allocation the first time of asking
  • Support for smaller sites as well as larger scale sites – it’s not just large land holdings that need to be strategically planned. Small and medium sized sites must also be considered by councils

There are undoubted opportunities for farmers to develop their plans, no matter what the scale of their site or the size of ambition – and seeking professional advice will allow them to explore the options and determine the best way forward.

If your finances allow, farmers can often realise higher values for their land when it comes to the point of sale, by promoting the site themselves. Thinking differently, being receptive to new ideas and having an expert by your side, can be the key to unlocking a brighter and more profitable future. For advice on strategic land promotion, contact Stephen Litherland at Hedley Planning Services. More at or email Tel. 07516 257967