9. Development in the Countryside


North Kesteven is a predominantly rural District, and the majority of its land area is open and undeveloped in character and is used for activities which are generally of low intensity. This countryside is attractive in appearance, and its visual quality is strongly related to/influenced by its uncluttered nature. This character can be eroded very quickly by unnecessary development.


The Council considers that the countryside is one of the District’s most important assets which deserves to be safeguarded for its own sake. In order to preserve the countryside’s openness, new development will generally need to be strictly controlled, and this principle is established in policy C2 of the Core Policies chapter. Restricting new development in the countryside will also ensure that development is consolidated in the District’s towns and villages, where it will best contribute to the achievement of a sustainable pattern of settlement, in accordance with the locational strategy set out in the Objectives and Strategy chapter.


However, the District’s countryside is a living and working place and, as a result, it is inevitably subject to pressure for change and development. The policies of other chapters allow for a variety of uses to be established in the countryside – generally uses that need a rural location because of their extensive land requirements, uses that will assist in diversifying the rural economy or, exceptionally, uses that will bring such substantial benefits to the District that the normal presumption against development in the countryside should be relaxed.


The policies of this chapter look at developments associated with agricultural uses, and housing in the countryside. In all cases the policies seek to protect the open, undeveloped and attractive character of North Kesteven’s countryside. This approach accords with the provisions of the Council’s Local Agenda 21 strategy, and will contribute to all three of the Council’s objectives:

  • A good quality of life for all residents – The countryside represents a very significant recreational resource, which is enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. It is also a cultural asset, which, for many local people, plays a very major part in defining the identity and character of the District as a whole. In both these ways, the countryside makes a major contribution to the quality of life in North Kesteven.
  • A thriving and prosperous economy – The countryside is the agricultural and tourism industry’s workplace, and they both contribute greatly to North Kesteven’s economy. Furthermore, the countryside’s attractive character benefits the image that the District projects to visitors, tourists and potential inward-investors.
  • A clean, green and safe environment – The countryside represents the majority of the District’s land area and, as such, is a major environmental resource. The character of the District as a whole depends very significantly upon the countryside, and it is therefore vital to maintain and improve the rural environment.



The majority of North Kesteven’s countryside is in use for agriculture and, although the agricultural industry is now a relatively minor source of employment in the District (2.4% of those in work in 1997 worked in agriculture), well over one fifth of the District’s VAT registered businesses in 1998 were in the agricultural and fishing sector. Consequently, its economic importance to the District remains significant.


Most farm and forestry buildings and operations are not within the control of the planning system. However, in many cases, developments cannot be carried out until the Council has been given 28 days notice in which to decide whether the proposed development will have a harmful impact upon historic, wildlife, or landscape assets (known as the Agricultural Notification Procedure). If the Council decides that the proposed development may affect any of these assets, it may require the applicant to submit the details of the siting, design and external appearance of their proposal. If the Council considers that the proposed development will have an unacceptable impact, it can refuse approval of the details.


Larger agricultural buildings and structures, livestock units close to residential and similar buildings, and development on smaller agricultural units will need planning permission. The policy and written justification that follow set out some of the considerations that the Council will take into account in determining planning applications, or in deciding whether or not to give its approval to details submitted under the determination procedure. However, the Council will also take account of the provisions of policies elsewhere in the Local Plan – most notably those in the Core Policies, Historic Environment, and Landscape and Wildlife chapters.

POLICY DC1 - Agricultural or forestry development View Map of this site ?

Planning permission will be granted for agricultural or forestry development, requiring planning permission, provided that the proposal:

  1. Will not adversely affect the character or appearance of the countryside; and
  2. Will not create noise, smell, dust or other disturbance that will adversely affect protected buildings to an unacceptable degree.



Modern agricultural buildings and structures are often substantial in scale, and functional in design, and they seldom make a significantly positive contribution to their surroundings. However, if proper attention is paid to basic principles concerning location and design, impacts can be kept to the minimum, and the chances are greatly increased of producing an attractive building that blends in with its surroundings.

  • Location – Applicants may arrive at the proposed site for a new agricultural building or structure based perhaps upon financial considerations, the job that the building or structure is intended to do, and considerations of the space available on the holding. However, the Council will expect applicants to demonstrate that their locational decisions also take account of the impact that the building or structure will have upon the countryside. Locating the proposed building or structure amongst or next to existing buildings will tend to greatly reduce its visual impact, and can help to produce a visually pleasing and cohesive group. Consequently, grouping will almost always be preferred, unless the applicant can show that a more isolated location is essential to meet the needs of the holding. Other locational considerations will include the avoidance of prominent sites (e.g. on the skyline), and taking advantage of existing natural features (trees, hedges, slopes or embankments) that may help to assimilate the proposed development into the landscape. Trees and slopes can also be a very useful backdrop to a development, as they will help to reduce its apparent scale. Lastly, consideration should also be given to ensuring that important public views are not extinguished or diminished in value.
  • Design – Modern farm buildings are often very large, but their apparent bulk can be reduced by careful siting (see above), and by sensitive design such as emphasising the roof overhang, and the use of different materials for the walls and roof, or even using two different wall materials. The use of dark colours will generally tend to make a development less conspicuous, and in particular it is important that roof colours should be darker than those used for walls. The visual impact of a proposal can also be reduced by the construction of two smaller buildings rather than one large one. Although farm and forestry buildings are functional objects, good design can ensure that they make as positive contribution as possible to their surroundings. Consideration should be given to the building or structure’s form to maximise its interest, and to ensure that details such as the location and proportions of door, window and ventilation openings, and rainwater goods all contribute to an attractive end-result.

An additional criterion needs to be met where a proposal involves a building to house livestock. Intensive livestock units can create dust, noise and particularly smell and, as a consequence, great care needs to be exercised in choosing their location. Applicants will need to provide information concerning the development’s likely impact upon the amenities of others, taking account of e.g. the number of animals to be kept, the species of animal to be kept, the distance of the site from settlements, dwellings and other potentially sensitive buildings, the prevailing wind direction, and the proposed unit’s management regime. Based upon this information, the Council will assess what impact the proposal is likely to have upon the amenities of any nearby ‘protected buildings’. Applicants may also need to provide information on proposed measures for the retention, treatment and disposal of waste.


N.B. A protected building is defined in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (as amended) as a permanent building which is normally occupied by people, but excludes dwellings or other buildings which are used for agricultural purposes on an agricultural holding.

POLICY DC2 - Agricultural and forestry workers’ dwellings and dwellings associated with rural based enterprises View Map of this site ?

Planning permission will be granted for the construction of a new dwelling in the countryside only where:

  1. It is proven to be necessary for the proper functioning of a farm, forestry or rural based enterprise for a full-time worker to live close to his or her place of work;
  2. The unit and enterprise have been established for at least three years, have been profitable for at least one of them, are currently financially sound, and have a clear prospect of remaining so;
  3. No other housing accommodation is available locally to meet the need;
  4. The necessary accommodation cannot be provided by the conversion of a building on the holding;
  5. The holding has not recently disposed of a dwelling or building suitable for conversion that could have met the identified need.
  6. The proposed new dwelling is sited in a location that meets the identified need, and will not adversely affect the character or appearance of the countryside; and
  7. The new dwelling is no larger than is justified by the needs of the unit, or more expensive to construct than the income of the enterprise can sustain.
Where planning permission is granted, a condition on the permission will require the occupation of the dwelling to be limited to a person solely or mainly working, or last working, in the locality in agriculture, forestry or a rural based business, or a widow or widower of such a person, and to any resident dependants.



Policy C2 of the Local Plan indicates that the Council will seek to keep new development in the countryside to the minimum. However, this restrictive strategy must not unnecessarily constrain the agricultural industry (which contribute greatly to the District’s economy). Thus, the Council will allow the construction of a new dwelling in the countryside if it is essential to the operation of a farm or forestry business.


The Council will examine all proposals according to the following criteria.

  • Applicants will need to provide evidence that their farm, forestry or rural based enterprise could not function properly without one or more full-time workers being readily available at most times, for example to deal quickly with emergencies that could cause loss of crops, or to attend to animals or agricultural processes at short notice.
  • Applicants must show that their enterprise is financially viable. The unit must therefore be well established (in operation for at least three years), and evidence must show that it is on a sound financial footing, and appears likely to continue to be profitable into the future. In the case of newly established enterprises, permission may be granted for the provision of temporary accommodation (for perhaps 2 or 3 years) until it becomes clear whether or not a permanent dwelling can be justified.
  • Applicants must demonstrate that there are no existing and available dwellings on the unit or elsewhere in the area, or non-residential building on the holding that would be suitable for conversion for occupation by the worker(s) concerned. The Council will also check to see whether the holding has recently disposed of a dwelling or building suitable for conversion, which may be evidence of abuse of the system.
  • Finally, the Council will look at the proposed dwelling itself. Applicants must demonstrate that the dwelling will be sited in a location that will meet the needs of the enterprise, but will also minimise the building’s visual impact. In general, the Council will wish to see that the new dwelling is well related to existing buildings or other dwellings, so that it blends into the countryside as well as possible. Furthermore the Council will look at the size of the dwelling to make certain that: it will not be more expensive to build than the holding could actually support; and it is not larger than is justified by the holding’s functional requirements (i.e. the appropriate size for the dwelling will be determined by reference to the holding’s needs, and not the demands of the person who is intended to occupy it).

To ensure that the dwelling remains available to meet agricultural, forestry or rural based enterprise needs, the Council will attach a condition to the planning permission to limit occupation to farm workers and their family.

POLICY DC3 - Removal of an occupancy condition View Map of this site ?

Planning permission will be granted for the removal of an occupancy condition where it is clear that there is no longer a need in the locality for a dwelling to accommodate someone solely, mainly or last working in agriculture, forestry or another rural based enterprise.



Over time, the activities carried out on an agricultural holding, will change as the demands of consumers change, as farming practices develop, as the financial framework of farming changes, or as the holding changes hands. It is possible, therefore, that the need for a dwelling to house an agricultural worker can disappear, and there would be no benefit in unnecessarily keeping such a house vacant, or requiring the present occupants to remain in the dwelling, by continuing to enforce a planning condition that has outlived its usefulness.


However, it is important to ensure that conditions that restrict the occupation of a dwelling to agricultural workers and their families are removed only when it is clear that the dwelling no longer has a potential role to play in meeting the needs of agricultural holdings in the area as a whole. Otherwise, there could be a proliferation of dwellings in the countryside, which would tend to undermine the countryside’s character, and would not contribute towards the achievement of a sustainable pattern of development.


The applicant will need to provide evidence that the dwelling:

  • Is no longer needed to meet the essential functional needs of the holding or business to which it relates. Thus it will be necessary to show that the holding is now being farmed in a way that means that it is no longer necessary to have a worker on-site at most times; and
  • Is not required to meet the needs of another holding or business in the area. The Council will look at whether there have been recent applications for agricultural dwellings in the area. If there have been significant numbers of applications, the Council will need to consider whether this shows that there is a continuing need for agricultural dwellings that the house could help to meet. The Council will also expect the applicant to show that the dwelling has been offered for sale or rent at a realistic discounted price that reflects the existence of the occupancy condition. The advice of an independent valuer may be sought to determine whether the property has been marketed at a reasonable price.

POLICY DC4 - New housing in the countryside View Map of this site ?

Housing development in the countryside will be strictly controlled, and planning permission will only exceptionally be granted for the construction of a new dwelling where:

  1. The design of the proposed dwelling is of exceptional quality and innovative in nature;
  2. The proposed dwelling allows for the significant enhancement of its immediate setting and the wider environment;
  3. The proposal will not adversely affect the character or appearance of the countryside.



There is a long tradition of the building of Country Houses, which have made a major contribution to the quality of the English countryside. In North Kesteven, there are a number of examples of such Country Houses, such as Coleby, Culverthorpe, Doddington and South Rauceby Halls. These four properties are listed buildings, set in very significant grounds (of as much as 50 hectares). Their grounds often contain outbuildings and other structures that are also listed. They make a major contribution to the character of their immediate surroundings and the District in general.


This policy recognises that, very occasionally the exceptional quality and innovative nature of the design of a proposed, isolated new house in the countryside may provide special justification for granting planning permission. Any such design should be truly outstanding and ground-breaking, for example, in its use of materials, methods of construction or its contribution to protecting and enhancing the environment. This in turn will assist in raising standards of design more generally in rural areas.


In order to be acceptable, the design of a new Country House must reflect the highest standards in contemporary architecture, must significantly enhance its immediate setting and must be sensitive to the defining characteristics of the local area. Unless the building and landscape design reflect these principles, planning permission will not be granted. The Council will seek advice on designs from the Royal Fine Art Commission or similar body. Designs do not need to imitate existing Country Houses and their grounds, but they must take proper account of the District’s character. It is expected that proposals will come forward only very exceptionally under the terms of this policy.

POLICY DC5 - Replacement dwellings in the countryside View Map of this site ?

Planning permission will be granted for the demolition of an existing dwelling in the countryside and the construction of a replacement dwelling, provided that:

  1. The existing dwelling is not a temporary or mobile structure;
  2. The residential use of the existing dwelling has not been abandoned;
  3. The existing dwelling cannot be repaired or reinstated at reasonable cost;
  4. The new dwelling is similar in size and scale to that which it replaces; and
  5. The new dwelling will not adversely affect the character or appearance of the countryside.
Where appropriate, planning permission will be granted subject to a condition removing permitted development rights to build extensions, or erect separate structures within the curtilage.



In cases where a dwelling already exists in the countryside it will, in some circumstances, be appropriate to allow for its demolition and replacement with a new dwelling. There are three broad issues.


Firstly, applicants must demonstrate that the building that is proposed to be replaced is of permanent construction (because it would be inappropriate to allow the construction of a new dwelling in replacement of a caravan or other non-permanent building) and that it is actually a residential property. If a building is being lawfully used as a dwelling at the time of the planning application, it is very clear that the residential use is current. However, if a property is empty, the Council will look at the following issues in determining whether residential use has been abandoned: the use to which the building was last put; whether it has ever been used as anything other than a home; how long it has been empty; and what condition it is in (the residential use of a completely derelict dwelling is likely to be considered to have been abandoned). If residential use has been abandoned, a proposal to replace a dwelling will be looked at as akin to the construction of a brand new dwelling in the countryside.


Secondly, applicants must provide information on the building’s structural condition. If the existing dwelling is in good condition, the Council will generally prefer for it to be retained than for a new home to be built in its place. The existing dwelling will be an accepted feature in the countryside, and is therefore likely to have less visual impact than a new property. Furthermore, the construction of a new building will be a less sustainable option than the retention of an existing structure, since the construction process involves the expenditure of significant amounts of energy and the consumption of non-renewable resources. Permission will therefore normally be granted for a replacement dwelling only where the condition of the existing building is such that its repair is not feasible.


Lastly, the Council will consider the impact that the proposed new dwelling will have upon the appearance and character of the countryside. Permission is unlikely to be granted for the construction of a new dwelling that will have a greater visual impact than that which it replaces. One crucial consideration will be the size of the proposed replacement dwelling, and permission will not be granted for a proposed replacement that is significantly larger than the original dwelling (generally no more than 15% larger than the original in terms of its cubic content). [In this context, it is likely that the Council will wish to bring possible future extensions to the new dwelling within its control, by removing permitted development rights]. Issues such as the location of the proposed dwelling on the plot, its design and materials, boundary treatments, and the design of access roads will also be important in determining its impact upon the character and appearance of its surroundings. The overall aim must be to produce a dwelling that has a character and appearance that is in keeping with its rural surroundings.

POLICY DC6 - Conversion of buildings in the countryside to residential use View Map of this site ?

The conversion of a building in the countryside to a dwelling or dwelling units will be
approved only where:

  1. The applicant can show that every reasonable effort has been made to secure suitable business re-use; or
  2. Residential conversion is part of a larger scheme for business re-use;

And all of the following criteria are met:

  1. The existing building is of permanent and substantial construction, and is capable of conversion without major reconstruction or extension;
  2. The existing building is in keeping with its surroundings;
  3. The proposal will not adversely affect the character or appearance of the building itself, nor the countryside.

Where appropriate, planning permission will be granted subject to a condition removing permitted development rights to make extensions.



North Kesteven’s countryside contains many non-residential buildings of traditional design and construction (such as barns, stables, chapels or schools) that give variety and character to the countryside. As the use of the countryside continues to change, many rural buildings are no longer needed for the purposes for which they were originally built. They can, however, be suitable for conversion to commercial or industrial uses, or for tourism, sport or recreation (see Policy E5). More exceptionally, they may also be suitable for conversion to residential use. Such conversions can help to: reduce demands for new buildings in the countryside; avoid wasting the economic resource that the buildings represent; and prevent the deterioration of buildings that contribute a great deal to the character of the countryside.


The Council will give preference to conversions to commercial use rather than to residential use, because conversions to residential use contribute little to the rural economy and are more likely to have harmful impacts upon the appearance and character of traditional buildings and the countryside. Consequently, the Council will look favourably upon residential conversions in only two circumstances. The first is where residential conversion is a subordinate part of a scheme to re-use a building or buildings for business use. The second is where an applicant can show that they have unsuccessfully explored all possible non-residential uses for the building. In this latter case, the applicant would have to show that the building had been advertised for sale or rent at a reasonable price for business purposes for a period of at least 6 months, and that no reasonable offers had been received.


If either of the above circumstances apply, the Council may grant planning permission for a residential conversion. The Council will look at:

  • The building itself, and will examine:
  1. Whether the building will need substantial reconstruction to make it suitable for conversion either because it is in poor condition, or because it is of only temporary or insubstantial construction. Applicants must provide information on the building’s structural condition and, if the building would require extensive rebuilding, it cannot be considered as suitable for re-use, because the proposal would not be a conversion. Thus, portal-framed and prefabricated buildings will not be considered as suitable candidates for residential conversion. The Council considers that only buildings of a permanent nature, constructed by traditional techniques and of traditional materials (comprising foundations, brick or stone walls and tile/slate or similar roofs) will normally be suitable to convert to dwellings.
  2. Whether the building is in keeping with its countryside location in terms of its form, bulk and general design. If the existing building has a harmful effect upon the countryside in terms of visual amenity, the Council will be unlikely to grant permission for a proposal that will lead to its retention. The Council may, however, permit a proposal that will lead to an improvement in such a building’s appearance, to the point where it will be in keeping with its rural surroundings.
  • The conversion proposed
  1. Alterations, extensions or demolitions should be kept to the minimum. Extensive changes to the fabric of a building will often erode its character, and increase its visual impact within the countryside. [In this context, it is likely that the Council will wish to remove permitted development rights to extend the new dwelling, or erect separate structures within the curtilage] Any changes to the building must be respectful of the building’s character and the rural nature of the surroundings. Furthermore, great care must be taken in the introduction of a domestic curtilage to a rural building – fences, walls, garages, ornamental planting, etc. can all appear alien in a rural landscape.
  2. Bats, barn owls, swallows and other birds often use rural buildings as roosting or breeding sites (see policy LW8). It is the responsibility of the applicant to arrange for buildings to be surveyed to establish whether any such species will be affected by a proposed conversion, and to ensure that their proposal makes provision for the species (preferably within the building or alternatively elsewhere). An application that is not accompanied by an adequate wildlife survey will be rejected.

The Council has produced and adopted supplementary planning guidance, entitled ‘The Re-Use and Adaptation of Rural Buildings’ which provides detailed design and policy guidance on this subject.

Other uses in the countryside

POLICY DC7 - Development involving horses View Map of this site ?

Planning permission will be granted for development involving the keeping and riding of horses for recreational and/or commercial purposes in the countryside, provided that:

  1. Adequate safe riding routes are available off-road (on public rights of way or by private agreement) or on quiet, minor roads, and there will be no adverse effects upon road safety; and
  2. Any necessary built facilities will be provided by the re-use of existing buildings; or
  3. Where the re-use of existing buildings is not feasible, new buildings are located and designed to minimise their impact upon the character and appearance of the countryside.



Keeping and riding horses is increasingly popular, and planning permission is normally needed for the use of land for keeping horses and for equestrian activities. The exceptions to this rule are: keeping horses as pets within the curtilage of a dwelling; keeping horses as ‘livestock’ (i.e. for agricultural purposes); or using land purely for the grazing of horses.


Keeping and riding horses generally requires a significant amount of land, and is therefore an appropriate activity for the countryside. Furthermore, it can have a beneficial impact upon the economy of rural parts of the District. However, both recreational and commercial horse-keeping usually involves the erection of buildings and other structures (such as jumps), and these can have an impact upon the open and undeveloped character of the countryside. Furthermore, if agricultural fields are sub-divided and sold off as paddocks, a more intensive use can be introduced to the countryside which can appear at odds with the generally low-intensity use of rural parts of the District. Nonetheless, the Council will normally welcome horse-based developments, provided that they will not have a harmful effect upon the countryside (see policy C2).


A commercial equestrian facility that will attract large numbers of visitors may create large numbers of car journeys. Commercial equestrian facilities should therefore be located close to significant centres of population, or in locations that are accessible by means other than the private car (See policy T1). However, in considering accessibility issues, the Council will be mindful of the fact that the District is predominantly rural, that its population is dispersed, and that opportunities for people to travel by means other than the private car can be limited. Consequently, all judgements of whether a location is relatively accessible or not will be made in the context of the overall levels of accessibility throughout the District.


Horse-based development will normally require buildings, such as shelters, stabling and stores. It will generally be preferable for such built facilities to be provided by the re-use of existing buildings, which will already be accepted features in the countryside, and which will therefore be likely to have less visual impact than a new building. Furthermore, the construction of a new building will be a less sustainable option than the re-use of an existing structure, since the construction process involves the expenditure of significant amounts of energy and the consumption of non-renewable resources. Where the construction of new buildings is essential, the Council will expect them to be located and designed so as to blend into the landscape, to have a rural character and appearance, and to reflect local tradition.


Commercial equestrian facilities in particular may result in large numbers of horse rides being taken in the locality. It is important, for the safety of animals, riders and other users of the highway, that the potential for conflict between horses and vehicles is minimised. The applicant will need to demonstrate that the amount of horse riding that will take place on public roads will not be unsafe.

POLICY DC8 - Advertisements and advance directional signs in the countryside View Map of this site ?

Consent will be granted for advertisements and advance directional signs to be displayed within the countryside only where:

  1. An advertisement which relates to, and is displayed on existing commercial or industrial premises; or
  2. An advance directional sign required to direct traffic to a business or activity located a short distance off the road along which the sign is proposed to be displayed; and where
  3. Public safety will not be compromised; and
  4. The character or appearance of the countryside will not be adversely affected.



The countryside is not an appropriate location for the general display of advertisements and signs. The character of the countryside is open and undeveloped, and advertisements and signs will normally appear out of place, and undermine the area’s natural beauty.


However, businesses located within the countryside should be allowed to advertise their whereabouts, especially to visitors. Thus advertisements relating to a business located in the countryside will be acceptable, in principle at least, provided they are displayed upon the commercial or industrial premises themselves. Advance directional signs (which direct visitors to a rural business or to a temporary activity such as a construction site) may also be acceptable in principle because they can help to contribute to road safety. However, only advance signs that are necessary will be permitted – e.g. an advance sign is not required to direct visitors to a business located within a village, when the visitors could find their way equally well by relying on the road signs to the village itself.


Nonetheless, advertisements and signs must not harm the appearance or character of the countryside. Advertisements must be carefully designed within the context of their site and wider surroundings, and should be located on or near to buildings wherever possible. Materials should be carefully chosen to minimise the advertisement’s impact upon the amenities of the countryside, and illumination should be treated with caution, as it will frequently appear alien in a rural context. Advance directional signs should be modest in size, and should be mounted upon an existing means of support wherever possible. Illumination will very seldom be acceptable and, where practical, businesses in the same general location should combine their essential advertising in one sign, so as to avoid a proliferation of advance signs.


As is the case with all advertisements and signs, public safety must not be reduced. Thus, advertisements and signs must not distract drivers, obscure visibility or be potentially confused with existing traffic signs.


It should be noted that the majority of the district’s countryside lies within an Area of Special Control of Advertisements, where stricter advertisement controls apply. For advertisements displayed with ‘deemed consent’, there is a lower maximum height limit, and smaller maximum size of letters or characters. Some classes of advertisement, most notably general poster hoardings, may not be displayed at all.


 >> 8. Recreation, Sport and Tourism  /  >> 10. Landscape and Wildlife


Related Map Links

Some sections of this text contain a 'globe with link' icon. Clicking on this icon will take you to the map that is relevant to this text.

Sometimes, there is no spatial component or map feature that is specific to the text. In this case the link will take you to the overview map of the relevant map.

If there is a specific area relevant to the text it will be shown as a red highlighted overlay on the map at a suitable viewing scale.

« Back to contents page | Back to top