STRUGGLING farmers in the Knutsford area have been handed a boost after new planning regulations were introduced that could see redundant farm buildings converted into cash cows.

The Government has announced that new legislation due to come into force this spring will allow land owners to change the use of buildings from commercial use to residential use, and from agricultural use to commercial use, much more easily.

Agricultural property experts at rural planning specialists Fisher German, based in Tatton Street, Knutsford, believe the announcement will provide farmers with an opportunity to make the most of their assets during a difficult period for agriculture.

The new rules will allow farmers to maximise the potential of redundant or under-used agricultural buildings by converting them for use as offices and potentially retail outlets, leisure facilities or even restaurants.

Gemma Field, planner at Fisher German, said: “The forthcoming changes to development rights for agricultural buildings are really good news for the sector.

“A lot of farmers are struggling to make ends meet in the current climate, and this will provide them with another valuable opportunity to maximise their assets and increase income.

“Until now changing the use of buildings has been a lengthy, time-consuming, complicated and expensive process.

“The new system will represent a time and cost saving for applicants, with a prior approval application costing £80 with a decision period of 28 days, as opposed to a planning application which would cost £385 and a decision period of eight weeks.

“The new rules will significantly reduce the number of hoops which farmers need to jump through.”