The Farmer June 2016 - Planning Consultant Gerallt Davies at Roger Parry & Partners answers the question - Is it easier to gain residential conversion of agricultural buildings?
Yes it is easier. Permitted development rights to convert agricultural buildings into residential units were implemented by the Government in 2013 to allow a simple/fast track process to re-use agricultural barns and buildings to form residential units.
During the 3 years of its implementation, we believe farmers have not taken advantage of this legislation, which would identifiably provide an alternative financial income to the farm business. We feel the main reason for the lack of interest to go down the barn conversion route is the fact that Councils have been admittedly reluctant to approve these kind of applications.
However, not many would be aware that the legislation was revised in April 2015 which meant that Councils have less reasons to refuse these applications, and, if you ensure your proposal complies with each criterion, the Council have little choice but to approve the application. In light of the above revisions in the last year more barn conversions have been approved or allowed in appeals through this simple and fast track process.
The only subjective item left within the legislation, where the Council can pull you up on relates to the amount of building operations required or structural issues associated with the conversion. Given the Councils relative reluctance to allow these barn conversions through permitted development, the definition of building operations or a buildings structural soundness have been a topic of question. Whereby the Councils refuse applications which replace walls and roofs, as they feel the works amount to building operations not allowed under the legislation. Councils have also refused applications for internal operations (introduction of 1st floor levels).These considerations/decisions are flawed, given that the legislation allows building operations that include replacement of walls, roofs and installation of windows, and it does not stipulate the amount allowed. In relation to internal works, these should not be considered as building operations. As Section 55 (2) (a) of the 1990 act states the carrying out of works or alteration of any building which affect only the interior of a building and does not materially affect the external appearance should not be taken as building operations.
The moral of this article is to illustrate that, with the correct guidance, advice and design, Councils will have little choice but to approve these type of schemes or be threatened with an appeal if they choose to refuse on weak grounds. Roger Parry & Partners have a wealth of experience in this field, and therefore if you're interested on gaining more information or have a suitable barn for conversion, please contact us on 01938 554 499 or 01743 791 336 firstname.lastname@example.org.