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Permitted Development Barn Conversions

Permitted Development Rules for Barn Conversions

March 22, 2018

Navigating the planning rules around barn conversions can be a difficult task. In 2014 the Government attempted to ease the restrictions on converting barns in the countryside (in England) through the introduction of ‘Class Q Permitted Development’.

The intention was to reduce some of the pressure for housing in rural areas, particularly isolated rural areas where planning permission would not normally be granted for new houses.

Anyone wishing to use these permitted development rights needs to go through the ‘Prior Notification’ process, which will result in a Certificate of Lawful Development being issued by the Local Authority as long as there are no objections with valid planning merits received.

The response to the introduction of Class Q permitted development rights was lukewarm to say the least, with many Local Authorities unsure about how they should be applied and others defiantly resisting them altogether.

Are there exceptions?

Exceptions to the permitted development rights are buildings which are in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), National Parks, conservation areas, or listed buildings.

So what’s changed?

On the 12th of March 2018, Dominic Raab the Housing Minister announced new changes to the permitted development rules affecting the conversion of agricultural buildings to Class C3 residential use. The new changes come into force from the 6th April 2018.

The intention was to give rural communities more options to convert agricultural buildings into family homes to better meet local housing needs than what the previous permitted development rights provided.

Prior to the announced changes a barn could be converted to provide up to 3 new homes within a maximum of 450 square metres, the new changes will allow:

  • up to 3 larger homes within a maximum of 465 square metres or
  • up to 5 smaller homes each no larger than 100 square metres or
  • a mix of both, within a total of no more than 5 homes, of which no more than 3 may be larger home.

Case law has also ruled that Local Authorities cannot resist a Prior Notification on the basis of it resulting in an isolated dwelling in an unsustainable location.

What are the rules?

There are several criteria that must be met to successfully apply permitted development rights for barn conversions. Failure to meet any of these requirements would result in the need for a planning application:

  • The entire site must have been solely used for agricultural purposes;
  • The barn must have existed prior to the 20th March 2013 (barns built beyond that date must be in agricultural use for 10 years before permitted development rights apply);
  • Agricultural tenants (where relevant) must give their express consent to the landowners for the conversion;
  • Any demolition must be ‘reasonably necessary’ to carry out building operations allowed by Class Q, which include the installation or replacement of windows, doors, roofs or exterior walls; and water, drainage, electricity, gas or other services, to the extent reasonably necessary for the building to function as a dwellinghouse.

Even if the conversion meets the above criteria, the applicant will still need to receive prior approval from the Local Authority on the following matters:

  • Transport;
  • Noise Impact;
  • Contamination;
  • Flood risk; and
  • Whether the Local Authority considers that the location or siting of the building makes it otherwise impractical or undesirable for conversion to residential use.

The Prior Notification process allows Local Authorities to request prior approval for the design and external appearance of the conversion. They can also impose conditions in the same way they do on a planning permission.

Ultimately the changes and increased flexibility is welcome. As is always the case when the government tinkers with planning rules, it is likely that a lot of details will be decided by case law. The extent to which a barn can be demolished and rebuilt will be argued over for the next few years. Furthermore the rules apply to agricultural buildings, not just barns; however it is unlikely the government’s intention is to allow glasshouses and simple steel framed structures to be rebuilt as houses.

The main benefits of going down the Prior Notification permitted development route, rather than a full planning application, are that the fee can be substantially cheaper, conversion will not be subject to local development plan policies, sustainability assessments, neighbourhood plans or planning committees. Furthermore it is likely that less supporting information will be required.

This article was originally published by one of our Planners on LinkedIn and can be viewed here.

If you would like more information on permitted development rights and barn conversions, contact us for a no-obligation conversation.