Barn refurbishing made easier

Property news - Barn refurbishment

For many of us, a barn conversion would be a dream home. It may be about to become a reality for more people since planning rules have recently been relaxed to allow owners to convert their buildings from one use to another more easily. Campaigners are concerned that this may lead to uncontrolled building, especially on farmland if farmers attempt to convert their barns and outbuildings into houses.

What do the changes mean?

At the moment, the effect for people wanting to live in a barn conversion is minimal. The legal changes will give farmers the opportunity to convert certain types of building that are considered redundant for agricultural purposes into properties that can be used for business (e.g., offices and shops). Ministers are also consulting on whether farmers should be allowed to convert empty or disused farm buildings into residential properties.

As a result, barn conversions could become notably more widespread. Farmers may eventually be allowed to convert their unused barns into homes, or sell the barns to allow people to create their own dream home. This concerns the Campaign to Protect Rural England, whose members believe it could lead to “sporadic, speculative development” in many rural areas. They feel that landowners could turn to building new barns with the sole aim of creating residential properties in the future.

Whilst the relaxation in the rules relating to housing hasn’t yet come into effect, it is worth taking advice from property solicitors if you are considering a barn conversion in the near future. It may well be the case that if you hold on for a few months, the costly and time-consuming process of obtaining planning permission could be avoidable.

What does the government have to say about it?

According to the Department for Communities and Local Government, only existing properties will be eligible to change their use under the new rules. This is backed up by the requirement that new barns can only be converted after they have been used for their primary agricultural purpose for a minimum of ten years. This should prevent landowners from constructing buildings purely with the intention of converting them into houses in the future.

What other changes have been made?

Buildings that are currently used as offices can now be converted for use as shops without planning permission in some circumstances. For exact details on when this rule applies, it is advisable to consult with property lawyers.

Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, has said that this change will allow redundant existing buildings to be “put to good use”. Labour isn’t convinced, though, having expressed concerns that inappropriate shops could appear on the high street without the need for planning permission.

Obtaining planning permission has always been a complicated process that can often cost a lot of money. One of the reasons for this is to prevent the erosion of open spaces to make way for housing and commercial premises. Whilst it is still important to protect the countryside, it is sensible that where buildings are already in place, they should be put to good use rather than be allowed to fall into a state of disrepair.

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