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Barn conversions set to become easier and more profitable

Barn conversions set to become easier and more profitable

Converting agricultural buildings into dwellings looks set to become easier and more worthwhile, now that the Government planning rules on barn conversions are changing this April.

“In a nutshell, the Government is allowing more development of barns and more dwellings to be created once the rules change on April 6 2018. This is a great opportunity for farmers and landowners in the West Country,” said Alister Smith, Head of Planning at Stags. 

The maximum number of dwellings permissible from a barn conversion will rise from three to five, explained Mr King-Smith, who advises landowners on such cases all over the South West: “The proposed changes to existing Class Q rights to convert barns to dwellings will allow the change of use of agricultural buildings to provide up to five new homes.”

In detail, these changes mean that it will be possible to create up to three larger homes within a maximum total area of 465 square metres or up to five smaller homes, each no larger than 100 square metres. It will also be permissible to create a mix of both, within a total of no more than five homes, of which no more than three may be larger homes.

“These rights take account of existing development under Class Q on an agricultural unit. But barn owners can still exercise the new rights after assessment to see if there are additional opportunities,” said Mr King-Smith. However there are still grey areas regarding what is and what is not allowed, he warned. “Recent changes to the guidance that accompanies Class Q have muddied the waters with regards to the type of buildings that can be converted. For example, it is less than clear as how much of the existing building has to be retained. The wording in the guidance is simply that the building has to be capable of functioning as a dwelling to be suitable for conversion. 

Nonetheless, these changes should prove very interesting to those people who own a larger complex of farm buildings, who may have previously been put off developing them due to the previous three dwelling limitation. 

And this is not the only change in the offing, said Mr King-Smith. Significant alterations will also be made to Permitted Development rights for the erection, extensions to and alteration of agricultural buildings. 

On agricultural holdings of five hectares or more, the changes will enable buildings of up to 1,000 sq m to be erected (in place of the current limit of 465 sq m).  For holdings of less than five hectares, existing buildings can be extended up to 1,000 sq m, providing the cubic content of the original building would increase by no more than 20%.

The changes to permitted development go further with an extension of Class P (Storage and Distribution uses) to dwellings, to allow prior approval to be granted before the 10 June 2019, and completed within a three-year period from the prior approval date.  These rights had been due to end in April 2018 so this extension is welcomed. 

All the rights will still be subject to conditions and limitations and, as is already the case and in many cases will also be subject to a formal application process as is already the case. 

“All in all, this is good news for people considering a barn conversion or alteration,” said Mr King-Smith. “With the right advice, it will be both easier and more profitable to transform barns into homes going forward.”

Find out more about converting your agricultural barn into a dwelling at our upcoming seminar, The Barn: Working For You?

Stags Planning Department offers expert advice on all issues surrounding barn conversion including planning permission and financial implications, from an initial consultation right up to seeing the whole process through from start to finish. For more details, contact Stags Planning department.