Sunday20 August 2017

Planning minister announces 'barns-to-homes' scheme

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Nick Boles relaxes rules on converting agricultural buildings and small shops

Planning minister Nick Boles is making it easier for agricultural buildings to be converted into housing or schools.

Up to 450 sq m of derelict or under-used buildings per farm could be turned into a maximum of three houses, he said.

Agricultural buildings up to 500 sq m will also be able to change to state-funded schools and registered nurseries.

The announcement was made as part of the Taylor review of planning practice guidance which began in 2012.

Boles also simplified the change of use of small under-used shops to housing, outside key shopping areas.

The relaxation on the change of use of agricultural buildings will not apply in national parks or areas of outstanding national beauty. But Boles warned the planning authorities in these areas to “take a positive and proactive approach to sustainable development”.

“National parks and other protected areas are living communities whose young people and families need access to housing if their communities are to grow and prosper,” he said.

Farmers will not be allowed to demolish barns - merely to convert them to housing. But campaigners warned of potential damage to the green belt.

Boles said: “I believe that these are a practical and reasonable set of changes that will help facilitate locally led development, promote brownfield regeneration and promote badly needed new housing at no cost to the taxpayer.”



Readers' comments (7)

  • Does this mean that agricultural barns that have already been converted into holiday let accommodation can now apply for change of use to residential

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  • Except they shot themselves in the foot when they specified the barns needed to be 'under-used', which will result I'm sure in practically every such proposal being refused the local authorities on trumped up grounds such as that...

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  • at last!
    The number of fantastic barns that have collapsed into ruin, and beyond repair due to enconimc redundancy, combined with ridiculous Planning rules is immeasurable.
    Quite why there is an arbitrary 'maximum of 3' rule, i don't know. A typical broad brush arbitrary statement that does not reflect the relaity on the ground, which should look at scale of development, access etc. They just can't help themselves.

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  • james francis


    If the building has already been converted then the permitted development rights are unlikely to apply as the building is no longer part of an agricultural holding. It’s a bit difficult to assess the full implications of this as some of what has been alluded sounds like not everything in the original consultation will be brought into force. The Permitted Development Rights are likely to be only applicable to agricultural holdings, although even those of a small size will count, and if used will then remove the standard PD rights a farm has for agricultural buildings (possibly for a ten year period). It will be a case of the devil being in the detail, particularly noting some of the appeals that have sought to define agriculture.

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  • james francis


    To limit the risk on a local authority trying to claim a building is not under used then a viability assessment could be made, this could focus on the fact many farmers have struggled over the last few years with the rising costs associated with livestock rearing and that the smaller buildings in question probably don’t offer the space needed for modern farming equipment or practices. Where the biggest risk could lie will be the issue of noise, not from the housing but from the farm as these could be an uncomfortable neighbour. Having a good understanding of the farms operation will enable you to make a robust case to the local authority and in my experience if you can also make a case for the importance of the building in landscape and building heritage value it gives you further ammunition in the case for retaining the building.

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  • Is this a law now? Does anywhere know where I can read the full legal details of this?

    James Francis, thanks for the nuanced view, but... that's the problem. Such matters need to be black and white, and not leave any wiggle room for planners, for otherwise 'if you give them an inch they'll take a mile'. How can I advise someone a barn is a good investment as a conversion project, when there isn't absolute certainty and they could be messed about by the planners for years for naught?

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  • james francis


    the Permitted Development rights may only apply to an agricultural holding (based on what little I have managed to glean so far) so there may not be an investment until the pre-approval process has been carried out by the landowner of the complete holding.

    The details are still not public it seems (the BBC News website sounded most frustrated by this fact when they broke this story on Friday!) With the pre-approval process you should get a decision within a tightly prescribed timeframe.

    I think we will see that these new Permitted Development rights rules may be very carefully crafted to ensure only agricultural holdings are granted these right to prevent them being used on buildings that merely happen to be in the countryside. On a plus side bear in mind they cover more than barns.

    It does seem we will not see the rebuild option that was in the consultation paper and the 150 square metre per unit to a maximum of 3 units (as opposed to the aggregated figure quoted above) may also limit some speculative developments.

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