Sector: Agriculture & Rural Estates
Associate, Kate Wood of Pegasus Group’s Cambridge office writes for this month’s Farmers Guardian.
The lack and available range of housing across the country is one of the big issues for the Government at present and different ways of creating new stock is being sought. This includes using different methods of construction such as pre-fabrication to speed up the building process or by cooperatives getting together to create a self-build scheme.
In rural areas, the need for housing is just as keenly felt as young people find it difficult to find a home where they grew up. An area where Pegasus Group is finding success is in taking advantage of the Permitted Development right to convert modern agricultural buildings to dwellings.
While the conversion of traditional barns has long been accepted as a way of finding new uses for buildings in the countryside, the ‘Class Q’ permitted development rights introduced in 2015 allow for the conversion of just about any rural building provided it is structurally sound. It is still necessary to make an application to the Council planners but this is a Prior Approval application which only allows the Council to consider certain issues, so is less restrictive than established local planning policies. The rights allow for a barn or barns to be converted to up to 3 dwellings on each agricultural holding. There are some boxes to be ticked for the conversion to be classed as permitted development, in which case a Prior Approval application is then submitted to demonstrate to the Council that there won’t be any problems with contamination, noise, highways, the external design, flood risk and practicality.
The photo in this article shows one such barn where Prior Approval was granted. Once that approval was obtained the owners wanted to rebuild the barn slightly further away so that it would be outside a flood risk zone. In addition, rebuilding provided the opportunity to reconsider the internal layout they wanted rather than being constrained by the shape of the existing barn, while keeping to the same overall bulk. Planning policy would not normally allow a new dwelling in the countryside, but we argued (at appeal against refusal of the subsequent full planning application) that the existence of the prior approval was a fall-back position. It was a matter of fact that there would be a new dwelling in this location and we set out to show there would be no greater visual impact from the replacement building. The new dwelling will have a more elegant design and appearance to suit the needs of the owners as well as being an improvement in terms of flood risk. Pegasus Group are now using this planning permission granted at appeal as precedent for other situations where a building can legitimately be converted to a dwelling but would be better provided as a new build.
When the UK leaves the EU and therefore the Common Agricultural Policy, the Queen’s Speech has promised an Agriculture Bill to support UK farmers and protect the natural environment. Until that comes to fruition, rural landowners live with a level of uncertainty so it’s good to know options are available to maximise the value of their assets through the planning system.
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