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Barn conversions: Planning Permission, Class Q permitted development rights 2024

Have you thought about converting a barn into a home in the countryside but not sure where to start?

Perhaps you’ve been wondering about planning permission for barn conversions and the best way to go about converting these existing agricultural buildings?

Rest assured, you’re not alone! Many people have been considering swapping the fast-paced city-life for their dream home in the countryside.

There are many benefits to converting a barn to a residential dwelling to include value for money, spaciousness, sustainability and above all, the idyllic location that usually comes part of the package.

Read our guide to Barn Conversions aims to dive into everything you need to know to convert these popular agricultural structures into a residential dwelling suitable for modern family life.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

What is a barn conversion?

A barn conversion is a popular type of scheme where an existing agricultural building that is disused is converted into either a home, an office or a holiday home. The external appearance and internal of the existing structure is usually significantly improved. This trend has actually been great for safeguarding numerous aging barns that might have otherwise faced demolition or left to fall into disarray.

Modern amenities are added such as plumbing, heating and electricity to achieve the overall goal of creating functional living space that also preserves the original features and charm of the existing property.  

Why choose a Barn Conversion in UK?

There are several reasons people choose to convert barns in the UK. Let’s take a look: 

1) Sustainability

What makes an agricultural conversion a sustainable living option in the UK?

As we are all aware, the current global climate and environmental challenges are increasing the need to invest in low-energy, sustainable homes that prioritise the environment and utilise locally sourced and recyclable building materials.

This is where barn conversions thrive as the epitome of sustainability, offering homes capable of generating more energy than they consume through renewable sources – a highly attractive feature.

More and more people investing in property are looking to be more environmentally conscious, looking for homes that emphasising sustainable design and efficiency. Barn conversions tick this box, while providing all the charm of a period building without the drawbacks such as creaks, draughts, or soaring heating expenses

2) Location

Where would the best location be for my barn conversion?

If you have ever dreamt of off-grid living or simply being somewhere a little bit tucked away, purchasing a barn property could be the right choice for you. Barns are found across the country and can be in isolated rural areas to semi-isolated rural areas offering you a more peaceful way of living if you are feeling fed-up with the city life. Barn conversions have become very popular amongst rural areas in the UK, in places such as Norfolk, Shropshire, Somerset and Devon – all across the country really!

3) Value for money

Are barn conversions a good investment?

These conversions could be considered a long-term investment. This will however depend on several factors including if your conversion has been carried out to a high specification, if there are no substantial changes to area around your barn and if the property has been well maintained.

4) Providing spacious living

What are the spatial benefits to converting a barn?

Given the nature of a barn – they are usually big and open internally providing the perfect base to create a spacious home with open-plan layouts that lend themselves to modern family living. If you are dreaming of a home that has the capacity for larger living/dining/entertaining areas lending themselves to having guests over or accommodating large families, they might be a great option for you.

5) Preserving historical and architectural heritage

How do barn conversions contribute to preserving historical and architectural heritage?

Barn conversions revitalise neglected structures that help to safeguard the UK’s rich architectural heritage. By transforming these farmstead structures, not only are they rescued from neglect but the historical craftmanship and ingenuity is protected. Authentic elements inside the barn such as exposed beams, stone walls or traditional roofing materials that are preserved help portray a clear image of the property’s history adding a sense of authenticity and charm to the modernised spaces in the conversion.

Planning Permission for a barn conversions – what local authority regulations apply?

For this type of development, Permitted Development Rights can apply. This allows homeowners to carry out building work to their homes without needing to apply for planning permission from their local authority and have traditionally been used to enable minor extensions, loft conversions and the creation of outbuildings to be carried out without the need for notification.

There are several elements to consider here that can be a bit difficult to navigate through but let’s take a look:

Do barn conversions have permitted development rights?

In most cases, yes. Changes in legislation over the past years have made it possible now to covert existing agricultural buildings for example into residential dwellings without needing to explicitly apply for planning permission as had been previously the case.

Permitted development rights will allow homeowners to carry out building work to their barns without needing to apply for full planning permission from their local authority.

Class Q of the permitted development rights (agricultural buildings to dwellinghouses) seek to make the planning process when it comes to converting a barn building to a home simpler.

There of course will be some paper work and before starting any work, the applicant must apply to the local authority to establish whether they will need to submit an application for prior approval which can be done by your designer or planning consultant. This needs to be carried out to ensure the conversion of your barn is in line with planning law and to engage with the Council and planning officer to confirm they are 100% accepting of your proposal to convert an existing agricultural structure to residential use.

In essence, obtaining prior approval for a barn conversion enables the local authority to evaluate the proposal and its potential effects on transportation, highways, noise, contamination, flood risk and potential mitigation measures. This process also encompasses aspects like internal walls, windows, roofs and materials involved in converting your agricultural barn. The Local Authority has 56 days to review and assess your application for prior approval.

How much can I rebuild the existing structure?

Class MB permits reasonable building operations to convert a barn into a house, but with specific guidelines concerning permitted development.

This can be a little tricky and needs to be understood carefully. Barn conversions are categorised under a class designated as “MB”, located in Part 3 of the Second Schedule of the General Permitted Development Order which allow you to convert your barn into a dwelling if:

1) The barn has been built by 20th March 2013 and if it is a new barn, it needs to have existed ONLY as an agricultural building for at least 10 years.

2) Internally, the conversion does not exceed 465m2 of total floor area

3) The 465m2 can be divided into a max of 5 dwellings

4) The site must be agricultural land and have ONLY have been used for agricultural purposes

5) Landowners have the express consent of their tenants if the site is subject to agricultural tenancy.

It is very important to note, you must get a prior notification from the Council before carrying out any building works that would change the use of the barn to something else, even if the scheme falls under permitted development rights.

What does a prior approval application under Class Q look like?

As mentioned, while you do not have to follow the traditional route of submitting all the documents for a full planning application, the Class Q route can be quite tricky as there are a few requirements you need to meet to qualify for Permitted development rights to convert a barn.

In short, the legislation under Class Q specifies a set of conditions that MUST be met before any work on the conversion of the barn can be carried out.

To prove your proposal is legal in line with planning law and is a lawful development, you’ll need to show you have satisfied all the conditions set out under the legislation to ensure your proposal is not rejected.

As of recent, the following need to be submitted for a prior approval application under Class Q:

1) A detailed set of proposed drawings: Floor Plans, Elevations, Sections

2) A list of proposed uses for each room specified in the design

3) A daylight assessment

4) Dimensions of proposed doors, windows and walls

5) Compliance with minimum space standards for all habitable rooms.

What are the criteria my barn needs to fall under to qualify for permitted development rights?

1) The barn must have been used for agricultural purposes on 20th March 2013 or within 10 years from when you have decided to carry out your conversion scheme

2) The barn cannot be listed (if it is you will need to go down the traditional route with submitting a full application and listed building consent)

3) The barn cannot be in a conservation area or an area designated for outstanding beauty (AONB) If it is, it does not qualify for PD rights.

4) The building must be a conversion and not look anything like a new-build scheme – the application should demonstrate that it will be reusing/repurposing the existing barn to create a dwelling house.

5) The barn must reflect the original use ensuring that the overall character of the conversion distinctly echoes its prior function as an agricultural structure or barn. Windows and doors are permissible but they should only be incorporated where deemed necessary.

Do I need planning permission for barn conversion?

There are a strict set of criteria your barn needs to fall under to qualify for PD rights. If it doesn’t satisfy all of these, it will need to be submitted to ensure lawful development.

A key example of when a full planning application needs to be submitted is if the barn is situated within a conservation area or Area of Outstanding natural beauty.

When putting together a full planning application under these conditions (i.e if its in a conservation area) you will need a very strong justification showing the proposal and its planning merit and why you think this proposal is justified on protected land. The proposal must be in line with planning legislation of at all levels including the NPPF.

Your application should justify that the proposal is in keeping with its be in keeping with its original surroundings, maintain the character of the original building respect protected wildlife species and their habitats of the existing building and it shows respect of any protected wildlife and their habitats.

While indeed it is not impossible to gain permission via the traditional route of submitting a planning application, this will enable more local authority power where the local planning authority will have more of a say in the design. This can turn into a lengthy battle in securing permission to convert your structure from agricultural use to residential use.

Building regulations – Do I need to apply for these?

Most definitely! Building control approval is also required and should not be thought of as just another form! Building regulations are extremely important to ensure safety and quality of your works and are separate from applications with local authorities.

Obtaining building regulations will ensure a safe conversion of your agricultural structures to residential units that meet all required standards.

How to budget for your works

How can you estimate initial costs for an agricultural conversion in the UK?

For an initial budget, an estimated cost starts at around £1,700 per square metre.

As each barn can vary in some many different ways, possessing their own individual challenges, it may be hard to set an initial budget.

Consequently, the estimated conversion cost can significantly vary from £150,000 for small barns to £400,000 for larger ones.

 Again, this will be a very rough estimate as finishes added to the interiors can drive the costs up and if any serious structural changes will be required.

Selecting professionals for your barn conversion

What is the role of architectural designers in barn conversions?

The pivotal choice for you is selecting the right architectural designer for your design, specifically those who are seasoned in barn conversions. They will be able to help manage the project from start to finish, it all depends on how involved you would like them to be. You will also most probably need to bring a structural engineer on board.

Designing your barn

Can you extend a barn conversion?

Extensive changes to barns may face resistance from the local authorities, yet approval for smaller, subordinate extensions is more possible. The key lies in ensuring that any new additions align with the barn’s scale and style, demonstrating sensitivity to the existing fabric.

Barn conversion before and after

Check out some before and after barn conversions here to see what the possibilities could be!

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