Barn Doors Opening Wider for Development

Even if we weren’t born in a barn, many of us love the idea of converting one into a spacious and unique home.  Certainly, Trewin Design has been involved in some outstanding conversion projects over the years, including our innovative design for a project in North Devon.



Well, if this has been a dream of yours for a while, you may just be in luck.  The Government have recently issued new legislation, due to come into force on 6 April this year, which will relax planning on barn conversions and could mean a change of use into residential without planning consent.

In a nutshell, the new legislation will allow redundant agricultural buildings, belonging to one farm unit, to be converted into a maximum of three dwellings, provided they are no bigger than 450 square metres in total (or 150 square metres per unit).  In theory, it may also mean that a barn can be partially demolished, provided that with the rebuild it ends up being no bigger than its original size.

Okay, we still have to go through a planning process, but the ‘Prior Notification Procedure’ as it is now called, is much simpler and the good news is that it will be very difficult for the planning authority to object.  There are certain conditions attached, but this is generally all very positive, especially in many districts of Devon where there have been restrictions on barn conversions for many years.

So what is the bottom line?  Well drawings may still have to be submitted along with a site plan and description of the proposal, but this is far less complicated than the current requirements.  Of course, Highways will still have the right to object, so any proposal going through this procedure would need to show good access with adequate visibility etc.  Additionally, Listed buildings or those within designated areas, such as National Parks, AONB’s, Conservation Areas are exempt.

Overall, this is good news.  However, I think it is important to bear in mind that transforming a purely operational structure into a unique and fully functioning home that is both admired and practical is not for the inexperienced.  It needs the creative skills and experience of a good designer to ensure that a vision is turned into a wonderful reality, rather than an eternal nightmare.  This is not just from the point of view of the owner, but also to preserve the beauty and character of our landscape. Many barns are situated in prominent spots and even if they have fallen into a state of disrepair, they still bring an essential charm and authenticity to the area, which it would be sad to lose.  Sensitive conversion, that preserves this character whilst creating a very special living space, can only be achieved with clever design.

Further good news is that this new legislation may also open up scope for the development of a far wider range of building conversions.  It may be possible that some ‘modern’ barns may also be converted and if these are to be given the thumbs up for approval, they will certainly need creative flair and innovative design to emerge as the kind functioning and attractive homes that planners would wish to see.   In fact, as the legislation states that planners can still consider the merits of the design in their decision, it is a good idea to get a professional involved in the design of any conversion.

In summary…  there has probably never been a better time to explore the possibility of a barn or agricultural building conversion and the chances of gaining permission for developing are high, provided you have the appropriate expertise at hand (that’ll be Trewin Design of course ;-)).

Written by James Trewin



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