Barn Conversions

Posted May 12, 2018

This entry takes a new turn in the series written by our Architect and Associate, Stephen Paradise. In this article Stephen looks at Barn Conversions, offering a snapshot of the process that turns an agricultural building into a dwelling for you and your family. Here at Make we love bringing neglected buildings back to life, through creative reuse or conversion. In this article, we’ll take a look at the planning and development phase, through to building control, and finish with a number of principles we and our Clients adopt as part of the design process.



What is an agricultural building?

It is first worth asking an obvious question; what is an agricultural building? In a legal planning context, an agricultural building is a building which existed before 2013 (before a change in the planning legislation), and that the site and the building has been used exclusively for agricultural purposes. New barns may be built from this date but must be in use for a minimum of 10 years before a permitted development application to convert the structure into a dwelling becomes valid.

Planning Permission or Permitted Development?

Before building works can commence, the local authority must be consulted by way of prior notification as to whether the agricultural building works are permitted under a Lawful Development Certificate. The local authority may decide upon submission of a prior notification that the changes are significant such that a planning application is required.



Permitted Development – what constitutes permitted development?

Permitted development is a right conferred on a property owner to alter the nature of the building without the need for planning permission. Typically, this right pertains to minor extensions, loft conversions, and the creation of outbuildings within the curtilage. All are subject to local planning policy. For example, in conservations areas or national parks, many permitted development rights are removed. The order does permits building operations reasonably necessary to convert an agricultural building into a dwelling.

When is Permitted Development not Permitted Development?

The Permitted Development Order is a statutory instrument that outlines what is lawful without planning permission. Barns fall under ‘Class Q’, and generally, the order states that the cumulative development of floor space must not exceed 450sqm between a maximum of 3 residential units, eg. 3 units of 150sqm. In 2016, the High Court ruled that it is not the intention for permitted development rights to include the rebuilding of the existing load-bearing structure. Therefore, rebuilding from the super structure up requires a grant of planning permission.

Building Control

Normally, the full range of approved building regulations documents must be complied with when converting an agricultural building to a dwelling. Very few buildings are exempt from the regulations, and even those which are, have to comply with a number of the non-negotiable building codes. Your Architect will be able to liaise with the local authority to determine to which extent the regulations will apply, on a project by project basis.

For example, if the agricultural building is listed, this will allow the Applicant to make a case for certain derogations to the Building Control Officer. If it can be demonstrated that the material alteration would negatively impact the character or their appearance relating to its listing.



Barn Conversion Ethos

We find that adopting the following ethos and strategies create successful barn conversion projects; not only from a planning and regulatory perspective, but also by enhancing the overall enjoyment of the buildings by the people that live, work and play within them. This has the benefit of retaining the character and value of the barns that so many people fall in love with in the first place!

  1. Preserve and enhance the building’s original form and character
  2. Use traditional materials and techniques on a like-for-like basis
  3. Carefully plan internal spaces to maintain the original sense of space
  4. Keep the roof structure, timber trusses etc. open and visible
  5. New architectural elements should complement through a contemporary contrast
  6. Building services should be hidden or located on minor elevations
  7. Maintain the external appearance and character by internally insulating, or insulating between existing timber studs
  8. Gardens and courtyard spaces should not be overly suburban
  9. Existing openings should be enhanced and new openings sensitively designed
  10. Adopt an off-grid mentality to building services, as barns may not be easily connected to existing infrastructure
  11. New floors should be carefully planned to maintain a sense of openness

If you’d like to find out more or discuss your project ideas why not get in touch with us via email, Facebook or Twitter.