Tuesday, 13 August 2013
Barn conversions to be permitted development
Lack of time prevented my writing on all the changes proposed by the recent consultation paper on “Greater flexibilities for change of use”, and so I dealt initially only with the proposed permitted development rights for change of use from retail (A1) or from professional and financial services (A2) to residential use (C3). However, a more dramatic, and potentially controversial, proposal is to allow a change of use of existing agricultural buildings to residential use (together with associated physical works) – the classic barn conversion.
There are already permitted development rights for the change of use of agricultural buildings to use for commercial purposes. So, having allowed conversion of agricultural buildings to other uses, the government sees no reason in principle to restrict this, although they acknowledge that what would be an acceptable change of use needs to be carefully defined. They say they want to avoid high-impact development occurring without the opportunity for local consideration.
The specific proposal is that up to 3 additional dwelling houses (which could include flats) could be converted on an agricultural unit which already existed on 20 March 2013, with an upper limit of 150 sq m for each dwelling, which would allow for a home of reasonable size without its being excessively large. This would apply to any agricultural unit irrespective of its size. (An agricultural unit comprises agricultural land which is occupied as a unit for the purposes of agriculture, including any dwelling or other building on that land occupied for the purpose of farming the land by the person who occupies the unit, or any dwelling on that land occupied by a farm worker.)
Such a new permitted development right for change of use of agricultural buildings to residential use is likely to need some external alterations, and the government recognises that for this permitted development right to be effective it should also include provision for some limited physical development. This would even extend “where appropriate” to the demolition and rebuilding of the property on the same footprint. (Hallelujah! At last we shall see an end to the precious insistence on retention of the existing grotty fabric of life-expired barns and similar buildings that are being converted.)
The catch to these proposals is that prior approval for siting and design would be required to ensure that the physical development complies with local plan policies on design, materials and outlook, and that there would also be a requirement for prior approval in respect of transport and highways impact, noise impact, contamination and flooding risks to ensure that the change of use takes place only in ‘sustainable’ locations. No mention is made here, however, of the NPPF or of the local development plan in general.
Unless I have misread the consultation paper, this permitted development right would not be excluded on “Article 1(5) land” (i.e. in conservation areas, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Norfolk Broads and World Heritage Sites). No mention is made of listed buildings, but perhaps the need for Listed Building Consent for alterations affecting their character is thought to be sufficient protection without requiring any further restriction affecting the proposed permitted development rights set out here.
One of the consequences of the proposed change is that it may become easier in future to create new agricultural dwellings, without having to jump through the hoops currently required by paragraph 55 of the NPPF (and the tests formerly prescribed by Annex A to PPS7). Furthermore, such a dwelling would not be subject to an agricultural occupancy condition.
The government seems dimly to perceive that they may be creating a potential loophole here, and so they propose that in future an owner will be able to choose to exercise either the existing permitted right to construct a new agricultural building under Part 6 (for purely agricultural, not residential use) or the new right for conversion of an agricultural building to a dwelling house. Where the new right is exercised the owner will only be able to exercise the permitted development right for construction of a new agricultural building once a period of 10 years has elapsed. The stated intention is that only where the agricultural buildings are genuinely redundant will it be appropriate to grant a permitted development right to allow for the change of use of that building to residential use. In addition an owner will not be able to exercise the new right if they used the existing permitted development right to construct a new agricultural building on or after the publication of this consultation paper (on 7 August 2013). However, as the paper points out, this will not prevent an application for planning permission for development during this period.
As noted elsewhere in the consultation paper, local planning authorities will be able to issue Article 4 Directions to prevent or restrict such changes of use, although compensation may become payable.
Subject to the consultation exercise (which is due to end in October), the intention is that these further amendments to the GPDO should take effect in April 2014.
© MARTIN H GOODALL