Relaxed barn conversion rules are economic boost to rural areas, land valuers say

Agricultural land valuers have no concerns about the effects of relaxed planning rules that will allow agricultural buildings to be converted into as many as five homes, claiming the move will deliver 'a real boost' the local economy.

Picture by Chris Lawton.

As reported in The Yorkshire Post earlier this week, the Local Government Association fears that a potential surge in barn conversion homes, as a result of the rule change, could compound the already acute pressure on rural schools and roads.

Previously, an agricultural building could only be converted into three new homes, without the need for full planning permission. National parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are exempt from the permitted development rules, which will otherwise be extended to allow for five homes from April 6.

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The Local Government Association (LGA) said the nature of these conversions mean developers will not contribute to local services, infrastructure and affordable housing as is otherwise prescribed via the granting of planning consent.

Coun Martin Tett, the LGA’s housing spokesman, said: “Permitted development rules allow developers to bypass local influence and convert existing buildings to flats, and to do so without providing affordable housing and local services and infrastructure such as roads and schools.”

But the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV) believes the move will support the rural economy by keeping more people in countryside communities.

Kate Russell, policy and technical adviser at the CAAV, said: “It will create new housing in rural areas where local people often struggle to find homes, supporting the rural economy by keeping people in those areas.”

Of the five permitted new homes, up to three may be “larger dwelling houses” of more than 100 sq m of floor space, provided that their total floor space is no more than 465 sq m.

Ms Russell said: “There is flexibility for a range of options within this. For example, landowners might choose to create one larger house of 465 sq m plus four smaller houses of up to 100 sq m each, or they might create five smaller houses.”

The changes will encourage the creation of homes which could be suitable as starter homes, farm workers’ houses or retirement homes, she said.

“There is a real need for more rural houses. These new regulations will make it much easier for landowners to give a new lease of life to disused farm buildings and offer a real boost to the rural economy.”