Mark and Jan Mackaness knew they had just one shot at using the government’s Class Q permitted development rights and they worked hard to ensure they hit the bullseye.
Their conversion of a steel-framed grain store into a sensational country home close to Harrogate is an architectural triumph that has delivered a rental property now up for let at £5,750 per month. It could also help other landowners by showing them what is possible.
Introduced in 2014 to encourage rural enterprise and new home building, Class Q allows for redundant agricultural buildings to be converted without the need for planning permission. While the legislation sounds like a licence to convert with no strings attached, it has been anything but thanks to the small print and the need to get prior approval from local authority planning departments, which are generally averse to development in open countryside.
Many farmers have tried and failed to get the go-ahead and conservative estimates put the refusal rate at well below 50 per cent. Choosing the right building is vital, as is the location, along with a design that reflects the property’s former use. The rules also insist that landowners can only use Class Q once.
The couple, who own the Rudding Estate at Follifoot, have form for sensitive redevelopment of farmsteads on their land and have also revamped the Haggs Farm business park, now fuelled by solar power and ground source heat. Their use of green energy, knowledge of the planning system and their interest in design all helped them win Harrogate Council approval for their conversion.
Mark was a chartered surveyor and auctioneer before his family business demerged in 2003 leaving his brother, Simon, with the Rudding Park Hotel, golf course and holiday park, and him with 1,500 acres of land and buildings.
He says: “We chose this building because the location was right and we thought we could make a stunning job of it. Luckily the council agreed and we are very proud of how it has turned out.”
Built in 1985, the grain store had to stay within its original footprint and architect Nic Dormer of Merrell O’Flaherty Dormer was charged with upcycling it into a five-bedroom, four-bathroom home. The builder was AJ Hawkridge and Sons of Boroughbridge.
Nic says: “Having worked extensively with traditional barn conversions, we wanted to apply this experience to the grain barn by expressing the inherent qualities in a contemporary way. To achieve this, the building was ‘cut back’ at two of the corners to expose the steel skeleton, which frames the stunning views. The long bricks and sawn cedar boarding also reflect the scale and massing of the original building while adding warmth, texture and character.”
The property, which has a ground source heat pump, now has an open-plan living space with kitchen, living and dining areas, along with a separate sitting room, a utility room and garage, with the bedrooms and bathrooms on the newly-created first floor. The master bedroom suite was given added wow factor with a raised ceiling and enormous glazed windows.
Jan Mackaness, who planned the interior design and used local suppliers, says the views are the most important element of the property: “Nic designed in sight lines so you can see views everywhere, even when you are walking down the stairs so I didn’t want to do anything to compete with them.”
The walls are all in Farrow and Ball neutrals with hints of fashionable grey, creating a blank canvas for the new tenant. The investment has been considerable but the property is sure to attract top-flight interest. For landowners who might like to follow the Mackaness’s lead, Richard Pigott, a director of planningdesign.co.uk, says that what was intended as a relaxation of planning rules, remains a complex process: “Quite a strict view is now taken on what kind of redundant agricultural buildings can be converted under Class Q of permitted development. They have to be sturdy and well enclosed so pole barns are not suitable.”
The redundant building must also have been in agricultural use on March 20, 2013 and the total floorspace to be converted must be no more than 450m². Prior approval must also be sought from the local authority. Richard adds: “Most local authorities don’t like this kind of development and if they can find a reason to refuse approval they will, so it helps to do your homework.”
Contacts: Rudding Estate, www.rudding.com; Meryl O’Flaherty Dormer Architect, www.mofd-arcgitects.com; AJ Hawkridge Builders, 01423 322506; Kitchen by Interiors of Harrogate, www.ioh.co; Bathrooms by www.riponinteriors.co.uk; tiles from GH Brooks, www.ghbrooks.co.uk; carpets from www.morganscarpets.co.uk; Lighting, www.robinsonslighting.co.uk and fabrics, www.grahamsandersoninteriors.com.
** Church Farm, Follifoot, is for let through Feather Smailes and Scales, Harrogate. The low energy home, which has a ground source heat pump and high levels of insulation, is £5,750 per calendar month. It has five bedrooms and four bathrooms, including a master bedroom suite with dressing room and en-suite bathroom. Outside, there is a garden and parking area plus security gates. Simon Croft of FSS says “Church Farm has to be one of the best residential lets to come on the market in the area in the recent past. Luxury rental properties like this are rare and tend to be in very high demand.” Tel: 01423 501211, www.fssproperty.co.uk.