Fears barn conversions will compound rural pressures

A potential surge in barn conversion homes could compound the acute pressure already being placed on rural schools and roads, the Local Government Association (LGA) claims.

The Local Government Association fears that the Government's changes to permitted development regulations could cause a big increase in the number of conversions and that this will heap extra pressures on local infrastructure.

The LGA fears that changes to permitted development rules, which come into force on April 6, may trigger a dramatic increase in the number of conversions.

Currently, landowners can convert agricultural buildings into three new homes without the need for planning permission, but the changes will allow individual agricultural buildings to be converted into five homes.

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The LGA said this means an increasing number of larger agricultural to residential conversions could occur without the need to get planning permission or contribute towards local services, infrastructure and affordable housing.

It highlighted figures which showed there had already been a 46 percent jump in residential conversions from agricultural buildings in England. In 2016/17, 330 homes were created from agricultural buildings, up from 226 a year earlier.

Councillor Martin Tett, the LGA’s housing spokesman, said: “Councils want to see more affordable homes built quickly and the conversion of offices, barns and storage facilities into residential flats is one way to deliver much-needed homes. However, it is vital that councils and local communities have a voice in the planning process.

“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.

“Relaxations to ‘agri to resi’ permitted developments risk sparking significant increases in the number of new homes escaping planning scrutiny in rural areas.”

But Housing Minister Dominic Raab said: “Through strengthening planning rules and targeted investment, we are ensuring we are building the homes the country needs as well as the local services needed by communities.

“In rural communities our changes will mean more flexibility on how best to use existing buildings to deliver much-needed properties. This is part of our ambitious plans to get Britain building homes again and ensure they are affordable for local communities.”