Boost property values by making use of redundant farm buildings
Changes to building and planning legislation could make it easier for farmers in England to convert redundant farm buildings into housing.
Getting development approval can massively increase the value of a building so farmers should consider any redundant barns as a potential source of income.
Many farm buildings can be converted without full planning permission under what is known as Class Q Permitted Development Rights and in a bid to boost rural housing these were further amended earlier this year to allow more buildings to be converted.
Subject to a number of conditions, agricultural buildings and land within their curtilage can convert to a shop, business, hotel or educational use or for residential uses.
For residential use, the maximum floor space that may be converted under permitted development rights in April 2018 was increased to 465 square metres from 450 square metres of floor space of a building or buildings within a single established agricultural unit to provide up to five new homes (increased from three new homes).
This total number of five new homes does not include existing residential properties within the agricultural unit, unless they were created by the use of a permitted development right on a previous occasion, in which case they would be counted.
The site must have been used solely for an agricultural use, as part of an established agricultural unit, on March 20, 2013, or if it was not in use on that date, when it was last in use.
If the site was brought into use after March 20, 2013, then it must have been used solely for an agricultural use, as part of an established agricultural unit, for 10 years before the date the development begins. If there is an agricultural tenancy in place, there are separate arrangements set out.
Building works are allowed under the change to residential use. The right allows for the installation or replacement of windows, doors, roofs, exterior walls, water, drainage, electricity, gas or other services necessary for the building to function as a dwelling house; and partial demolition necessary to carry out these building operations.
Before beginning the development, you will need to apply to the local planning authority for a determination as to whether the prior approval of the local planning authority is necessary for the change of use.
This prior approval will be in respect of transport, highways and noise impacts of the development and the flooding and contamination risks on the site, and whether the siting of the building makes it impractical or undesirable for the building to change to a dwelling.
In addition, applicants will need to check whether the prior approval of the authority will be required as to the design or external appearance of the building.
The permitted development right does not apply a test in relation to sustainability of location. Instead, the local planning authority can consider whether the location and siting of the building would make it impractical or undesirable to change use to a house.
The fact that an agricultural building is located where the local planning authority would not normally grant planning permission for a new dwelling is not a sufficient reason for refusing prior approval.
Kathryn Williams, Davis Meade property consultants at Oswestry