Barn conversions success for the Oxford Planning Team’
Date of Article
Jan 15 2016

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15 January 2016, The Oxford Planning Team has successfully secured two separate approvals, under permitted development, for the conversion of agricultural barns to dwellings within Aylesbury Vale.

The first was for the conversion of a brick barn where, prior to Carter Jonas’ instruction, consent had been refused on grounds of locational unsustainability. This was on the basis that the site was located within the open countryside and a locally designated Area of Attractive Landscape. Concern was also raised regarding the extent of external alterations proposed.’

However, in April 2015, subsequent to this refusal, the national Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) was updated. This clarified that ‘The permitted development right does not apply a test in relation to sustainability of location. This is deliberate as the right recognises that many agricultural buildings will not be in village settlements and may not be able to rely on public transport for their daily needs. 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.’

Carter Jonas submitted a fresh application based on this clarification, and made appropriate amendments to the design of the conversion, and secured Prior Approval for the change of use of the barn to a dwelling.

In the second case, and more recently, Carter Jonas prepared and submitted a Prior Notification for the change of use of 3 buildings; comprising one open fronted traditional stone barn and two modern agricultural buildings, to one residential dwelling. Again, prior to Carter Jonas’ instruction, the site had been the subject of two previous notifications that had been refused on a number of design and structural grounds.

During the preparation of this recent Prior Notification, Carter Jonas and Sutton Griffin Architects worked closely together to overcome the previous design concerns and instructed a consultancy of engineers to assess the fabric and structural condition of the existing barns. This concluded that the barns were in adequate condition with no evidence of significant structural defects, and as such would be suitable for conversion to a single storey dwelling house.

The Council agreed with Carter Jonas and on 11th January 2016, Prior Approval was granted.

The seemingly streamlined legislation concerning the conversion of rural buildings is not as straightforward as initially hoped as the wording and limitations imposed as conditions or exceptions provides Local Planning Authorities with significant discretion in determining these Prior Notification/Approval applications. A key issue is the structural soundness of the existing building and a number of applications have been refused by Councils and dismissed at appeal as a result of a building’s lack of structural integrity. There also seems to be inconsistencies in the application of the legislation by Councils. If in doubt, it is recommended to seek professional advice.

If you have any queries relating to the conversion of rural buildings and permitted development rights, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Oxford Planning team for advice.