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Barn conversions – the challenges and opportunities

A barn conversion can create an unique countryside home full of character and charm.

Changing the use of any building into residential, particularly a barn conversion project, provides a number of challenges. In addition there are also many opportunities. Historic buildings particularly require careful consideration to retain the unique features while creating a functional and efficient home.The appeal of the traditional barn conversion is clear. Beautiful rural locations combine with large open spaces many having vaulted ceilings. In addition, large openings provide the opportunity for unique contemporary living in a period setting.The success of any barn conversion is a balance. The existing structure, openings, limitations and quirks of the existing building are aspects to consider. In addition the practicality, light, space, energy efficiency and comfort of new dwellings are others.A stone or brick barn conversion is a typical form of a change of use to residential. However, with the right approach and creative thinking many buildings could turn into high quality family homes.

The Planning System and Barn Conversions

The planning system is often quite restrictive in allowing the change of a building into residential use in rural areas.

The planning system can become even more strict when the existing barn is not a traditional stone or brick agricultural building. It is imperative to review the specific planning policy of the relevant local planning authority carefully. To understand which buildings would normally be allowed and hence what supporting information needs to accompany a planning application.Typically a structural assessment of the building is important to ensure and demonstrate that the existing barn is structurally sound and capable of conversion.Protected Species surveys (bats, birds, owls etc) ensure that no wildlife is disturbed. Consequently not including these can have significant time and cost issues if not considered at the appropriate times.From a design perspective, Planning Officers often don’t like significant external alterations. These can include new windows or doors as well as external materials. This can often require creative solutions to make high quality homes.The Council may also involve historic building/ conservation officers to review the specific details of the barn conversion. Ensuring that the character of the building remains intact whilst allowing for the requirements of modern life. This could involve items such as externally insulating the external fabric and/ or retaining existing structural features.This section specifically deals with rural barn conversions and existing buildings. However, there are many buildings within villages and towns that may be suitable for conversion into homes. If you are looking to convert an existing building into a home please contact us to discuss further.

Permitted Development – Part Q

Planning Permission is not the only way of converting agricultural buildings into contemporary family homes.

It may be possible to convert an agricultural building into a dwelling house through permitted development leglislation, (specifically Part Q of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015) in England.The legislation does allow for physical changes to the building, but not extensions, including the installation (or replacement) of windows, doors, roof or exterior walls and services. There are further limitations, requirements and stipulations including the size of the space to be converted, the level of building works required, the location and the lawful use of the building among others.The process of obtaining “prior approval” is different to that of seeking planning permission and there are limited opportunities for the Local Planning Authority to prevent the change of use of the building from agricultural to a dwelling house including:

– the impacts from transport/ highways and noise
– the risks relating to flooding, contamination as well as some more subjective aspects including
– the design or external appearance of the building and whether the location or siting of the building would make it “otherwise impractical or undesirable” for the change of use.

Whilst this section specifically deals with the change of use from agricultural buildings into residential, there are other permitted development options including the change of use of offices into residential. If you are looking to convert an existing building into a home please contact us to discuss further.

Hunter Architects & Planners Expert Involvement With Barn Conversion Projects

Sympathetic transformation – balancing the existing buildings history and former use with the requirements and needs of modern life to create a high quality unique home.

At Hunter Architects & Planners we have worked on various barn conversion projects, as well as the conversion of other existing buildings. Each project presents its own challenges and opportunities however the common threads remain.

• Analyse the history and previous uses.

• Understand the planning constraints and opportunities.

• Embrace the existing features and quirks.

• Get the internal layout right.

• Consider natural light and energy efficiency.

• The barns weren’t constructed with a view of future human habitation and as such there may be limited openings within the external fabric and these openings could be either very small or very substantial and in some cases taller than one floor.

• In addition the buildings will often have little by way of insulation in the floor, walls and roof which will be required by building regulations.

Please note that the above comments are given as a simplistic over view of barn conversions and the change of use of existing buildings into residential homes and should not be treated as specific advice.

Please Contact us to discuss your Barn Conversion project or for any enquiries relating to any change of use including agricultural buildings into residential.

Planning Approval by Barn Conversion Architects in Cheshire
RIBA Architect designed change of use to residential - barn conversion

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