Planning consent to build a new home in the countryside is rarely granted and so the conversion of a barn offers an unrivalled opportunity to build a dream home in a stunning rural location. Barns also have large open spaces that lend themselves to flexible open-plan living spaces that are great family homes. So, if you’re looking for somewhere to raise a family, a barn conversion could be the right answer. This also applies to modern “shed” barns although turning these structures into homes requires expertise and imagination. Changes in planning law have made it easier to reuse barns as houses and give new life to agricultural buildings that otherwise become disused.
Our first step is to prepare a sketch design and feasibility study to answer 3 key questions:
Could the barn provide you with the home you want?
Will you get planning approval?
How much will it all cost?
The answers to these questions allow you to make an informed decision about whether the project is viable.
Some barns make a positive contribution to the rural scene, especially where they have traditional roof shapes and use local materials such as clay tiles, timber cladding and brick. In that case, we preserve these important features, working with them to add modern windows and doors that contribute to the daylight and views. Some barns are much more utilitarian and could be said to spoil the countryside. In that case, we look for opportunities to enhance the cladding and roofs to soften their impact. We work with clients either right from the start, before planning approval has been granted, or we can take an inherited planning consent to work our magic to improve the design and tailor it to your needs.
We work in 3D all the time because it helps us achieve the best design and explain schemes to clients in a user-friendly way. You can see more details about the 3D design process and how it benefits you here. This is an image of a barn conversion entrance we have just completed in Hawkhurst where we have used charred timber as an external cladding.
This image shows the way we have inserted a feature staircase into the main entrance space.
We have years of experience in making planning applications and a thorough understanding of what planning officers are looking for. Where obtaining consent is more challenging, we work closely with planning consultants who can provide planning law arguments that help support an application. Much of the area we have experience with is either within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or the green belt areas around Sevenoaks, Maidstone and Dartford. We are used to working in with planning officers in Tunbridge Wells, Ashford, Folkestone and Hythe, Rother, Wealden, Maidstone, Tonbridge and Malling, Tandridge, Dartford and Sevenoaks. Our work has also involved numerous listed buildings and we are used to working to enhance important heritage features in a way that can make or break a listed building approval.
Permitted development - Class Q
Planning law includes work that you can carry out without requiring planning approval and this is known as permitted development. You may have come across this relating to home extensions. Barn conversions are covered by another specific part of this legislation called Class Q which exists to allow the reuse of barns as homes as long as the barn meets certain requirements. However you can’t just start work, you need to submit a prior approval application to ensure that it is both legal and that the council do not have any reason to prevent the work from being done. Prior approval requires the local council authority to check the impact on transport, noise, contamination and flood risk and to assess the changes proposed to the walls, windows, roof and materials, all within a fixed timescale of 56 days. So the prior approval application must show precisely how your scheme meets the very specific set of conditions included in the class Q requirements. The information you need to provide also includes drawings showing the floor plans and elevations including an assessment of natural light. The part Q permitted development rights do not apply if the barn is:
Less than 10 years old
A listed building
Not structurally sound
Within a conservation area, national park or area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB)
Planning if part Q doesn’t apply
It can still be possible to obtain planning consent to change the use of a barn within conservation areas, national parks or areas of outstanding natural beauty however it is a more complex approval process and you need to demonstrate that the design makes a significant improvement to the area, remains in keeping with it's surroundings and respects the site ecology and wildlife.
Class Q fallback
Sometimes it can be useful to obtain consent under part Q and then use that as a fallback position. The planning argument would be that further enhancement of the site and the surrounding countryside can be offered by a different design, even one that perhaps demolishes the existing barn. This is a much higher-risk strategy and because you are effectively making two applications, it takes longer and costs more.
If your barn is listed, the first thing to do is assess the importance of the heritage of both the building and the way it is constructed. The design then needs to maintain and enhance the important heritage whilst giving the building a new lease of life that will preserve its heritage for future generations.
Get in touch
If you own a barn or are thinking of buying one, do get in touch. We can talk about the building and your ideas to help you choose the right path to success. We offer a free video call that you can book by getting in touch via our contact page.