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Tue 11 February 2020
As a land agency practice, RH & RW Clutton exercises a wide range of rural land and property skills for clients. One example is the proposed conversion to residential of a brick and tiled barn, long since redundant for agriculture, on a country estate.
Planning as ever is key to adding value. This starts with a review of the local authority’s planning policy. Several policies are relevant here: development considerations; quality of development; natural environment; nature conservation; Greenbelt; neighbour amenities; building design; access design. The Local Authority in question is expected to be supportive of a sensible and professionally prepared conversion scheme.
Rural employment is a key emerging policy. Proposals for re-use and adaptation of rural buildings must satisfy three tests:
· Direct access to distributor road network
· Sound and permanent construction;
· Be capable of conversion/re-use without re-building, alteration or extension.
Provided the building meets these pre-conditions, the preferred re-use is for a rural business or other employment opportunity or one that would provide a community facility or service. Only where demonstrable adverse impacts would arise or such a use is shown to be unviable would an alternative use be considered. Open market housing (the client’s objective) will only be considered if a tourism use or locally affordable housing use would be demonstrably inappropriate or unviable to sustain.
This means that evidence must be produced to show why an open market dwelling is the only viable option.
A building survey is required to show that the structure is sound and capable of re-use without re-building. This does not preclude essential repairs such as repointing brickwork, replacing steel roof sheeting with tiles and so on.
An ecological assessment is now required by many local authorities. The preliminary appraisal in this case reveals some potential for Bats (protected species).
A single evening Bat survey is recommended to be undertaken in early May to ensure robust results. To the side of the barn is a small derelict pond. This has been tested for Great-Crested Newts revealing a “poor” rating which means no further testing is needed in the absence of any plan to fill in/alter the pond. Given the proximity of woodland to the site, the ecologist will be recommending no nesting habitat to be removed during the bird breeding season (end-February to end-August).
Another challenge in this case is the presence of an electricity H-pole and mounted transformer close to the rear of the building which blights the site. Negotiations have opened with the district network operator to relocate the transformer to another pole some distance away on the same farm and divert the supply via an underground route.
Access is a key issue. The existing access is narrow and sub-standard. We have recommended seeking consent to upgrade an agricultural access on to the highway where sight-lines are good and to construct a new internal road to the site. This does however impact on openness of the Greenbelt.
The next stage is instructing an architect to prepare drawings for a 3-bed conversion of the barn maximising the available floor space: approx. 140 m2.
Assuming the emerging Bat survey reveals nothing untoward, an application for planning permission backed up with the required reports is to be submitted in the spring. If granted, it is the client’s intention to put the property on the open market for sale with the benefit of consent.
Please visit our website for further information on planning and development : https://www.rhrwclutton.com/pages/town-and-country-planning-and-development
If you have a barn or any other farm buildings that may be suitable for conversion, please contact our offices : https://www.rhrwclutton.com/branches/east-grinstead .
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