Review regulation for barn conversions to address rural housing shortage

15 November 2016

Local councils are continuing to block around half of all prior approval applications to turn redundant farm buildings into homes.

According to the latest figures on housing supply in England released by the Department for Communities and Local Government there has been a welcome increase in housebuilding across England but barn conversions in rural areas remain stalled. Only 226 homes have been built in 2015/16 using permitted development rights and around half of all prior approval applications in the whole country continue to be rejected by planning authorities.

The CLA which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses said the high refusal rates prove regulation on agricultural to residential permitted development rights is not working and needs reviewing in order to help counter the acute shortage of housing in rural areas.

CLA President Ross Murray said: “There is no question that the housing shortage is being felt just as keenly in the countryside as it is in our towns and cities. The problem with rural areas is that house prices are on average 22% higher than in urban areas and fewer homes are available.

“The refusal rate for converting old farm buildings is almost three times higher than approvals to convert offices to residential units which indicates the permitted development rights policy is not working. Some farm buildings are clearly not suitable for conversion so it would be unfair to pin all the blame on planning departments but the high rates of refusal and the small number of completions is a wake-up call to government that this policy requires attention.”

Mr Murray said local planning authorities persistently ignored the government’s intention behind converting farm buildings into homes which undermined the development of sustainable rural communities.

He added: “The Government must make it clear to local authorities that permitted development rights are a vital part of its strategy to deliver new homes in rural areas. Converting barns into homes is an excellent way to bring redundant or underused farm buildings back into use. It helps to address the rural housing shortage and build a sustainable community but the regulation needs change to realise its full potential.”