Sheds today, houses tomorrow
New Permitted Development Rights (PDR) have opened up opportunities for farmers to revitalise redundant agricultural buildings and reinvent them as residential dwellings – helping to increase the rural housing supply without harming the intrinsic beauty of the countryside, and enabling farmers to extract maximum value from buildings which would otherwise stand unused.
That is the message which will be drummed home at a seminar later next week entitled ‘Sheds Today, Houses Tomorrow’. Experts from Lovewell Blake and Durrants will outline all aspects of building conversion, from securing planning approval, valuation and developing a sales strategy, to navigating tax requirements.
“The snappily titled Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 came into force in April 2014, and it has dramatically changed the planning landscape for farmers seeking to convert derelict and redundant agricultural buildings for residential use,” said Brian Bale, agricultural services partner at Lovewell Blake, who will chair the meeting.
“This represents a real opportunity for farm businesses to extract value from their unused buildings, in a way which wasn’t possible before. But it is important to propose schemes which fit the Permitted Development Rights criteria, as well as understand the process of conversion, construction and sales, as well as implications in areas such as tax.”
Historically councils only contemplated the conversion of traditionally constructed barns, such as clay lump and brick buildings, which were no longer suited to agriculture, and which were not adaptable for commercial use. The bar was set very high, with conversions having to pass numerous policy tests before permission would be granted.
Now the permitted development regime means that any farm building, old or modern, that can be physically converted, is allowed to be converted, subject to certain set criteria.
“There are criteria to be met, but the thresholds are nowhere near as onerous as they once were,” said Hamish Lampp, principal planner at Durrants, who is a speaker at the event next week. “We are securing approvals for farm buildings of all ages and types, from chicken sheds and piggeries to Dutch barns and outbuildings, a scenario never envisaged prior to 2014.
“Councils have historically resisted new housing in the countryside, other than the conversion of traditional barns. The new regulations have changed all that, and PDR is addressing the rural housing shortage as well as offering significant financial benefits to farmers.”
The value of such buildings is still settling after the introduction of PDR, says Mr Lampp. “The market is still maturing. Traditional barns have been converted for years, so it is easier to measure the value of such a building prior to conversion.
“But there are not many finished properties on the market which have been converted to residential use under PDR, and while prospective purchasers can imagine what a traditional barn conversion might look like, they find it more difficult to see the potential value in a derelict pig shed.”
The new Permitted Development Rights are gradually helping farmers realise that value,” says Brian Bale. “PDR has opened up an option which didn’t exist before. It’s a real win:win for rural communities, the process is much simpler than it was, and that means that more residential dwellings will be built for local people to live in, and the developments will also provide much-needed additional income for hard-pressed farming businesses.”‘Sheds Today, Houses Tomorrow’ is being hosted jointly by Lovewell Blake, Durrants and the Suffolk Coastal NFU, at Halesworth Golf Club on Thursday 26th October at 7.15 pm. The event is free, but places must be reserved in advance by emailing Brian Bale or visiting our events page.Pictured above - Nick Dent (left) and Hamish Lampp in front of a converted pig shed at Bunwell.