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Industry Information: Barn Conversions & PPG7, PPG11, PPG13, PPG15:

Government Guidance on PPG7, PPG11, PPG13 and PPG15

In the late 1980's and 1990's barn conversions for housing were actively encouraged but now National Policies favour business re-use for offices, industrial and workshop units etc. It is still possible to achieve residential use although each Local Authority has a different approach to such schemes. There are some key requirements within the policies contained in the Government Guidance on PPG7, PPG11 and now PPG13. These requirements frequently clash, however, with earlier policies covering greenbelt and AONB locations.

In 2006 the following extract was taken from the Government website. (Please note the website address has changed since this information was extracted and it is now called "The Communities & Local Government Website")

"...3.112 Overall, both PPG7 (1997) and PPG11 (2000) have considerably increased guidance on rural and farm diversification, though the extent to which this has been reflected in development plans is variable. Planning officers generally supported PPG7 and there was little suggestion of any significant problems with the guidance. However, from RPG to local plans it is clear that not all of the issues identified in national guidance on rural and farm diversification are fully addressed. It is also clear that there is only limited knowledge of local social and economic issues in rural areas. Thus the development of policies from the regional to the local level, articulating the requirements for rural and farm diversification, are rare. That the full guidance of PPG7 (1997) is not reflected in the majority of development plans is important, as opportunities for more detailed policies which take a pro-active role in farm diversification may be being overlooked."

A farly crude summary is that Local Planning Officers do not provide any helpful initial advice on farm building conversion as they have to be seen to remain impartial. Policies vary markedly from area to area, some being very restrictive. The Government wants to clarify what these major Planning Policies mean in practice - because there is a need to create viable businesses in rural areas and reduce car usage - but as yet developers are still in the hands of the Local Planners. Where large scale farm buildings are put up for re-use (such as livestock units made unviable by the foot and mouth outbreak), there is no guidance from Government and Planners will be inclined to resist.

Conclusion: Be very careful before buying a barn for conversion into a house. Ensure it has full planning permission and check its Listing. If it is listed it may be much more expensive to carry out the work. Get an architects opinion and see if you can get an estimated valuation for the finished project.

If you own a barn and want to convert it for business use, get an architect to draw up an outline scheme and put a business plan in place to show how it will benefit the local economy BEFORE approaching Planning.

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