With most traditional farm buildings redundant for modern agriculture, Bidwells’ Cath Anthony explains how farmers can secure the future of their historic buildings.
Heritage farm buildings make an ‘irreplaceable, vital, contribution to the character of the countryside’ and document its history, but without a viable use in modern agriculture, many are at risk of deteriorating and being lost.
However, while planning has been seen as a frustrating hurdle, Cath Anthony, partner at Bidwells, said the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has provided substantial support for the reuse of farm buildings.
She added that, although not all were listed buildings, many would still be classified as heritage assets and local authorities should support their reuse.
Ms Anthony said the first step was an initial character and significance appraisal to showcase the importance of the site and its key characteristics.
While they might not be in the most sustainable locations for residential use, it could often be the only option.
She said: “It also provides an opportunity to supply new homes in an era when housing is desperately needed.”
Design which enhanced their heritage and the significance of the setting was vital, with planners and conservation officers needing to ensure schemes were of good design.
However, while NPPF and Historic England have recognised without a use, historic farm buildings would disappear, there was still reluctance from many local authorities to support countryside conversions.
Ms Anthony said: “Such buildings provide attractive places to live and work and, with sensitive adaption, result in an enhancement rather than harm.
“While most see heritage assets as a liability due to repair costs, we recognise they can provide opportunity for development in a location where it would normally be prohibited.”
With a huge traditional barn unsuitable for modern agriculture and in need of structural repairs, commercial uses were not viable with the cost of converting the barn to a dwelling outweighing the end value of the site.
As the roof structure was one of the key features needing to be retained, architects came up with a design where outshots from the barn were converted into two dwellings with the middle utilised as covered garden space.
To make up the ‘conservation deficit’, three new-build homes were also proposed alongside the conversions to make the project financially viable.
A new farmstead was also proposed, removing the farming use from adjacent buildings which conflicted with the high quality residential units.
Ms Anthony said by providing relevant research and incorporating high quality designs, they had created a scheme which was easier for conservation officers to support and gain planning approval.