A new change in building and planning regulations encourages farmers to take a closer look at their redundant assets in a bid to improve returns.
There is no better time for farmers to consider transforming redundant buildings into residential conversions, following a Government announcement on changes to permitted development rights (PDR).
But it is vital they understand the small print and not rush in.
Last week’s announcement on PDR meant up to five dwellings could be created from existing agricultural buildings, rather than the previous maximum of three.
Up to three larger homes could be created with a maximum of 465sq m (5,005sq ft, up from 450sq m (4,844sq ft) , with a mix of up to three larger with smaller homes also permitted.
But Jonathan Lee, senior planning consultant at Hobbs Parker Property Consultants, warns: “Just because there is a redundant barn does not mean approval is given. There is a fair bit to submit as part of any prior approval application.”
Landowners also need to have their finance and building programme in place if looking to convert the unit themselves, with a three-year window starting from the point of consent.
Harry Torrance, rural partner at Carter Jonas, advises landowners to think carefully.
“A landowner who has been considering a residential conversion should look at the recent changes to the legislation,” he says.
“Of course, building more dwellings is not always best – it all depends on what would work in the specific market.
“Government has also proposed a PDR increase for new agricultural buildings on established largeholdings, which will greatly improve flexibility, and reduce planning fees for landowners on a larger scale.”
There could also be opportunities for anyone who has previously been refused prior approval by their local council, depending on the reasons given for refusal, according to Mark Richards of Savills’ rural planning team.
“Likewise, for anyone who has not yet looked at the opportunity to convert their buildings, now is an excellent time to do so,” he adds.
Mr Torrance said there were also plenty of other opportunities for landowners to explore, although these required planning permission.
“We have found that converting agricultural buildings to storage units, offices or even retail experience destinations, when supported by the council, can be a sound financial decision,” he says.
He adds most modern portal framed barns would convert ‘relatively cheaply’ into storage units, or storage for caravans and boats.