Urgent help needed for thwarted barn conversions

Barn conversions across Sussex are being thwarted, despite claims a national newspaper that: “Barn conversions are booming.”

The Telegraph reported (9th April) that “rural outbuildings throughout the land are being turned into living spaces” since the planning laws around them were relaxed this time last year. However statistics show that in reality, most barn owners are still being stopped by their local councils. The ‘Permitted Development Rights’ for barn conversions came about as part of an amendment to the General Permitted Development Order in April 2014.

This gave barn owners the right, within certain restrictions, to undertake a barn conversion in England without the need for the usual planning permission.

In reality, the number of people looking to convert their barns went up by 400% in the quarter following the relaxed planning rules, but around two thirds of prior approval applications are still being turned down by local councils, according to DCLG (Department of Communities and Local Government) planning figures.

This is crazy and unnecessary, according to Sussex Home Hub, a free service, which is helping people across Sussex to convert their barns and agricultural buildings, as well as building new homes and extensions.

Julia Arnold, Managing Director of Sussex Home Hub, explains:

“Astute people all over East and West Sussex are making small fortunes by taking advantage of the permitted development rules and converting their barns or building new homes in their gardens and fields.

“In many cases where permission to build is being refused, it is because people do not know what to do, or they are given bad advice. If you have the right experts around you, and you have property which is eligible for development, (within the National Planning Policy Framework,) the opportunity to make money and create your own new home is very real and quite easy. ”

Well-designed new homes are good for Sussex, as they are helping the councils to meet their local housing quotas of 37,000 new homes over the next 20 years.

Government figures show these figures could rocket to over 208,000 new homes in Sussex alone.

The worry is that if people in Sussex do not build their own new homes, or are prevented from building their own new homes, the councils will increasingly let the volume house builders come in from other counties, in order to meet the housing quotas. This will result in more high density housing estates on greenfield land.

Invariably, ‘out of county’ volume house builders do not employ the local Sussex professionals and tradesmen and the profits are taken out of Sussex. New homes that are conversions or built by Sussex locals are generally more attractive, lower density, employ local people, the profits stay in Sussex and it is better for the county all round.

“For those looking to convert a barn, it is always worth checking with a good planning consultant before starting on any plans” advises Julia. Amendments to the planning regulations and restrictions apply to many buildings throughout the country, so it is not worth taking any risks by starting work on a building that may have to be subsequently converted back to its original state. Penalties against unlawful building work can result in extremely heavy fines and even imprisonment.