What Are the Legal Steps Required to Convert a Barn into a Residential Property in the UK?

juin 7, 2024

Have you ever dreamt of living in a beautifully converted barn? With their rustic charm and spacious interiors, barn conversions have become a popular choice for those seeking a unique and characterful home. However, transforming an agricultural building into a residential property is not a straightforward process. It involves a series of legal steps to ensure that your project adheres to planning regulations and building codes. This detailed guide will walk you through the key stages of the planning process, from obtaining planning permission to understanding the building regulations that will impact your barn conversion project.

Understanding Planning Permission and Permitted Development Rights

Before you can start turning your barn into a house, you need to understand the planning regulations that govern such conversions. In the United Kingdom, barn conversions fall under the category of 'change of use' developments, which require planning permission from your local planning authority.

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However, in 2014, the UK government introduced a new class of permitted development rights specifically for agricultural buildings, including barns. Class Q of the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO) allows certain types of barns to be converted into homes without needing full planning permission.

Despite this, Class Q has certain limitations and exclusions. For example, it only applies to agricultural buildings that were in use on or before March 20, 2013. The building also needs to be structurally sound and capable of conversion without significant reconstruction. Moreover, the permitted development rights under Class Q are capped at up to five dwellings per agricultural unit.

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In certain circumstances, you may need to apply for full planning permission, especially if your project involves structural changes, extension of the building, or if it is located in a designated area such as a National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Applying for Planning Permission or Prior Approval

If your barn conversion does not meet the criteria for permitted development under Class Q, you will need to apply for planning permission. This involves submitting a detailed application to your local planning authority, including the design and layout of your proposed conversion, and any impact it may have on the local environment and neighbours.

Even if your barn falls under Class Q, you still need to go through a process called prior approval. This is a lighter touch process compared to full planning permission, but it still requires you to demonstrate that your project will not have a negative impact on transport, noise levels, flood risks, and the appearance of the building.

When preparing your application, it's a good idea to consult with a planning consultant or architect who is experienced in barn conversions. They can advise you on how to navigate the planning process and increase your chances of obtaining permission.

Considering Building Regulations

Once you have secured planning permission or prior approval for your barn conversion, you need to ensure that your project complies with building regulations. These are minimum standards for design, construction and alterations to virtually every building in the UK. They are developed by the UK government and approved by Parliament.

Building regulations cover various aspects of the build, from structural integrity and fire safety, to energy efficiency and accessibility. For example, you will need to ensure that your barn conversion meets the necessary insulation standards, and that it provides suitable means of escape in case of a fire.

One key aspect to consider in a barn conversion is the preservation of the building's character. Building regulations will often require you to maintain certain features of the barn, such as its original timber frames or stone walls, while ensuring these meet the required safety and energy standards.

Hiring a Building Control Body

In order to ensure your barn conversion complies with building regulations, you will need to hire a Building Control Body (BCB). This could be your local authority's building control service, or a private sector approved inspector.

The BCB will check your plans and carry out inspections during the construction process to ensure the work meets building regulations. They will also issue a completion certificate once the work is finished and found to be compliant. This certificate is crucial - you will need it if you ever decide to sell your property in the future.

Final Thoughts

Converting a barn into a residential property is an exciting project, but it requires careful planning and adherence to legal regulations. Understanding the process of obtaining planning permission or prior approval, and complying with building regulations, is crucial to ensuring your barn conversion is legal and safe. By following these steps, you can transform your barn into the home of your dreams, while preserving its unique character and charm.

Navigating the Special Permissions Required for Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas

When planning your barn conversion, it's crucial to consider whether the barn is a listed building or located in a conservation area. Both of these factors can significantly impact your plans and ability to alter the building.

Firstly, if your barn is a listed building, meaning it has been recognised as being of special architectural or historic interest, you will need listed building consent to make any changes that might affect its character. This applies even if your barn falls under permitted development rights. Obtaining listed building consent can be a complex process, as you need to demonstrate that your proposed changes will preserve the character and special interest of the building.

The same applies if your barn is located in a conservation area, which is an area of special architectural or historic interest. In this case, you might also need to apply for full planning permission, even if your barn would generally fall under Class Q.

When dealing with listed buildings or conservation areas, it's advisable to consult with a specialist, such as a conservation architect. They can guide you through the process, help you prepare your applications, and advise on how to sensitively convert your barn while preserving its character.

Securing a Mortgage for a Barn Conversion

Securing a mortgage for a barn conversion can be more complex than for a standard residential property. Some lenders view barn conversions as higher risk, due to the possibility of unforeseen costs and complications during the conversion process. However, don't let this discourage you. Many lenders offer specialist self-build and renovation mortgages designed for projects like barn conversions.

Before applying for a mortgage, it's crucial to have a clear budget and plan for your conversion. This should include the purchase price of the barn, the estimated cost of the conversion, any fees for architects or planning consultants, and a contingency fund for unforeseen expenses.

When assessing your mortgage application, lenders will consider factors such as the condition of the barn, the estimated cost of the conversion, your financial situation, and whether you have experience with similar projects. It's advisable to consult with a mortgage adviser who specialises in self-build and renovation projects. They can help you understand your options and find the best deal for your circumstances.

Conclusion

Transforming a barn into a residential property is certainly an adventurous task that requires thorough planning and understanding of the regulations concerning permitted development rights and building regulations. Whether your barn is a listed building, located in a conservation area, or neither, each circumstance requires a different approach and potentially, different permissions.

Moreover, securing a mortgage for a barn conversion can be more challenging than for a standard house, but with a clear budget and the right advice, it's certainly achievable.

With all these steps and considerations, it's crucial to remember that the end result – a home brimming with character and history – is often worth the journey. As long as you navigate the planning permission process, comply with building regulations, and secure the necessary funding, your dream of converting a barn into a unique and charming home can become a reality.