Don't ignore the planners1
In April 2014 the Government eased planning regulations through the Town & Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment and Consequential Provisions) (England) Order 2014 (GPDO) – allowing redundant agricultural buildings to be converted into new homes under what is known as permitted development rights. The new rules do not however mean you can simply ignore your local planning authority, as many conditions will need to be met.
Permitted development rights only apply to existing agricultural buildings in a sole agricultural use and in connection with a trade or business as of 20 March 2013. New agricultural buildings built or brought into use after this date must be in agricultural use for at least 10 years before these permitted changes can be applied.
If there is a tenant on the site under an agricultural tenancy, the change of use cannot take place unless there is the express consent given of both the landlord and tenant.
The new rights do not apply to listed buildings, buildings on sites including a scheduled ancient monument, land protected by legislation, e.g areas of outstanding natural beauty and conservation areas, or areas specified under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Developers are prohibited from extending the external dimensions of the converted building beyond the external dimensions of the footprint of the original building. However the installation or replacement of, for example, windows, doors, roofs or exterior walls or water drainage, electricity or other services necessary for the building to function as a dwelling are all permitted, as is the partial demolition of the building.
There must be no more than three separate dwellings developed within an established agricultural unit and cumulative floor space must not exceed 450 square metres of the existing building or buildings changing use within the established agricultural unit.
If a developer is seen to break the rules local planning authorities can require a building to be returned to its original form, costing its owner time and money.