Business Clinic: Can I challenge barn conversion refusal?

Whether you have a legal, tax, insurance, management or land issue, Farmers Weekly’s Business Clinic experts can help.

Here, solicitor Richard Price from Thrings looks at steps you may be able to take to challenge a decision to refuse a planning application under permitted development rights.

Q I have recently had my prior approval application to convert a barn to a residential dwelling under permitted development rights (class Q) refused on several grounds.

These included the building not being in agricultural use, the building works proposed being too extensive and the plot being too large for the property. Is there anything I can do to challenge the refusal?

A The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (GPDO), provides permitted development rights (PDRs) for change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage from a use as an agricultural building to a use within class C3 (dwelling house).

See also: Planning permission how farmers can get it right first time

When considering whether an agricultural barn can be converted to a residential dwelling, it is vital to be able to demonstrate that the building was used solely for agricultural purposes on 20 March 2013 – or, if not, when it was last in use for agriculture.

Richard PriceRichard Price

Evidence to support this is often the key to proving this ground, particularly where there are objections that seek to show the contrary.

Photographic evidence and supporting declarations confirming the building was in agricultural use on 20 March 2013 will be the minimum required.

Farm accounts and evidence of BPS claims (or SPS as was) will also help. Many applications fail on this point through a lack of evidence. If the building was genuinely in agricultural use, there is an opportunity to convince an inspector at appeal (see below).

A further issue is that the works proposed to make the building habitable must fall within the scope set out in the GPDO.

The GPDO recognises that certain works will be required, including the provision of windows, doors, roofs and exterior walls, but the key point is that the PDRs do not envisage the construction of significant new structural elements and many applications will fail on this ground.

In addition, the works must not result in a building that extends beyond the dimensions of the original agricultural building.

In relation to plot size, the GDPO does envisage that some land around the building can be included with the proposed dwelling.

Farmers and developers should be aware, however, that the area that can be included is tightly constrained.

Under the provisions of the GPDO, it should be closely associated with and serving the purposes of the original agricultural building or comprise an area of land around the building that is no larger than the land area occupied by the building itself.

Several recent appeal decisions suggest that this part of class Q is being closely scrutinised by local planning authorities and inspectors.

It is clear in this case that the council considered the proposal was not permitted development as it failed the tests set out within class Q and it has therefore refused the prior notification application.

However, if you feel that the council reached the wrong decision on the facts, there is a right of appeal. At appeal your application will be determined by an independent inspector.

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