Rural towns missing ‘vital’ infrastructure due to barn conversions

Latest figures show the number of agricultural to residential conversions in England has risen from 226 in 2015/16 to 743 in last year.

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Rural towns and villages are missing out on ‘vital’ infrastructure due to an increase of almost 230% in barns and farm buildings being converted into homes, according to a new report from the Local Government Association (LGA).

Latest figures show the number of agricultural to residential conversions in England has risen from 226 in 2015/16 to 743 in 2017/18 – mostly in rural areas – under the permitted development right, which allows developers to bypass the planning system.

According to the LGA, this means councils are unable to make sure homes are built to high standards with the necessary infrastructure in place.

Representing councils in England and Wales, the LGA has raised concerns that rural areas are not being provided with the local services or infrastructure, and in some places affordable housing, that would normally be required in any development going through the planning system.

Some of the areas seeing a high number of agricultural-to-residential conversions in the last year include Devon (122), Kent (71), Worcestershire (56), Herefordshire (39), and Staffordshire (29).

Previously, landowners could convert agricultural buildings into three new homes without the need for planning permission, but last year government extended this to allow conversions of individual agricultural buildings into five new homes.

Since this change, local areas are said to have seen the number of conversions more than double in the space of a year from 330 in 2016/17 to 743 in 2017/18.

As reported by 24housing, while the majority of permitted development conversions have seen offices turned into homes without the need for planning permission – a rise in homes being created out of storage buildings has also taken shape.

The group is now calling on the government to use the Queen’s Speech to commit to scrapping the permitted development right for all property types and for local communities to be given oversight of all new developments and building conversions in their area.

On today’s reports, Cllr David Renard, the LGA’s planning spokesman, said: “We have concerns over the sharp rise in agricultural buildings being converted into homes without planning permission and the impact this is having on rural areas, given the lack of any requirement for developers to provide infrastructure or contribute to investment in local services such as roads or schools.

“Councils, which are approving nine in 10 planning applications, are committed to building the thousands of new homes the country needs, but these have to be of high quality and with the right infrastructure in place.

“Permitted development rules are denying councils and communities any control or oversight of this process.

“It is taking away the voice of residents who need to be allowed to have their say over any developments in the streets and neighbourhoods where they live.”

He added: “Unless permitted development rules are scrapped, then communities face the risk of substandard housing without any of the vital supporting infrastructure and local services which residents need on a daily basis.”

Image by Des Blenkinsopp

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