'Barn conversions’ heap more pressure on rural areas

The Local Government Association has argued that rural areas could lose out on investment for affordable homes as a result of forthcoming planning changes allowing more new homes to avoid local approval.

The change to permitted development regulations, which comes into force on 6 April, means an increasing number of larger agricultural to residential conversions will be able to take place without having to get planning permission or contributing towards local services, infrastructure and affordable housing.

The LGA, which highlights a 46 per cent increase in the number of ‘agri to resi’ conversions in the last two years, estimates that, with almost 19,000 new homes converted last year, a loss of almost 8,200 affordable homes over the last two years has been experienced. This also means there has been zero investment in local services and infrastructure to support new households.

Therefore, council leaders are calling on government to scrap permitted development rules and to empower local communities to have a say over new developments in their areas to ensure it meets community needs.

Martin Tett, the LGA’s Housing spokesman, said: “Councils want to see more affordable homes built quickly and the conversion of offices, barns and storage facilities into residential flats is one way to deliver much-needed homes. However it is vital that councils and local communities have a voice in the planning process. At present, permitted development rules allow developers to bypass local influence and convert existing buildings to flats, and to do so without providing affordable housing and local services and infrastructure such as roads and schools.

“Planning is not a barrier to house-building, and councils are approving nine in 10 planning applications. But it is essential that councils, which are answerable to their residents, have an oversight of local developments to ensure they are good quality and help build prosperous places.”