TMM’s GUIDE TO BARN CONVERSIONS
An old barn can provide the perfect shell to create your ideal home. These large and often very solid structures give the opportunity to create a house with huge expanses of space and high ceilings. Most importantly, by retaining the original form, materials or structure, it adds character, charm and history to your otherwise modern and light-filled home.
1. WHERE CAN I FIND BARNS FOR SALE?
The most comprehensive search engines for old or derelict barns for conversions:
On the market has a good list of barns for sale, both completed conversions and barns ready to be converted.
Barnsetc is a site dedicated to help you find your perfect barn or barn conversion.
3. HOW MUCH DOES A BARN CONVERSION COST?
It’s almost impossible to put a ballpark cost to this, as it depends on so many factors. However, barn conversions are typically more expensive than new builds per square metre, so expect to pay upwards of £1500 per square metre. Retaining and carefully upgrading the existing structure and fabric of the building can be a costly exercise. However, the character and history it preserves can be priceless.
4. HOW DO I GET BUILDING REGS APPROVAL FOR A BARN CONVERSION?
Ultimately, there are three routes to obtaining building regulations approval for your barn conversion.
- A ‘building notice’ is where you or your builder gives notice to the council that works are about to start. This makes things much quicker, but there is more of a risk that you will be asked to change aspects of the design as you go. Also, there is less scope for appealing their decisions. This route is common for small extensions, but for a barn conversion, I’d recommend considering the other approaches below…
- A ‘full plans’ application to the council means that you submit plans and details for approval before work starts. This information is usually much more detailed than a set of planning drawings. Once submitted, the decision takes a minimum of five weeks. Once work starts on site, regular inspections will be made.
- Using an ‘approved inspector’. An approved inspector is a private individual or organisation employed by you to ensure that your project complies with the building regulations. They will check and inspect the work instead of the local council. Using an approved inspector can be invaluable, particularly if your proposals are out-of-the-ordinary, or push the boundaries of the ‘approved documents’. Your approved inspector will be on your side to make sure your proposals ultimately comply with regulations.
4. DO I NEED PLANNING PERMISSION FOR A BARN CONVERSION?
In 2014, permitted development rights were extended to allow agricultural buildings (e.g. barns) to be converted into homes (Class Q). Before this, it was necessary to apply for full planning permission. However, this concession in planning policy should not be viewed as a sure thing for every barn conversion project. There are certain rules, restrictions and hoops to jump through in every case, and there’s a possibility that permitted development rights won’t apply to your project at all.
IS IT REALLY A CONVERSION OR A ‘RE-BUILD’?
One issue is that a ‘re-build’ requires planning permission and a true barn ‘conversion’ may not.
Be aware that the local planning authority may classify the development as a re-build, even if much of the existing building remains. It’s worth having a look at this legal case here, but ultimately you will need to seek approval from the Local Planning Authority before starting work in any case.
One condition of permitted development for barn conversions is that prior notification should be given to the local planning authority before work starts. The council has the right to refuse the proposals if certain criteria are not met and can impose conditions on the development. It could be argued that this ‘prior notification’ procedure is essentially a planning application with another name!
We’d advise discussing your particular case with an architect, perhaps even before purchasing the plot. A good architect will help you navigate the complexities of the planning process during the design and development phase of the project. Here at TMM Carpentry, we can help you find the right architect for your particular needs.
5. HOW TO STAY IN CONTROL OF YOUR BARN CONVERSION
As you’ve probably concluded, a barn conversion is not the easiest or cheapest route to creating your dream home. With this in mind, the most important decision you make as a client is to hire the right architect, preferably one with barn conversion experience. They can help you navigate the planning process, keep costs under control and design you a home that you’ll want to stay in for lifetime.