Barn boom takes off in East Anglia after guidance updated

A period barn in Stradishall, near Newmarket, which is on the market through Cheffins with a price t

A period barn in Stradishall, near Newmarket, which is on the market through Cheffins with a price tag of £375,000. - Credit: Archant

The number of unconverted barns to come to the market has more than doubled in the past 18 months, an East Anglian estate agents says.

Period barn in Stradishall, near Newmarket, on the market through Cheffins with a price tag of £375,

Period barn in Stradishall, near Newmarket, on the market through Cheffins with a price tag of £375,000. - Credit: Archant

Cheffins Rural Consultancy team says that two years after the introduction of permitted development rights in April 2014, the value and desirability of barns has soared.

The unconverted buildings were previously worth little, as planning permission was so difficult to obtain before the new laws around change of use came into force. The majority of barns are being sold with prior approval for change of use, leaving the purchasers to make their own decisions on scope and layout, Cheffins says.

Rural consultancy team director Simon Gooderham said he has dealt with 12 unconverted barns on the market this year, compared to just three over the same period last year. He believes the relaxation of the rules around tthe conversion of redundant agricultural buildings is behind the increase. A number of his clients have turned to this as a way of diversifying their income and increasing cash flow, he said.

Cheffins has been approached by a number of farmers and landowners wondering what to do with their agricultural buildings, now that a change of use can occur without the need for a formal planning application.

When legislation was introduced in 2013, a significant number of prior approval applications were refused nationally. However, since national guidance was updated around a year ago, far more applications have been successful, said Simon.

To date, of the dozen or so instructions received by Cheffins, all of the applications have received a consent through the prior approval process.

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According to the Department of Communities and Local Government, there were more than 5,200 applications for permitted developments to enable barns to be turned into homes from April 2014 to December 2015.

As farmers continue to diversify to help with their cash flows, converting barns or selling off barns no longer in use has provided a useful income stream.

Among the properties Cheffins has dealt with recently is a period barn at Stradishall, near Newmarket, which has gone on the market with a price tag of £375,000. It comes with 9.92 acres and is available in two lots or as one. Prior approval has been granted to create two dwellings with a gross internal area of 2,520sq ft.

Senior planner Ben Pridgeon said: “Since the government introduced new permitted development rights in 2014, Cheffins’ Planning and Development team has been instructed on a number of prior approval applications to change the use of agricultural buildings to a residential use, with the number of enquiries for a change of use almost doubling year-on-year. The changes to planning rules have allowed many farmers and landowners to convert a range of agricultural buildings to dwellings, without the need for planning permission, allowing them to make better use of agricultural buildings which may be surplus to requirements.”