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Barn conversions risk destroying the countryside, says group

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Barn conversions risk destroying the countryside, says group

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Development

Barn Conversion Barn Conversion

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has raised concerns that government changes to planning regulations regarding barn conversions risk damaging the "character and beauty" of the countryside.

Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, has announced a loosening of planning controls which will remove the need to apply for planning permission to convert redundant farm buildings into shops, restaurants, hotels and offices, and office space into housing (for up to 3 years).

Now the CPRE is urging the Government to provide more details about the proposals to ease the conversion of farm buildings.

Farm buildings can already be put up without standard planning permission, and the campaign group fears that, without clear conditions on when the new rights could be used, there is the danger of a wave of ‘barns’ being built that are intended to become houses at a later date.

Since World War Two, Britain's landowners have been able to construct large agricultural barns without having to apply for full planning permission. The CPRE says that such buildings have sometimes "grown" to become or take on the appearance of houses, which need full planning permission.

The group cites a number of examples exposed by government planning inspectors' investigations, which include:

• In Surrey a large castle was hidden within a shield of straw bales topped with tarpaulin. The High Court found that this was a deliberate attempt to build a new house by deception.
• In Wadhurst, East Sussex an individual moved into a barn and sought to conceal his ‘house’ from planning officers by blacking out the windows, moving his bed into a van, placing animal bedding and feed in his ‘bedroom’ and rabbit hutches in his ‘living room’.
• In Weymouth, Dorset, another case has been reported where a man converted a barn in a field on the edge of the town into a house. The heating and hot water boilers were hidden in small barn owl boxes and a normal domestic style front door was concealed behind a traditional barn door.

Paul Miner, senior planning campaigner for CPRE, said: "We are concerned that old farm buildings could be converted in completely inappropriate locations such as on narrow country lanes with poor access, and that the changes could be exploited by unscrupulous landowners to erect so-called ‘farm buildings’ which then become an office, and then a house without any planning oversight. This would be a clear break with established planning controls over sporadic development in the countryside."

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