Barn conversion rule change sparks backlash

Government proposals to let landowners convert rural barns into houses without needing planning permission have sparked a backlash from designers and national park bosses.

Critics fear the plans, aired by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) in a public consultation, could lead to poor-quality developments that were 'ecologically damaging' to rural areas.

The legislation would change permitted development rights in England's national parks and conservation areas, allowing landowners to turn agricultural buildings into houses without planning, says a report in The Guardian.

The consultation says the move would benefit towns and villages in protected areas, where, 'we want to give farmers greater freedom to change the use of their existing buildings to residential use and support the delivery of new homes in rural communities'.

The DLUHC said the move 'could help ensure the longer-term viability and vitality of these community hubs'.

Designer Wendy Perring, has warned against the potentially 'environmentally destructive' proposals, saying they could lead to 'a rash of poor-quality developments' which fail to provide sustainable affordable housing for rural communities. Richard Dollamore, a town planner, warned that strict 'safeguards' would need to be put in place if the 'controversial' legislation went ahead. He said 'additional controls' would be needed within the legislation, 'to ensure against environmental harm and to require the highest level of architectural and landscape design quality and sustainability'.

National Park bosses have also hit back at the proposals, which they claim will 'erode' the beauty of natural parks and 'do nothing' to address local housing needs.

New Forest National Park Authority Chair, Gavin Parker, said the authority was 'very disappointed' by the proposals and concerned that they will override planning policies which 'already make good provision for new housing in the national park'.

He added that the change would 'undermine the local economy and will not address our local housing needs'.

A National Parks England spokesperson agreed. They said: "The important planning controls provided to National Park authorities ensure that development of farming and other businesses can take place whilst protecting the special character of the landscape.

"Extending further the generous permitted development rights that already exist will simply serve to erode the very beauty and identity that sets National Parks apart from other parts of the UK, and do nothing to address the fundamental challenges many of our communities face in relation to having affordable homes to live in."

This story first appeared on Architects' Journal

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