Barn conversions – isolation is not a reason for refusal

Para 108 and 105As of the 5th March 2015 changes have been made to the National Planning Policy Guidance (NPPG) in relation to barn conversions. We welcome this much needed clarification on the agricultural-to-residential rights brought in April 2014.

During this time, over 50% of applications were refused within the first six months by local councils. Common among the key reasons for refusal were location and size.


We now understand that paragraph 108 of the NPPG has been revised. It now clarifies that in the case of barn conversions, an isolated location is not a reason for refusal unless it proves to be demonstrably impractical.

It highlights that the permitted development right in relation to barn conversions deliberately does not apply a test in relation to the sustainability of a location because:

‘…the right recognises that many agricultural buildings will not be in village settlements and may not be able to rely purely on public transport for their daily needs.’

It would appear that the confusion over this point was rife not only at local, but national level. Of the 10 appeal cases brought to PINS on this matter, 6 were refused on the grounds of isolated location.


A further aspect of this legislation which caused confusion was in regards to the type and extent of building works allowed when changing a barn to residential use.

Paragraph 105 of the NPPG now clearly states it recognises that for the barn to:

‘… function as a dwelling, some building operations which may affect the external appearance of the building, which would otherwise require planning permission, should be permitted.’  However, it does stress that : ‘…it is not the intention of the permitted development right to include the construction of new structural elements for the building.’

Essentially you can’t extend your barn under these rights, but you can make many changes where the building is structurally strong enough to take the loading required of external works to provide for residential use.

Having argued these points for a number of clients previously, only to be frustrated by the results, we are glad to see that the DCLG is standing by its word, as quoted in Planning Magazine January 2014:

“We are keeping the operation of these rights under review and will issue guidance if there is evidence of deliberate and consistent misapplication by local planning authorities.”

We hope these changes will be of positive benefit to applicants, consultants and councils.