When is a Conversion Not a Conversion?

The conversion of agricultural buildings for residential use is commonplace and a special planning regime exists to simplify the procedure for farm owners wishing to convert buildings into residential property. If the conversion meets the criteria defining a 'permitted development' set out in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015, then full planning permission is not needed.

However, when plans were made to convert a modern steel-framed barn which was open on three sides into a residential unit, the local council opposed the plan and refused to grant prior consent.

Its opposition was based on the argument that the works necessary for the conversion were well in excess of those which would be needed to convert a more substantial building with all walls intact. The works could not therefore reasonably be described as a 'conversion'.

An appeal to the planning inspector was unsuccessful, so a further appeal was made to the High Court, which ruled in favour of the council. In the Court's view, the works amounted to a rebuilding of the property, well beyond the scope of the exemption in the Order, and therefore required full planning permission.