Barn conversion developments 'could heap more pressure on rural infrastructure'

A potential surge in barn conversion homes could heap more pressure on rural schools and roads in England, the Local Government Association (LGA) claims.

The LGA fears that changes to permitted development regulations, which come into force on April 6, may trigger a dramatic increase in the number of conversions.

It said currently, landowners can convert agricultural buildings into three new homes without the need for planning permission, but changes will soon allow conversions of individual agricultural buildings into five new homes.

The LGA said this means an increasing number of larger agricultural to residential conversions could take place without having to get planning permission or contributing towards local services, infrastructure and affordable housing.

It said there has already been a 46% jump in residential conversions from agricultural buildings in England in recent years.

In 2015/16 226 homes were created from agricultural buildings and in 2016/17 this figure was 330, it said.

Councillor Martin Tett, the LGA's housing spokesman, said: "Councils want to see more affordable homes built quickly and the conversion of offices, barns and storage facilities into residential flats is one way to deliver much-needed homes.

"However, it is vital that councils and local communities have a voice in the planning process.

"At present, permitted development rules allow developers to bypass local influence and convert existing buildings to flats, and to do so without providing affordable housing and local services and infrastructure such as roads and schools."

He continued: "Relaxations to 'agri to resi' permitted developments risk sparking significant increases in the number of new homes escaping planning scrutiny in rural areas."

Housing Minister Dominic Raab said: "Through strengthening planning rules and targeted investment, we are ensuring we are building the homes the country needs as well as the local services needed by communities.

"In rural communities our changes will mean more flexibility on how best to use existing buildings to deliver much-needed properties.

"This is part of our ambitious plans to get Britain building homes again and ensure they are affordable for local communities."