This DIY self build in Powys, Wales, was granted planning permission with an agricultural tie attached. The owners/builders -Rob and Alithea Dawson – were able to prove to the planners that the home was necessary for the successful running of their organic pig farm

It is notoriously harder to get planning permission for a home in the countryside, than it is in an urban area. However, all is not lost if you dream of creating your dream home in the country. Here are some of your options.

Replacing Existing Building

Replacement dwellings and barn conversions are the most common ways of achieving a new home in the countryside. The benefit of the former is that the existing property often has services in place, and can provide accommodation or act as a site office. However, it will come with constraints — if you hope to relocate the new home to make the most of the views, for example, you’ll have to prove to the local planning authority (LPA) that it won’t impact on surroundings.

The size of the replacement dwelling will also be restricted. Rules differ across the country; the LPA may dictate that a replacement can be no larger in size than the house it replaces, or in some areas, it may be up to a maximum of 50% larger in volume or in footprint than the ‘original’ dwelling, for instance. (The ‘original’ refers to the building as it stood before the introduction of the Planning Act on 1st July 1948 — any extensions added after are not included.) Furthermore, if the proposed replacement dwelling is larger than the existing house, the LPA is likely to remove Permitted Development rights – small-scale improvements undertaken without planning permission – as a condition. Each replacement is considered on its own terms, so speak with the planning officer first.

Converting Barns, Schools, Mills and Churches

Conversion opportunities present themselves in different forms, including barns, mills, schools and churches. But regardless of form, a building’s conversion into a new home will need to adhere to the LPA’s criteria. Maintaining the original roof pitch, minimising new openings for doors and windows – meaning you’ll have to be inventive when it comes to introducing light – and using traditional materials are likely conditions. Inside, original features will need to be retained.

Listed buildings or those within Conservation Areas will present further complications, and invariably increase build costs, too. All this will mean you will have to be flexible with your floorplan, working around the existing structure — but isn’t that part of the appeal of a conversion?

Building a New Home in the Countryside or Green Belt

Gaining permission for a new home on virgin green belt is under tighter control, but it’s not impossible to build where no man has built before. The rules surrounding building in the countryside are set out in Paragraph 55 of the National Planning Policy Framework, which requires special justification’ for isolated new rural homes. Agricultural Occupancy – which allows one-off homes for agricultural and forestry workers – is the main grounds for this.

However, both the need for and size of a new home, as well as the existing business, will be closely assessed – under functional and financial tests – before permission is granted. Once granted, an Agricultural Restriction (or Tie) will be applied, meaning that the new home can only be occupied by workers — unless the Restriction is removed.

Paragraph 55

Paragraph 55 allows scope for planning to be granted for new rural homes that are ‘truly outstanding and innovative.’ To achieve such a high level of design you’ll no doubt require the aid of a skilled designer. However, be prepared: high design can equate to higher build costs.

* Article updated July 2016

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  • MartinR

    Readers ought to be aware of the increased focus on bats by the planners. Considerable costs and delays may be incurred if there is any evidence of bats using the property. For any old or listed buildings, most planners will now insist upon an initial bat survey before processing planning applications – see Natural England’s advice to planners: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/bats-surveys-and-mitigation-for-development-projects
    Anyone considering renovating a building should investigate the bat situation very early in the process so that surveys can be done well before any design work starts.
    Unfortunately, it is likely that this increased focus on bat preservation is encouraging many more developers to consider illegally destroying bat habitats rather than engage with the considerable ‘bat bureaucracy’ that is now in place.

  • Dave Dutton

    My dilemma is a bit of an unusual one I think, so I wanted to pick your brains if you don’t mind, to see if my project is a none starter or if I can get around it.

    I have sourced a plot ideal for my contemporary eco-home, not far from where I live, the downside is, it is now classed as greenbelt by the council. Originally there was a restaurant on the site but the current owner demolished this several years ago and the site was leveled about 3 years ago. The owner did get permission to re build on the site but that expired before he started and he was told he could get a legal notice but has not done so.

    The council are now receiving complaints from neighbors regarding a site hut and a large container that have been there for several years. The site is not secure anymore and the planning committee will be meeting this month to decide what action to take.

    I have asked the local planning officer if the site could be used as residential dwellings over 1 story but was told that permission would not be granted as is greenbelt now and the current owner would be the only person entitled, through a legal notice to develop the site as a restaurant again.

    I argued that surely, if it was once classed as brown-belt and given it’s current state that it would be beneficial to all to develop as an eco-friendly family dwelling which would reduce pollution by both the carbon foot print and the comings and goings of diners, this did not seem to cut much ice. So you can see my predicament, it’s a beautiful spot crying out to be developed sympathetically with the surrounding environment. Can you give me some direction as to if this is a lost cause or something I should fight for ?

  • Anonymous

    Hi, i own a derilict house, people lived in it up until 1965! It has all walls still standing to a hight of around 6 foot! I have now built it back up to it’s original form, walls, windows, roof, everything! I would still call it an agricultural building however I will, one day try for planning as a house! At the moment though, am I within my rights tyding this building up on my own land as ‘just a building’?

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