Disused agricultural buildings scatter our rural landscape. With changes to farming practices, these buildings no longer serve their intended purpose. They could be repurposed, yet permission for barn conversions has been restrictive. Could a review of Permitted Development Rights transform the landscape and boost demand for barn conversion?

Changes to Permitted Development Rights

Agricultural buildings are full of character and generally surrounded by beautiful countryside. As such, they have the potential to make desirable homes, wedding venues, holiday lets and more. However, getting permission for the redevelopment of barns, stables and other units isn’t straightforward. This could be about to change.

To support its house-building ambitions, the British Government are considering easing the rules. There is a focus on making better use of existing infrastructure. This is particularly important in rural areas, where residential and commercial developments are needed, yet the countryside is protected.

A consultation on changes to Permitted Development Rights closed on 25 September. The proposal is to be presented to the Government before the end of the year and could become law in 2024.

How Will Changes Increase Barn Conversions?

The proposals have not become law yet, but they favour agricultural diversification and development. For a start, Class Q Agricultural to Residential could be increased from a maximum of 5 dwellings to 10. In addition, it is proposed that a single-storey extension of up to 4 meters could be included as part of a barn conversion.

Secondly, Class R Agricultural to Flexible Commercial use could be relaxed. This could open up opportunities to convert barns and renovate redundant buildings for uses including:

  • Outward-bound sporting activities
  • Holiday lets or temporary campsites
  • Farm Shops & cafes
  • Wedding venues

Thirdly, equestrian and forestry buildings may be included in the list of agricultural buildings that can be repurposed and extended.

Charred Timber for Barn Conversions

Traditional British barns are made from locally available building materials, with stone, brick and timber construction being popular options. The materials, how they were constructed or laid and the colour have regional variations. When undertaking barn conversions, it is deemed appropriate to preserve this heritage and local identity.

Further information on Adapting Traditional Farm Buildings is provided by Historic England.

Exterior Solutions Ltd has supplied blackened timbers for several barn conversions, including Black Barn by architects, Studio Bark. Black barns were a distinctive feature of East Anglia, along with areas of Western and Southern England. One reason is that the dark finish is renowned for blending in with the landscape.

Another transformation of agricultural outbuildings was the Bilton Fields development. BoBen Construction specified Shou Sugi Ban® cladding, along with zinc roofing and bricks. The result is a contemporary style informed by the original buildings.

Why Use Charred Timber Cladding for Barn Conversions?

Our charred timbers have a timeless finish. Using the traditional Japanese technique of yakisugi, the charring process naturally blackens the wood. The process also alters the cell structure, making the timber cladding resilient to the British weather, burrowing insects, mould and rot.

Painting wood black means that regular reapplications are required to prevent the timber from being exposed when the paint flakes and peels. In contrast, charring isn’t a surface layer application, it is part of the wood and requires considerably less maintenance.

If you have plans for a barn conversion and are looking for blackened timbers to create an authentic look and sensitive renovation, get in touch. You can download our Shou Sugi Ban® charred timber brochure from our website and request a sample selection to compare the best options for your project. Alternatively, call us on 01494 711800 to discuss your requirements.

Nature-inspired Wedding Venues

If you are considering a barn conversion for commercial use, it is good to know that nature-inspired settings are highly desirable wedding venues. From woodland weddings to timber-framed barns, a relaxed rustic vibe and connection with the great outdoors is a popular choice for modern brides.

Take a look at The Tythe Barn in Oxfordshire, Silchester Farm in Berkshire or Lady Grey Farm in Cheshire for inspiration. They are all stunning examples of how old agricultural buildings can be given a new lease of life as wedding venues!

Finally, as we’re on the topic of weddings, we have some fantastic news to share. We are delighted to inform you that our Managing Director, Lana Harrison, got engaged whilst on holiday last month. As a family-run business, this news is close to our hearts and we couldn’t be happier. Congratulations Lana!