A traditional stone barn

All barns are equal, but some barns are more equal than others.

We have been working on many different barn conversions since the permitted development changes in 2014.  We have discovered that although permitted development applies to all barns, some councils favour some barns more (equally) than others.


How are they not equal?

If you happen to own (or are thinking of buying) a traditional brick, stone or brick and timber barn, you will find that all councils will be in favour of a barn conversion**. If you are looking to convert a modern barn (much wider, usually built of concrete block with timber boarding for walls and a sheet metal roof), then you will generally have more problems convincing a council that it should be converted into a dwelling under permitted development or otherwise. That doesn’t mean it is impossible, but we have noticed that planners will happily overlook some issues with traditional barns that they will not overlook for modern ones. We have seen things as spurious as ‘a stove flue and cladding extends beyond the original barn footprint’ used as reasons for why a barn does not comply.

A modern barn 

Prior Approval or Planning Permission?

Another example would be that foundations were deemed as ‘new structural elements***’, despite the fact that traditional barns are very frequently underpinned. This is why it is often best with traditional barns to go for full planning permission as it allows planners to overlook certain stringent PD conditions.


The permitted development rules brought out in 2014 have certainly made barn conversion approvals more likely. However not all barns are ‘equal’ and this can be confusing. If you would like to discuss your barn project with us, please contact us using the form here.


* a quote from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, ‘animals’ replaced with ‘barns’.

**Disclaimer (obviously there will be other factors such as highways access, contamination, biodiversity, flooding, structural ability for conversion etc, but assuming these are OK)

*** New structural elements are something that are not allowed under permitted development, but they can be (at planner discretion) with full planning permission. Recently the NPPF was clarified to show that new structural elements internally (such as to allow a first floor) would not count as ‘development’ in planning terms and should therefore not be a deciding factor in a prior approval or planning application. Read more here.