North East farmers could be set to benefit from plans to simplify the long and complex business of converting unused agricultural buildings for other uses.
Currently, owners of old farm buildings have to apply for planning permission and go through the time-consuming and costly process of having surveys and architects’ drawings produced if they want to change a building’s use.
But the Government is planning to launch a consultation that could dramatically reduce such red tape.
The proposed Permitted Development Rights Order aims to breathe new life into old buildings, bringing them back into use.
It includes plans to reduce bureaucracy around the conversion of agricultural buildings for residential use and means some changes could go ahead without full planning permission.
The order, part of wider Government efforts to regenerate empty buildings in the countryside and towns, also includes proposals to turn farm buildings of up to 500m2 into new state-funded schools or nurseries.
Helen Russell from the Durham office of chartered surveyors and land agents, H&H Land and Property, said: “Whilst this is currently being consulted on, it is a promising and exciting prospect for those with buildings to convert.
“If approved, it will make it so much simpler for farmers and landowners to unlock the financial benefits that are lying dormant in unused buildings.”
One such project currently on the company’s books is Deadwater Barn, based in three acres near Kielder in the Northumberland National Park.
The owners of the stone-built former barn have already been through the planning process and the building is now up for sale with permission to convert it into a two-bedroom, single storey home.
Russell said: “For a barn of this type to be available with full planning permission in this stunning location is an outstanding and almost unique opportunity.
“This is one of the least light and noise polluted areas of the UK and Kielder’s recent national tourism awards are a testament to the area’s popularity.
“The barn will provide someone with the chance to put their own personal stamp on truly rural retreat.”
She added that the barn clearly showed the potential of the disused agricultural buildings, which the Government’s plans to simplify planning procedures were poised to unlock.
“Many people will benefit from these proposals and here at H&H Land and Property we will be keeping a close eye on the consultation as it progresses,” she said.
H&H Land and Property has worked extensively in change-of-use and diversification schemes on farms across the North East, Cumbria and the Scottish Borders.