In Defending the sustainability test for barn conversions the Blog highlighted the illogicality of there being different sustainability criteria for barn conversion proposals according to whether they require prior approval or planning permission. In a recent case in Sussex (DCS Number 400-014-208) the appellant succeeded in using the fallback of a prior approval for residential conversion of a barn as a lever to gain planning permission for replacement with a new dwelling, and in so doing showed just how pointless this difference in treatment is.
The inspector recorded that the barn was a utilitarian steel-portal structure with walls and roof of corrugated sheeting. As such he considered that it was of no particular architectural merit save for being consistent aesthetically with functional agricultural buildings.
He noted that prior approval had been granted for the change of use of the barn to a dwelling in 2015. The proposal before him involved the demolition of the barn and the erection of a differently designed dwelling in place of that permitted via the 2015 permission.
In relation to suitability of location he identified the central difference between the development proposed and that permitted as essentially being confined to the provision of one additional bedroom. In his view the effect of this change in respect of the intensity of domestic use and consequently use of private vehicles was likely to be highly limited. Indeed, he remarked, works that affect only the interior of a building are not development, and as such there was nothing before him to indicate that a third bedroom within the permitted dwelling could not have been created without the need for express planning consent, in any event.
The inspector acknowledged that the overall form of the proposed dwelling was more intricate, and thus to some extent more domestic in appearance than the permitted scheme, which made use of the existing understated barn structure. However, he observed that there were a number of dwellings within the immediate environs of the appeal site and as such held that the proposal would not appear incongruous in this context.
The inspector concluded that the proposal before him would result in no significant effects in relation to the suitability of the location for residential development compared with the scheme permitted via the 2015 permission.
This all tells us that the current prior approval system for barn conversions leaves the door wide open for gaining planning permission for demolition and residential redevelopment via a two-stage process.
The following DCP section is relevant: 10.1361