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LGA warns barn conversions are hurting rural economies

Rural areas are at risk of losing out on investment in infrastructure and affordable homes due to planning changes which allow more homes to be built without the need for planning permission.

In 2014 the government made it easier for agricultural buildings to be converted into homes, and development regulations are set to be relaxed further in April this year, which the Local Government Association believes could lead to a dramatic increase in the number of conversions which bypass consultation from local communities.

Currently, landowners can convert agricultural buildings into three new homes without the need for planning permission, but government changes will soon allow conversions of individual agricultural buildings into five new homes.

The number of agricultural to residential conversions has increased by 46% over the last two years.

The effects of this relaxation could have far-reaching consequences, the LGA has warned, with rural areas face losing out on investment in infrastructure and affordable homes as a result of forthcoming planning changes allowing more new homes to avoid local approval.

LGA research published in January showed that one in 10 of all new homes last year were converted from an old office, prompting worries that communities could be hit economically by the shortage of retail and office space. In many parts of the country, over 30 per cent of all new homes were old offices

Cllr Martin Tett, the LGA’s housing spokesman, said: ‘Councils want to see more affordable homes built quickly and the conversion of offices, barns and storage facilities into residential flats is one way to deliver much-needed homes.

However, it is vital that councils and local communities have a voice in the planning process. At present, permitted development rules allow developers to bypass local influence and convert existing buildings to flats, and to do so without providing affordable housing and local services and infrastructure such as roads and schools.’

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