I suppose that I’ve been avoiding writing this post for quite some time, probably since not long after we started work on the barn and this blog. So, cards on the table, time to explore the dark-side(or at least some of the challenges) of barn conversions…
There are a whole bunch of troubles that come with barn conversions, some that I’ve experienced first hand, others at a distance…
NB: This section is only applicable in certain parts of the country, my experience is in Carmarthenshire, other parts of the country do not have such restrictions.
Some time ago planners and planning departments thought that barn conversions were a good idea. But that was back in the 90’s and things have changed since then. The consequences of barn conversions – splintered, untenable farms and rural gentrification (too much gravel and too many bay trees), became too high a price to pay. Local plans were changed to reflect this about face and new restrictions were introduced to encourage non-residential repurposing of barns.
We bought the barn at the cusp of this change, before residential planning had a prerequisite of two years on the market for holiday let or commercial use only, so things were easier for us then than they would be now. We were able to simply buy a barn with permission in place and convert it – that’s not likely to be the case today.
In common with most building projects, chasing paper and knowing which pieces of paper to chase can become a real head-ache. Plans, schedules, planning permission & building control letters and a myriad of certificates – from the Environment Agency, Hetas, your electrician, energy assessor – the boxes to tick and bits of paper to collect are numerous.
Make sure that you know what documentation is required when you start your project, BUT also keep track of changes that occur as your project progresses. For example, when we started converting the barn an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) was a part the ill-fated, ‘later-to-have-its-wings-clipped’ HIPS home information pack scheme something for prospective house buyers – a few years later I needed one as part of the building control sign-off (Admittedly, I may well have missed the requirement for one at the start of the project – but I don’t think so!).
They are awkward things barns. Big, empty, hard to divide spaces, with messy rubble built walls and often cut-price roofing, the floor, doors and windows will all need replacing and utilities will need to be added – and that’s if you’re lucky. Where you need to make changes (new openings, an extension, a new roof etc.) these will need to be in keeping with the local vernacular and more importantly your local planning departments vision of how the local vernacular should now manifest itself.
ARCHITECTS, PLANNERS, BUSYBODIES and other know-it-alls…
There’s a strange thing about barns. Before you start to convert them they just sit there, often neglected, dilapidated and generally unloved. Relics of a bygone age of back breaking, manually punishing agriculture. By and large, dusty, dirty unloved places, usually unseen and largely uncared for.
Then some mad romantic fool comes along, buys the barn and changes the game… Now it’s a much loved throwback to a halcyon age of honest endeavour an icon & a relic and you as the owner have become its custodian. Those-who-know-best now descend and urge you to retain its essential nature, keep it locked up tight, dark, untouched and ‘barnlike’.
Having said all that I wouldn’t have missed a minute of my conversion…