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Relaxing barn conversion rules will threaten protected landscapes

19th October 2023

CPRE Sussex is opposing plans to relax rules around converting redundant agricultural buildings into residential properties.

The bid to remove safeguards on former barn and other conversions is part of a government consultation on changes to permitted development rights.

CPRE Sussex says the proposals put our National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and other protected landscapes at risk.

Director Paul Steedman said: “Allowing the conversion of thousands of barns to housing with barely any controls will harm the environment and the beauty of our countryside without contributing to the very real need for genuinely affordable housing.

“The Sussex countryside needs more affordable housing, especially social housing, located in the right places. What it doesn’t need is more millionaires living in plush barn conversions or former farm sheds turned into housing which is totally inappropriate for our National Park and AONBs.”

The bid to relax conversion rules have been criticised by the national CPRE charity and National Parks.

While ‘barn conversions’ may conjure images of traditional thrashing barns, the rules will apply to all redundant agricultural buildings – from open-fronted hay stores to huge, modern steel-framed buildings.

Conversion can, and often does, include replacement of all four walls, the roof and floor. Planning permission for conversion can also easily be converted into permission for demolition.

By their nature, many former agricultural buildings are on isolated, car-dependent sites without access to public transport.

Paul said: “We recognise the huge challenge farmers face from restrictive supermarket contracts to crop damage from climate breakdown. We urge the government to better support farmers to deliver nature-friendly farming through ELMS rather than placing them in a position where they are forced to sell off their buildings for development.”

While the government consultation was open we urged anyone concerned about inappropriate conversions of agricultural buildings to respond to it.

Read: CPRE response to Permitted Development Rights consultation

We’ve sent CPRE’s response to Sussex to Sussex MPs and a few have written back saying that they’ll raise the issue with Government ministers.

To help CPRE Sussex oppose government policies which fail to protect the countryside and fight for sustainable, affordable housing join us today.