Draft Core Strategy (incorporating Preferred Options) October 2010

Draft Core Strategy (incorporating Preferred Options)

Re-use and Conversion of Buildings in the Countryside

9.41 PPS4 is clear that the re-use of buildings in the countryside for economic development purposes will usually be preferable to new build or residential use and is explicit in its guidance for such development.

9.42 In South Somerset, traditional agricultural and industrial buildings are a significant part of our historic and landscape heritage. They are fundamental to our sense of place and local distinctiveness. "Traditional" is a term often used to describe farm buildings pre-dating 1940, after which modern building materials and revolutions in farming technology and farmstead planning marked a sharp divide with previous practice.[1] The re-use and conversion of these buildings presents an opportunity to secure their continued presence in the wider landscape. If new uses and buildings are paired sensitively and if any changes planned will preserve the buildings, their features of interest and their setting, then these buildings can go on to tell the story of our past and present, albeit with a new use.

9.43 PPS4 is clear that the re-use of buildings applies not only to traditional buildings, but also to other buildings in the countryside and PPS5 highlights how this contributes toward a more sustainable form of development, as in energy terms it is better to reuse a building, than demolish it and rebuild it. In addition low carbon conversions offer greater sustainability rewards and are thus supported.

9.44 Policy EP4 supports the residential re-use of buildings in the countryside only where there is no suitable alternative economic use that can lead to the preservation of the building(s) and where there is no adverse impact on the countryside and wildlife. It must be noted that any proposed conversion of a traditional building must be achieved without substantial rebuilding, the converted building must retain its character after conversion otherwise the primary aim of preserving and finding a reuse of the building will be lost. The purpose of this is to protect the wider landscape of South Somerset and the features (hence the traditional buildings) that give the landscape its special character.

9.45 Any proposal to re-use or convert an existing building for residential purposes must demonstrate that sequentially business and community uses have firstly been considered and discounted, then live/work units, prior to sole residential re-use. Developers must provide robust and credible evidence of viability and marketing, to support the argument that the site has no suitable, alternative commercial, community or live/work use.[2]

9.46 In addition to any supporting evidence concerning viability, it must be demonstrated that the site is in a sustainable location for the proposed new land use. Allowing uses that are unsustainable or incompatible with the wider surrounding area would not be desirable simply because it enables the redevelopment of a site.

9.47 In addition to the above Council guidance," The Conversion of Traditional Farm Buildings, A Guide to Good Practice: English Heritage" and design guidance "The Conversion of Traditional Farm and Other Buildings" should be considered alongside Policy EP4, as they set out further information in respect of the re-use of traditional buildings and what information may assist submission of a planning application.

9.48 Many buildings are important habitats for legally protected wildlife such as bats, owls, swifts or swallows. In addition to the potential direct impacts of converting buildings already occupied by such species, the widespread conversion of simple agricultural and industrial buildings is resulting in fewer potential roosting and nesting sites thereby limiting opportunities for these beneficial species to re-colonise and increase their populations in areas of suitable countryside. Conversions should therefore aim to accommodate any existing wildlife, and should also aim to provide opportunities for future accommodation by wildlife.

Policy EP4 Conversion or Re-use of Buildings in the Countryside
Proposals for the reuse of buildings in the countryside for residential purposes will be permitted provided that every reasonable attempt has been made to secure a suitable:
  • business or community re-use firstly; and
  • live/work unit on site secondly, prior to consideration for sole residential re-use.
In addition to the sequential approach outlined above, the following criteria will need to be satisfied:
  • The buildings are structurally sound and capable of conversion without demolition;
  • The proposed re-use preserves the established historic and/or architectural value of the building;
  • Use is made of land within the curtilage of the development where possible and outside the curtilage only where it is demonstrated that additional land is essential for domestic amenities;
  • There is no adverse impact on the countryside with regard to scale, character and appearance;
  • The proposed re-use has regard for protected wildlife species and their habitats, in particular internationally designated sites and Sites of Special Scientific Interest; and
  • The site is in a sustainable location for the land use proposed.
1. English Heritage Guidance: The Conversion of Traditional Farm Buildings, A Guide to Good Practice [back]
2. Guidance document "Commercial Marketing of Property in Relation to Planning and Listed Building Applications" is available on the Council's web site [back]