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  • Writer's pictureLawrence

Planning consent for Bristol barn conversion

We are pleased to report the successful planning application for conversion of an agricultural barn into a new three bedroom dwelling located in Long Ashton, Bristol. The planning process has not been without its challenges, so we are really pleased that we have now resolved a successful scheme and we can start developing the technical drawings for the construction of this energy efficient new home.

About the Project

Our clients sought our creativity to help design their barn conversion in what is a very difficult plot with a number of challenges to overcome. This barn in particular is in a state of disrepair with much of the existing building fabric in a dilapidated state. It's built into the hillside on a sloping site and the internal head height could potentially limit the design to a single storey.

To complicate matters further, the site is located within the greenbelt and within a scheduled monument. There are a number of listed buildings nearby and the site is in fact a working farm. Building conversions are renowned for being complex and difficult. Adapting existing buildings for new use requires careful consideration of the existing structure, the surrounding environment, and the internal viability of the building.

Planning Challenges

In theory, projects such as this offer an attractive route in gaining planning permission. Building conversions are actively encouraged in the National Planning Policy Framework [NPPF], the government's planning policy guidelines for England, as they present an opportunity to provide much needed new dwellings in rural areas without the need to construct new buildings which might damage the character of the countryside or require new infrastructure.

However, local planning authorities are sensitive to ensuring that buildings are suitable for reuse and can be converted without significant alteration. In our case, we were required to prove that 70% of the original structure would be retained as part of the proposed design.

This poses a challenge as agricultural buildings such as this were never designed to be lived in. There’s rarely enough head height to comfortably fit two floors, further still the lightweight construction materials of the building fabric were never put in place to keep the interior warm or the elements completely out. The lack of any weather proofing and insulation means this has to be factored into the design and cost. Barn conversions can resist domestic habitation unless approached with great care and caution. It's hard to get it right. One thing is for sure, you have to tread carefully.

The Final Design

We were able to demonstrate the necessary level of retention for planning, with a design which would seek to keep the existing blockwork walls at low level, upgraded with external wall insulation, as well as selective repair and upgrade of the timber structure above in order to align the building fabric with current building regulations.

We incorporated a split level design to strike a balance between the quality of the interior spaces and to ensure all the desired rooms are realised. The split level concept ensures the spaces we occupy for much of the day such as the lounge, kitchen, dining room, and office are light, airy, and comfortable. Spaces we occupy less frequently such as the bedrooms and bathrooms are cosy and intimate whilst maintaining a high quality feel. The split floor levels also provide a better connection between the primary living spaces and the upper and lower gardens compared to what otherwise would have been achieved had we pursued a traditional two-storey proposal.

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