Is this the end for the Hobbit Home in Pembrokeshire?

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We’ve featured this sweet little home on our blog before. This house was built by a young family from natural materials when they realised they couldn’t afford to buy a conventional home in their area. The house is tucked away on land owned by the couple’s parents and has a lot of support from the locals and all over the world! The couple created the house to provide their son with a healthy environment to grow up in, but have battled for 3 years to keep their home safe.

Last July the couple applied for retrospective planning permission, however, the Council decided that the property had to go as it did not fit in with the surrounding Pembrokeshire countryside. The case has now gone to appeal and the couple are hoping that their house will be saved according to the Welsh “one planet development” practice criteria which require 65% of all subsistence, or 30% of food and 35% of livelihood, to come from the land. They argue that they are reaching the targets by combining sales from the families’ woodworking business with income generated by renewable energy provisions on site and a fruit dessert business.

A Planning Inspector visited the property in May and a final decision is expected in the coming weeks.

What are your thoughts? Should this house be saved? Or do you agree with the Council and think the house should go?

Update: the Planning Inspector has allowed the appeal and planning consent has been granted!

Barn conversions – What you need to know!

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Agricultural buildings can be converted to dwellings under Permitted Development (PD) Part 3, Class Q of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015.

These regulations allow agricultural buildings to be converted into dwellings without the need for full planning permission. This is subject to going through a prior notification procedure where details of the proposal are submitted to the Council.

Proposals will need to satisfy a number of criteria before prior approval is confirmed. Such criteria include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The building(s) have to have been used for agriculture on 20th March 2013, or last used for agriculture if currently unused, or used for agriculture in the preceding 10 years prior to a development under Class Q beginning.
  • The building(s) cannot be located within Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), National Parks, The Broads, a Conservation Area or a World Heritage Site.
  • The site cannot be or form part of a listed building, a scheduled monument, A Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a safety hazard area or a military explosives storage area.
  • The maximum floor space that may be converted can be no more than 450m2.
  • The total number of new homes which may be developed is 3.
  • The building(s) cannot be extended under the right. Only works ‘to the extent reasonably necessary for the building to function as a dwellinghouse; and partial demolition to the extent reasonably necessary to carry out these building operations’ are permitted under the PD regulations.
  • Consent is required from both the landlord and the tenant if the site is under an agricultural tenancy agreement.
  • No works of conversion must have been carried out before the application.

It is important to note that the permitted development right does not apply a test in relation to sustainability of location. This is deliberate as the right recognises that many agricultural buildings will not be in village settlements and may not be able to rely on public transport for their daily needs. Instead, the local planning authority can consider whether the location and siting of the building would make it impractical or undesirable to change use to a house.

Impractical or undesirable are not defined in the regulations, and the local planning authority should apply a reasonable ordinary dictionary meaning in making any judgment. Impractical reflects that the location and siting would “not be sensible or realistic”, and undesirable reflects that it would be “harmful or objectionable”.

The regulations have caused quite a stir in the planning profession with government figures highlighting over half (52%) of the conversion applications are being refused!

Get in touch with the team if you would like to know more!