London Green Belt Council

Green Belt appeal decisions

Housing – Conversions


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Updated 11 May 2007, this page includes various recent decisions on appeals against refusal of planning consent. Summarises of appeal decisions arising from refusal of planning consent are available at www.Planning,uk/dcs, with a copy of the decision letter also available for a fee.

Housing appeals have been split into four categories, namely:

        New (green field) including re-use of agricultural land

        New (brown field) being the redevelopment of other categories of land

        Conversions, being the conversion of an existing building, with perhaps an extension.

        ‘Other’ is a miscellany such as extensions, outbuildings, walls, access and other items not covered by the three main categories.

The category decision is ours, and you may disagree! Some cases are hard to categorise, so it may be worth checking out the others.

'SoS' = Secretary of State. 'DETR' is now ‘DCLG’ = Dept for Communities and Local Government.

Barn changes not necessary in Northumberland GB. Permission had been given to convert former agricultural buildings into 5 homes and a farmhouse annexe, with demolition of the appeal building and two others. Instead an additional floor had been inserted and new window and door openings plus wood cladding on what had been three open sides. The appellant argued this made the building more attractive to tenant farmers allowing greater flexibility, but the Inspector disagreed. No agricultural appraisal had been made to prove the case. DCS100042692. 7.7.06


Barn conversion allowed in Lancs GB. Major or complete reconstruction was not necessary to convert the barn to residential use. The former farm had permission for housing through conversion, change of use, alteration, extension and demolition of various parts of other buildings. The only dispute was whether the barn was of permanent and substantial construction and convertible without major reconstruction. The appellant thought about 25% of the external walls would need reconstruction, well within the accepted 33% guide figure for barn conversions. The council thought the figure would be significantly more.but the inspector thought it would be no more than 30%. DCS 100038580. 30.9.05

Gatehouse conversion refused in S Yorks GB. The proposal was to convert a Grade 2 listed gatehouse into a dwelling. The Inspector dismissed an appeal because the proposed link between the two gatehouses would underline their historical and architectural importance. The High Court agreed with the Inspector, concluding the Inspector had assessed the available information and concluded that the link would destroy the individuality of both buildings. Thompson v 1stSos 27 April 2005. Ref CO/12/2005.

Barn rebuild refused in Worcs GB. IF approved a gymnasium with bathroom would occupy the exact footprint of a collapsed barn. Building work had started. The Inspector ruled that the original barn was structurally unsound and incapable of conversion. The new building would harm the openness of the countryside. DCS 36022260. Nov 2004.

Water tower conversion refused in Berks GB. One appeal related to conversion of a single-storey agricultural building to two dwellings and a bullpen to another dwelling. The degree of reconstruction made it inappropriate and the extent of domestic encroachment into the countryside undermined the openness. .A second appeal related to conversion of a three-storey water tower into a dwelling using only the ground floor plus a new-build extension creating 83% of the floor space. The tower was a notable but unlisted landmark in a conservation area. The extension was a material increase contravening the local planning policy. Overall both produced a marginally smaller volume but this was not sufficiently very special to outweigh the inappropriateness and encroachment into the GB. DCS 32071170. Oct 2004.

8 large homes refused at Cheshire GB farm. All but one farm building would be demolished and the remaining one converted into a dwelling, plus 7 new ones. The money raised would be used on a Grade 1 listed building which would then be used for social functions, giving local employment and funds to maintain the estate. The DPM ruled that it did not comply with the sequential approach to new housing, residents would be car-reliant, and even a higher density of housing would not reconcile with the GB location. The Inspector had suggested a reduced number of houses to lessen the impact on the openness of the GB. The DPM said there was an oversupply of housing in the area already., and the proposed large houses were an inefficient land use. DCS 52958007. Sept 2004.

Kent GB manor house conversion approved. The DPM approved conversion of a listed manor into 20 apartments and a single dwelling. The poor accessibility was poutweighed by the need to preserve the buildings. DCS 488715697. Sept 2004.

Derbyshire GB mill conversion refused. Permission had previously been given to convert the mill and some new build, but the appeal proposal was a more radical and contemporary design, which the Inspector accepted. However it would extend beyond the boundaries of the ‘major developed area’ shown in the local plan. There were no very special circumstances to justify this encroachment into the GB. DCS 3850781. July 2004.

Cheshire GB barn conversion approved. Approval was given despite the major reconstruction work required. Permission was granted in 1997 and work started in 2002. The Council stopped the work after the extent of the work became apparent. A new application was made for a modest 3-bed cottage similar to that approved. The Council argued that it had become a new building rather than a conversion. The Inspector noted the barn did not have a roof or rear wall so it was not a ‘permanent and substantial construction’ so it failed the test for reuse and conversion in the GB., making it inappropriate. The required reconstruction work was less than originally envisaged but the outcome was similar and the scheme appeared to sanction a significant amount of rebuilding, amounting to very special circumstances. DCS 41641669. August 2004.

Kent GB listed building conversion refused. Planning permission was granted in 1990 to convert the building into a hotel, golf course and leisure club. The latter had been implemented. A new application to convert the building into four apartments was refused. The appellant argued that the fact that it could be used as a hotel was a very special circumstance, and hotel use would nave a greater impact on the openness, and more damaging to the historic and architectural importance. The Inspector and DPM disagreed, saying the site was not sustainable for housing. DCS 36580241. June 2004.

N Staffs GB derelict pub cannot become housing – The 0.5ha site contained various buildings including an 18th C pub. The Deputy Prime Minister agreed with his Inspector that conversion into 3 dwellings would encroach into the countryside. This rural brown field site was not suitable for housing. DCS 54254379 Jan 2004

Surrey GB barn replacement refused – The barn was built in the 1960s under permitted dev. Rights and later became a residential use associated with the main building. The appellant claimed that it was now immune from enforcement action, and enhanced the GB and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and he would replace a utilitarian building with one of traditional and attractive design. The Inspector noted the considerable reduction in footprint and a lesser reduction on volume, and the building would be an acceptable element of the landscape but not an enhancement. The benefits were material but insufficient to outweigh the harm caused by the inappropriate nature of the development, and were not a very special circumstance. Not part of the stated report, but it would appear that the Inspecto9r decided the appellant should not benefit from a breach of planning control. DCS 4039825 Nov 2003.

Former chapel OK for housing in Warwicks GB – The ground floor area was only 40 sqm and had been permitted for use as a builder’s store. As a house it would be small but sufficient, and it was better than a vacant building. The modest external alterations would not harm the character of the area. DCS 52821213. Nov 2003.

Sheffield GB pigsty rebuild for housing allowed – Planning permission had been given to change the use of farm buildings to form 4 dwellings. However the sty was demolished and a similar sized building erected. Enforcement action was taken but the appellants argued they had a legitimate expectation of this falling within the terms of the permission. Notification of the start of work was not submitted until after the sty was demolished. The Inspector ruled that the ‘demolish and rebuild’ decision by the developer did not fetter the council’s ability to take enforcement action, but he granted permission since the council had authorised conversion of the pigsty of similar dimensions. DCS 3290790 July 2003.

Cheshire GB farm building conversion to housing refused – The conversion included the rebuilding of a timber lean-to, plus other extensions. The Inspector noted that the lean-to was not substantial and could not have a long-term life. The extent of rebuilding and extensions was inappropriate in the GB. Also light from the houses would spill onto adjacent fields harming the appearance and character of the rural area. DCS 55262392. July 2003.

Herts GB clinic approved for housing – 14 flats would be created after conversion and extension of the building. The extensions would not be excessive and be in keeping. It would not have an adverse effect on the openness of the countryside. DCS 55091236. May 2003

Kent GB farm building cannot be converted to housing – A livestock building was converted to a house by installing a living room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen without altering the build form. The appellant argued that reuse for agricultural purposes would have a similar impact on the openness of the GB, but the Inspector disagreed saying it would lead to an increase in traffic and demestic paraphernalia in the garden. DCS 33623521. June 2003.

Unnecessary limitation on occupancy - A barn conversion approval limited occupancy to the appellant's family or workers at the farm. The Inspector ruled that this served no useful planning purpose and removal would not harm the GB. Three Rivers DC 21 Oct 2002. DCS 49422680

West Midlands GB farm conversion refused - situated between Birmingham and Coverntry, a farm had been intensely developed over several years. It was about 1.5km from any settlement along narrow rural roads, with no bus service. An application was made to remove the modern buildings and convert the traditional ones to residential plus some new buildings. The DPM over-ruled his Inspector and dismissed the application as unsustainable. He was concerned about conflict with GB policies, transport (PPG13-transport), and the new-build element, though accepting the conversion was appropriate, he also thought the visual improvments and contributions to openness were overstated and were not a very special circumstance. There was a continuing need for commercial premises in the area so the application conflicted with PPG7. There was no convincing evidence of an urgent need for housing in the area. Solihull MBC 5 August 2002. DCS 36049436.

Cheshire barn conversion can be called in - The Council approved the conversion but the SoSETR called in the application to convert a barn into a dwelling in the Cheshire green belt. The owner claimed it was unfair because she could not afford to be properly represented. The High Court ruled that it was fair because a public enquiry by an independent inspector should be perfectly balanced and fair, notwithstanding the owner's lack of financial means. Hadfield v SoSETR 12 June 2002. Ref CO/3295/2001

Herts barn conversion to B+B allowed - A Herts farmer wished to convert an under-used barn to bed & breakfast accommodation. The Council alleged it did not involve farm diversification but was focused on supporting an already successful farm. The Inspector ruled that the conversion did not require major work so it was an appropriate development in the green belt. He said government policy did not limit agricultural diversification to support of a declining enterprise. He allowed the appeal which would not harm the openness of the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty. Three Rivers DC 30 May 2002. DCS 38198815

Chapel conversion became completely new building- disallowed - Permission was granted in 1988 allowed a change of use, significant building alterations & partial demolition of a disused chapel in green belt near St Albans. However the building now occupying the site was ofd blockwork cavity wall construction on a high brick plinth and a roof of timber trusses. The Inspector said the removal of the timber frame, for health & safety reasons due to asbestos, was not a variation of the permission,. neither wa sbuilding regs approval of the foundations, plinth and walls. However almost nothing remained of the original building so its identity had been lost. The completely new building was outside the permission. It was inappropriate in the green belt, harmed the openness and had no very special circumstances to justify it. St Albans DC 21 May 2002 DCS 34001296.

Rotherham farm building conversion refused - Conversion of traditional farm buildings into 4 dwellings in Rotherham green belt entailed many new openings in the buildings, destroying their simple rustic character. Although conversion was OK in principle it did not respect their design and extensions would have to be strictly controlled. There was no justification for 4 new double garages because the substantial nature of the buildings allowed integral garages. The new garages would conflict with the openness of the countryside, extending the compact nature of retained buildings. The . Arguments that the cessation of farming had little weight and were not very special circumstances. Rotherham MBC 14 March 2002 DCS 48064731.

'Ancillary' residence allowed - The Inspector upheld an enforcement order to stop a former apple store being used as a self-contained dwelling, but permitted an ancillary residential use. the 1998 approval of a replacement dwelling had a condition that the apple store should only be used for purposes incidental to the enjoyment of the premises. It was proposed to use it for a garage and store, but was fitted out as a self-contained dwelling. It was not currently occupied but had been occupied by a security manm breaching planning control. The Inspector decided 'incidental' meant subordinate to the main dwelling and approved use conditional upon it being ancillary living accommodation. The property was in the Surrey Green Belt. Waverley BC 26 March 2002. DCS 32287383.

Ha-ha OK in green belt - Existing parkland buildings in Surrey were being converted to residential use. The Inspector ruled that a ha-ha would not affect the openness of the area but would provided a physical demarcation to the site. The local authority claimed it would have a strong physical presence due to its construction and lack of association with existing boundary or topographical features. The ha-ha would be a flat-bottomed ditch 1.2m deep with a steep inner face supported by cellular blockwork and a graded outer face. Reigate & Banstead BC 26 July 2001. DCS No. 39373602

Barn conversion refused - The Inspector dismissed an appeal to convert an 18th century barn into a dwelling, because its retention and protection did not depend upon the conversion. Although not listed it had a local importance, and had a simple agricultural character. Conversion would give it a residential character and a more prominent feature in the countryside. This, plus the substantial curtilage and hardstanding would reduce the openness of the countryside in the Hertfordshire Green Belt. Three Rivers DC 2 May 2001 . DCS No. 32305421

Refurbishment costs of old mill favoured residential, not employment use - The cost of refurbishing a 4-storey 19th century mill, in the green belt, would be too high to provide economical rents for employment purposes. The Inspector gave permission for a 38 apartment development instead. Tameside MBC 19 March 2001. DCS No. 32667019

Agricultural buildings cannot be converted into bungalow - The Inspector dismissed an appeal to convert a group of disused agricultural buildings to form a bungalow and garage. He ruled that it was not within the definition of previously developed land. PPG3 specifically excludes agricultural buildings from this definition. The removal of dereliction was not a very special circumstance justifying development in the Green Belt. This argument could lead to buildings being deliberately neglected to the detriment of the character and appearance of the countryside. North Somerset Council. 24 April 2001. DCS No. 37310708

Conversion of a house to a residential home approved - Tandridge Council, Surrey refused permission for a residential home for 7 people with learning difficulties because of the increased activity would harm the rural nature of the green belt and the access would be dangerous for road users. The inspector found that the current house was unsuitable for a single family due to its size, internal arrangements, and lack of interest from prospective purchasers. He decided that the new use would be hardly different from that of a large family.

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