Row of cows at farm in Shropshire

Try for a conversion – transforming old to new

28/02/22Try for a conversion – transforming old to new

How many occasions, when you’re driving through the countryside, do you pass an old, ruined farmhouse, or an outbuilding or barn in a state of dire disrepair, and think – “That would make a lovely house”?

It always seems a shame when you see an old building that has fallen – sometimes literally – on hard times, but there could be a multitude of reasons why the building is in the state it is. It could be a case of unknown ownership, or it could be the financing simply isn’t there for the upkeep or renovation. Whatever the reasons, it’s also equally noticeable when an old, dilapidated structure is sympathetically restored, or converted into something new and purposeful, rather than crumbling away.

Planning and potential

Farm buildings, such as barns and outbuildings, offer a superb and unique opportunity for their owners, when it comes to redevelopment. A conversion offers farmers and estate managers the chance for diversification, as the resulting properties can be either sold into private ownership or let as a long-term revenue stream. The structure or shell is already standing, as a footprint on the landscape, which helps with the granting of planning permission. Often a renovation of a building such as this is allowable under permissible development, as it will improve the appearance of an area, or restore a period structure to its former glory once more.  

Most of these utilitarian farm structures are two storeys, or at least offer the height to allow another floor to be added. They are usually built in keeping with their surroundings – in a sympathetic farmhouse brick or stone – and the existing features, such as open stable doors or upper-storey barn doors (to allow storage access), can usually be incorporated into any new designs. You often see upper storey doors, that lead nowhere from the interior, changed into balcony views, with a railing or grill across the doorway for safety. Wide stable doors are often changed into glass or wooden patio doors, while the use of glass and Velux roof lights allows the maximum amount of natural light into the interiors. Imaginative design can make the most of these existing features.         

Existing opportunities

If the structure itself is sound, then it may only need the minimal interior insulation to become habitable. In other cases, however, new foundations and interior block wall may be needed, a cavity may have to be formed with insulated filler, or the walls dry-lined with battens, to create a habitable, insulated space. Buildings such as stable blocks also offer an idea chance to create muse-style terraced properties, with shared courtyards and ample parking.

Another advantage of converting existing buildings is the proximity of some services, which are usually readily available in the vicinity. Certainly, if the outbuildings are near the main farmhouse or a cottage, an electric and mains water supply are likely to be available. The utilities that can sometimes be more problematic are gas and a mains sewer outlet. When it comes to gas, if a supply is needed it can be held in storage on site in tanks, as is still the case today in many rural or remote locations. A mains sewer can be substituted by a septic tank – years ago these were underground brick-built chambers – or a Klargester tank, which treats the effluent waste underground on site. Neither of these are huge issues and can be installed relatively easily.

At Forge Property Consultants, we can offer you expert advice on a range of issues around conversion and renovation of your property – from the design potential through to bringing in services to the location. If you think you have an outbuilding, barn or storage shed that might be prefect for a conversion, then get in touch with one of our experts today.

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