More agricultural and industrial buildings should be converted to cater for rural housing demand

Planning design and construction Hughes Architects

A Mid Wales architect says more modern farm and industrial buildings could be converted for residential use in rural Wales to help tackle local housing issues.

Doug Hughes of Powys-based building design and planning consultancy Hughes Architects, said a large number of modern farming buildings, such as steel-framed barns, could be utilised throughout Mid and West Wales.

“Obviously, the lack of housing, including affordable homes, cannot be addressed by converting barns alone. But it could go some way to helping address problems in smaller communities,” said Doug.

More modern agricultural buildings provide residential opportunities

“Many families want to live and work in their rural communities. Plots of land are limited or simply not viable for development in some cases. But by bringing underutilised buildings, whether agricultural or industrial, into residential use could help.”

He said most people believed only old stone or wood-framed barns and buildings could be converted into homes.

“The traditional barn conversion is well known, with some stunning properties created. But many steel-framed structures, such as those built in the 1980s and early 90s are ripe for transformation.

Buildings are not being used or underutilised

“In many cases, these buildings are either not being used or are underutilised. Carefully designed, these buildings could become a home, multiple homes or even live/work premises.”

Planning regulations in Wales and England are different. In English counties such as Shropshire, it’s possible to bring forward the conversion on such steel-framed buildings under Permitted Development Orders.

These allow some buildings to be converted without planning permission. In Wales it is different. It’s relatively straight forward to apply for planning permission to convert an older building, but not so when it comes to modern steel-framed structures.

Encouragement from planning authorities to re-use modern buildings

Mr Hughes said: “In counties such as Powys there is some encouragement from the planning authority to re-use modern agricultural or industrial buildings for residential use. It’s just that it hasn’t been tested in practice that much.

“This could be down to people just not realising the potential of such buildings for residential use. But with modern building design and construction practices, there are a wide range of possibilities.

“These can range from multiple units within a structure, to a single residency or even a work/life property, allowing more rural enterprises to thrive and prosper.”

Mr Hughes said he hoped to bring forward several such projects and encouraged landowners and developers to consider such opportunities.

You can call Hughes Architects for a free discussion and initial consultation about your project. Call 01686 610311 or email enquiries@hughesarchitects.co.uk.

Architect's drawing plans