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PPS 6: Planning, Archaeology and The Built Heritage
Non-listed Vernacular Buildings: Policy BH 15

Policy BH 15 The Re-use of Non-listed Vernacular Buildings  
The Department will normally permit the sympathetic conversion of non-listed vernacular buildings to other appropriate uses where this would secure their upkeep and retention. In the countryside conversion to residential use will normally only be considered appropriate where the building to be converted is an important element in the landscape and of local architectural merit or historic interest. All proposals for conversion will normally be required to meet all of the following criteria:
  • the building is structurally sound and capable of conversion;
  • the scheme of conversion will not have an adverse effect on the character or appearance of the locality and safeguards the form, character and architectural features, design and setting of the existing building. This will involve retention of existing door and window openings and minimising the number of new openings. Details such as door and window design, external surfaces, rainwater goods and means of enclosure should be of traditional or sympathetic design and materials;
  • the new use would not cause unacceptable adverse effects on the amenities of nearby residents or other land uses;
  • normally no new extensions are involved; and
  • access and other necessary services are provided without adverse impact on the character of the locality.

Justification and Amplification

9.2 Changing patterns of life mean that many traditional local buildings are no longer needed for their original use. These include mills, schools, churches as well as dwellings. While many of these vernacular buildings are now vacant and are at risk from dereliction, they represent a valuable historic resource and their appropriate re-use would contribute to sustainable development and may encourage the social and economic regeneration of particular areas.
9.3 The Department wishes therefore to encourage the re-use of such vernacular buildings by sympathetic renovation or conversion for a range of appropriate uses. This may include proposals for tourism or recreation use, small-scale employment uses or new rural enterprises. All development proposals for the conversion of a vernacular building should involve a minimum of work and should maintain or enhance the existing character of the building and its setting. Approval will not normally be given to a scheme involving substantial demolition or extensions which significantly alter the appearance or character of the building. Design therefore is particularly important and where extensions or external alterations are proposed, these must reflect the scale, massing, materials and detailing of the existing property. All proposals will therefore be critically assessed as to their contribution to the conservation of the building to be converted.
9.4 Great care will be necessary in assessing proposals for conversion to residential use as this can be particularly detrimental to the fabric and character of certain buildings. In the countryside, and, in particular in Green Belts and Countryside Policy Areas the Department will normally only consider a relaxation of it’s normal planning policies for residential development, where:
  • residential use is the key to the conservation of a building of local architectural merit or historic interest which comprises an important element of the landscape;
  • the conversion scheme involves minimal alteration; and
  • the overall scale of the proposal and intensity of use is appropriate to the locality and would not prejudice the objectives behind Green Belt and Countryside Policy Area designation.
Each proposal will be determined on its merits. It should be noted that the application of this policy relates only to schemes of sympathetic conversion. The Department would therefore stress that a grant of planning permission for conversion to residential use will not in itself be considered sufficient grounds to subsequently permit the replacement of the building with a new dwelling.
9.5 Where a conversion scheme to residential use in the countryside is considered acceptable any residential curtilage to be created, as part of the proposal should not have a harmful effect on the character of the countryside, particularly in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and other areas of landscape quality. In certain cases it may be necessary to remove permitted development rights to protect the character of the converted buildings or the landscape generally.
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