Benefit from our expertise for your
contemporary barn conversion

A barn conversion in Essex is an attractive option for those looking for a rural home close to London.  Carrying out a barn conversion in Essex is much more challenging than finding a suitable new house for sale on an established development, but a contemporary barn conversion offers a gamut of possibilities that you would struggle to find anywhere else, even with new builds.

Despite their appeal, barn conversions can be daunting projects to undertake.  No two are the same: there will always be differences in terms of design, location, personal requirements and planning issues, not forgetting costs. As a firm of experienced RIBA architects with proven expertise in converting and renovating barns, we can help you take your barn conversion project from planning to completion.

Why invest in a barn conversion?

A barn conversion offers a practical bridge between the attraction of the old and the functionality of the new.  You will benefit from owning a property that is full of character and local history; situated in scenic countryside and, upon renovation, will provide the comfort and practicalities of contemporary living found in a new build property.

A barn conversion allows you to have effectively a new house in a rural location where planning permission for development would not normally be granted.  You can find examples of this type of property development in the surrounding areas of the popular villages in Essex, near Epping, Ongar, Brentwood Braintree and Chelmsford.

Barns are versatile, suiting a variety of tastes In the South East of England, there are many barn conversion interior design experts, but we pride ourselves on being the best.  Recent changes to planning rules have encouraged a rise in the popularity of redundant farm buildings such as Dutch barns and corrugated metal barns. Elsewhere stone barns are more available for conversion.

Coming in all shapes and sizes, barns can accommodate a broad range of needs. For people who wish to develop a large unique ‘one off’ statement home, voluminous interiors allow plenty of scope for grand halls, staircases and mezzanine floors.  For those wishing to live off the grid the more remote buildings offer a modest country dwelling with an acre or two for smallholding activities. Then there are those wishing to retire and downsize from a larger townhouse to a small home in the countryside; structures that are only suitable for ground-floor dwellings are a great alternative to a bungalow.

Barns can also offer a good opportunity for business investment.  Following additional planning changes in 2018, one structure can now be divided into five residential dwellings thus becoming an attractive development proposition to builders.  Some, subject, to planning permissions, are converted for business use, such as B&Bs, holiday rental houses, rural retreats or tranquil company headquarters.

Designing your new barn conversion home

Our award-winning barn conversion design experts have enjoyed working on a wide variety of wooden barn conversion projects in Essex. With only the shell of an existing building to begin with, barn conversions allow you to stamp your own personality on your new home as if it were a new build. You may wish to feature the dramatic vaulted ceilings and exploit high ceiling space to ensure plenty of double bedrooms or to maximise the wonderful open spaces and accommodate the design trend for open plan living and dining areas.

However, experience tells us that good planning at the start of a barn conversion project is key to a successful outcome. It takes considerable skill, experience and practical knowledge to achieve the full potential of a structure that was not originally intended for dwelling purposes. Our talented design architects will work with you to help you design and build the home of your dreams, whilst keeping within the boundaries of permitted development and as far as is reasonably possible, keep on budget.

We can lead you through the process from initial idea to completion. In order to achieve a planning permission to convert a barn we will need to introduce you to all the specialists consultants that are required to achieve a planning permission and to satisfy the many planning conditions that are set on an approval. You will need to have a Historical appraisal of the existing structure, structural appraisal by a structural engineer, an ecology and bat survey, desk top study for contaminated land report and soil testing and subsequent reports, flood risk and surface water drainage reports – all by specialists. If the building is a listed building or is in a conservation area then further rules apply. You should expect one to two years lead in time from idea of building to start of build and to set aside a significant budget to deal with these matters on top of the build. We can guide you through this maze of requirements having local knowledge, contact with reliable outside consultants.


How much do barn conversions cost?

This is a difficult area to quantify.  Costs will depend on numerous and variable factors, including the barn’s location, the materials used to build it, its general state and what your plans are, as well as potentially unforeseeable issues.

A good starting place is to look at the costs of your architectural and legal advice to get you to through the planning stage.  These can then be deducted from your overall budget, this will give you an idea of what you have left to spend and you can work backwards from there as to the specifications you work to.

We would always strongly advise that you make sure you have a good contingency fund – a barn conversion will invariably throw a few unexpected challenges your way.

As a guide, costs vary between £600 – £1,250 per m2 to convert – more than a typical new build. Stone barns tend to be the most expensive to convert, followed by wood and then brick barns as the cheapest, although this obviously depends on the starting condition of the barn and your plans for it.

Private individuals can reclaim VAT paid on labour and materials on a barn conversion. If you use a VAT registered builder, they will invoice their work at the reduced rate of 5%. Any materials you buy directly will be charged at standard VAT rate. On completion of the project, you can submit your receipts and claim your VAT refund – this claim must be made no more than three months after the conversion work has finished.

What do we need to consider when planning a barn conversion?

  • Is it the right location for you?
  • How remote is it from public services and amenities? Do you have a car? Can all members of your household drive?  Is public transport available? Do you need to be a few minutes drive to schools, shops or hospitals?  Do you value the company of neighbours?
  • Check the viability of the agricultural structure.Will it take too much of your project budget to make good?
  • Do you have a clear understanding of what land is included with the purchase of the barn and whether it meets your purpose?
  • Is there suitable access to the property?
  • Are utilities such as gas, water, electricity, sewage, phone lines already connected? Can they be connected and if not, what are the alternatives?
  • How dark is your barn? Local authorities generally insist that you only use existing openings as windows.
  • Are you able to reclaim and reuse original materials, or other local materials, so the barn retains its relationship with the landscape?

‘Permitted Development’ and ‘Prior Notification’ just Planning Permission rules under different titles?

Being an experienced barn conversion interior design company, history tells us that putting forward a robust planning and architectural case that answers all the criteria for the planning officers can be instrumental in getting permission to proceed with a barn your conversion.

We caution our clients to understand that ‘permitted development’ is not all it seems and that there are grey areas to be negotiated.  Planning laws have been relaxed but plans for your barn still need to meet all the strict criteria under the new rules of ‘permitted development’.

Firstly, you must notify the local authority of your plans for the agricultural building.  This is a process known as ‘Prior Notification’.  The council will look at your proposals and if the criteria under ‘permitted development’ are not met they have the right to refuse your proposals or put conditions on the project.  These criteria are very strict.

What are the essential criteria under ‘Permitted Development’ rules?

  • is the building larger than 450m2?
  • is it in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • is it a listed building
  • Is it an agricultural unit or an outbuilding e.g. a garage in a large garden?
  • Will it require major reconstruction or replacement to achieve a successful conversion
  • Will the original shell be left standing, or will it require new structural elements to be built to make the building suitable for conversion?
  • Do the external dimensions of the converted building extend beyond the external dimensions of the existing building at any given point
  • Will it require works other than the installation or replacement of existing windows, doors, roofs or exterior walls, or bringing services such as water, drainage, electricity or gas that would be considered reasonable in a home.

What if my barn conversion in Essex doesn’t meet all the permitted development criteria?

If your barn does not meet with all the permitted development criteria then it is unlikely to receive permitted development permission.  If this is the case, we will need to put together a strong case to the local authority.  To be considered in these circumstances we will make sure we put forward a design proposal that is:

  • in keeping with its original surroundings
  • maintains the character of the original building
  • respects protected wildlife species and their habitats

Our practice has long established, good working relationships with local planners which means that we are well placed to put forward designs that should meet the demands of the various local authorities. However, we may recommend a feasibility study to discover whether your proposed plans will be able to meet the local planning regulations before you make any significant financial outlay.

Converting an old barn can represent a significant investment on your part, it is important therefore that the design and refurbishment will stand the test of time. At MP Chartered Architects we aspire to guide you towards a sensitive design that encompasses the heritage of the existing barn but embraces the best of contemporary design and new technology to ensure the property is one you are proud of and remains attractive to any potential investor in the future.

So, if you are looking for the best Barn conversion architects Essex has to offer, make sure to contact us today!

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