On 6 April 2014, permitted development rights will be introduced to allow the conversion of agricultural buildings to residential dwellings without express planning permission.
The changes present a potential issue between the application of permitted development rights and the Habitats Directive.
The Directive requires a Local Planning Authority to assess the conservation of protected species in determining whether development may proceed. The Directive is transposed into English law by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010.
In order to take advantage of the permitted development rights there is a prior approval process, where applicants have to obtain the advice of the Council on a range of issues including:-
- Transport and highway issues
- Practicality and desirability of change of use
- Design and external appearance
Often the barns are in rural locations and may provide bat roosts or other habitats for protected species, consideration of this issue should take place as part of the process
In such circumstances how should those making applications deal with the point?
Clearly the provisions of the Habitats Directive are binding and therefore, to obtain a robust decision, at least some form of ecological information at validation stage should be submitted.
If there are reservations as to incurring the cost of this ecological information, this should be balanced against the risk of challenge of a decision that fails to comply with the Habitats Directive.