NEW regulations which will make it easier to turn agricultural buildings into homes are a ‘complete game changer’, according to a planning expert.

A radical change to the planning system means agricultural buildings and barns can be converted to residential use without the need for planning permission.

Until recently, planning policy would not allow the use of any buildings in the countryside for residential use – unless strict criteria could be satisfied.

Ken Parke, managing director of Ken Parke Planning Consultants in Winton, said: “The government, quite correctly in my view, consider empty agricultural buildings to be a wasted resource and consider bringing them back into use for residential purposes to be a way of making use of that resource.

“The regulations allow up to 450sqm of agricultural building to be converted to residential use for up to three dwellings.

“The regulations also permit any building operations necessary to convert the buildings including installation or replacement of windows, doors, roofs or exterior walls.”

Although such buildings could not be completely replaced, the regulations do permit partial demolition to the extent deemed reasonably necessary.

Mr Parke added: “As far as I am concerned this is a complete game changer.

“Until recently, local councils took the view that they would rather see an agricultural building become derelict and rot rather than be used for residential purposes.

“The change now confirms that the change of the land use and buildings to residential use but great care will be needed in terms of how the rights are applied.”

He said residential development would have to conform to building regulations.

Great care, he pointed out, would be needed in the design of conversions to ensure the development fell within the regulations.