Barn conversions and heritage consultancy

Barn conversions – heritage consultancy

Why Listed Building Consent may be required

Inevitably, the position of barns as heritage assets – either because they are listed or because they are considered of historic interest – means that their conversion will come with requirements and constraints from LPAs. 

Not only might this involve historic building recording prior to work starting on the barn but also archaeological monitoring during internal and external construction work. 

Controls are likely to be applied to what can and cannot be done to the barn in terms of its final appearance. In the case of listed barns, listed building consent will be required.

This might relate to distinctive features which need to be retained, for example ventilation holes, owl holes, original beams, brick floors, large threshing doorways or evidence of historic mechanisation. Early discussions with the local conservation officer and approval from the LPA well before plans have been drawn up are advised.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) places good design, enhancement of local distinctiveness and conservation of the historic environment at the heart of sustainable development in rural areas (HE, 2015).

Liaising with the conservation officer

Early discussions with the local conservation officer and approval from the LPA well before plans have been drawn up are advised. The National Planning Policy Framework places good design, enhancement of local distinctiveness and conservation of the historic environment at the heart of sustainable development in rural areas (HE, 2015).

Like any other historic building farm barns are of differing levels of heritage significance. An extant medieval tithe barn is likely to be listed at Grade 1, whilst a 19th century threshing barn may be listed at Grade 2 or not be listed at all.

There are a number of criteria which will increase the historic significance of a farm barn. These might include but are not limited to:

  • date and any 18th century or earlier barn would be considered of great significance;
  • the survival of timber framing on barns of such a date would also be of major heritage interest;
  • later barns of mainly 19th century are far more common but the survival of original features such as interior stalls, mangers or original threshing floors would increase the heritage value of a barn and
  • evidence of mechanisation in the processing of corn and feed such as surviving flywheels and mountings for portable steam engines or the addition to the barn of a horse engine house or windmill on the roof would elevate the heritage status of the barn.

Historic England nicely sums up conservation as

“the process of maintaining and managing change to a heritage asset in a way that sustains and where appropriate enhances its significance.”

The sympathetic conversion of the humble farm barn is a great example of rural conservation and sustainable development and there are numerous examples throughout the UK of architects and owners together successfully converting redundant farm barns in ways which not only maintain their distinctiveness and historic fabric but which also enhance their significance.

This means that a building type which has characterised the country’s landscape for centuries will continue to be a familiar element of the nation’s valued stock of historic buildings.

Further information

There are a number of articles produced by Historic England on conservation in general and on historic farm buildings and their conversion:

Conservation Principles, Policies and Guidance »

Conversion of Traditional Farm Buildings »

New Life for England’s Old Farm Buildings »