Holiday home policy: quick review urged

Barns have been a part of rural life for centuries, as homes to farm crops and machinery.But a planning row in north Norfolk has highlighted the modern day dilemma of whether to turn them into homes for families or holidaymakers.

BARNS have been a part of rural life for centuries, as homes to farm crops and machinery.

But a planning row in north Norfolk has highlighted the modern-day dilemma of whether to turn them into homes for families or holidaymakers.

A �500,000 barn conversion near Happisburgh has highlighted a controversial policy which favours them being holiday accommodation rather than permanent housing.

The aim is to ensure remote housing is close to existing settlements where possible and does not put a strain on services such as refuse, schools, surgeries, drains and power.

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But opponents say it is better to have a full-time family in a barn, supporting and joining in community life, rather than a string of holiday visitors.

The case of the Kinsey family, who want their "holiday only" condition removed as reported by the News last week, is due to go to a joint planning committee next month, because an area committee backing went against policy, and officers' recommendations of refusal.

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And North Norfolk District Council's working party which is looking at its new planning blueprint, has been asked to speed up a review of its barn conversion policy as a result.

The council was currently working under an old policy - number 29 from the former local plan - which only allowed barns to be made into homes if they are right next to existing towns and villages, explained planning officer Mark Ashwell.

The aim is to ensure permanent housing is in sustainable locations close to services. Holiday homes tended to involve fewer alterations to historic buildings, and supported the important local tourism economy.

A move towards a more flexible HO9 policy in the new local development framework - by also allowing homes in barns 500k from a village and 1km from a town - was not backed by the government inspector, who agreed all 50-plus policies in the new LDF, apart from the barns one.

"He said it was not flexible enough, and there could be some remote barns which were close to services such as schools. We were asked to review it, and use the old policy in the meantime," said Mr Ashwell.

It was an involved process, involving options and consultations, which could take a year, but needed to be done separately from the Happisburgh application, which needed to be looked at on its own merits, as well as in the context of the policy.

The policy also sought to support the local tourism industry, with 600 barns in north Norfolk having permission for holiday occupancy - a key part of the holiday accommodation offer.

Working party chairman Clive Stockton said there were "a number of conflicting interests" which had been debated fully.

The council did not want derelict buildings in the countryside, and did want sustainable locations for housing. Too many remote barns would put pressure on services, but there was a need to support rural settlements. However, barn conversions were unlikely to put a major dent in area's need for more, especially affordable, housing.

Mr Stockton accepted that

North Norfolk's policy was less flexible than other parts of the

county, partly due to the amount of specially protected countryside in the district.

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