Monthly Archives: September 2011

“Opportunities for Commercial Use” – William Fry, Rural Solutions

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William Fry, Managing Director of Rural Solutions Ltd, gave an informative and well received speech at the Historic Houses Association seminar at Ripley Castle yesterday.

The event, attended by around 150 historic and rural land and property owners from across the UK, was entitled “Re-use and restoration of listed buildings in an historic setting”.

William’s presentation on “Opportunities for Commercial Use” was the first of the day and gave rise to a great number of enquiries at our exhibition stand.

For those who were unable to attend the day or who would like to review William’s presentation again, please download at WF HHA Speech – Sept 2011

Rural Solutions at the Historic Houses Event – Ripley Castle

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Rural Solutions Stand at HHA event at Ripley Castle

Rural Solutions took a stand at yesterday’s Historic Houses Association seminar held at Ripley Castle in North Yorkshire.
The event was titled “Re-use and restoration of listed buildings in an historic setting” and was very well attended from delegates throughout the UK.
Presentations were given by William Fry of Rural Solutions, Alison Robinson of Saffrey Champness and Robert Parker of Brownsholme Hall.
More information on the event can be found at

Reforms leave Tory council ‘inundated with large applications’

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The leader of a rural Tory borough council with no adopted local plan in place has said that it has been ‘inundated with large planning applications’ from developers seeking to take advantage of the coalition’s planning reforms.

In a letter published in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday, Michael Ranson, leader of Ribble Valley Borough Council in Lancashire, said that the government “has got it wrong” and that ministers’ plans needed a “rethink”.

Ranson said that his authority is “in the middle of producing our local plan”. But he added that it would be next spring before the public examination of the plan could take place.

Ranson wrote: “If the majority of the existing substantial planning applications are approved in the next few months, it will drive a coach and horses through any plan reflecting local requirements and preferences.”

Under the presumption in favour of sustainable development, enshrined in the draft National Planning Policy Framework, councils will be required to grant permission where a local plan is “absent, silent or indeterminate”.

The Planning Inspectorate has already written to planning inspectors to advise them that the draft NPPF is capable of being considered a material consideration.

In the letter, Ranson said: “From advice we have received, we are not allowed to delay or refuse applications on grounds of the imminence of our new local plan. Surely this cannot be right.”

He added: “It is no surprise that developers want to get approvals before the plan is accepted, because otherwise they would be bound by the wishes of local people.”

Planning reforms boost local power and growth?

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Many of you may have read about or heard in the national media of the locking of horns this week of Eric Pickles/George Osbourne with the National Trust and others on the subject of planning reforms and putting the countryside in peril.

In his true bullish style Eric Pickles (with The Chancellor of Exchequer in tow one suspects) kicks out a broadside ( to the criticisms being levelled at the content of the draft  National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The need to reform the current Planning system has widespread support. It is unwieldy, slow and burdensome. The current significant process of change to the planning system will inevitably draw out the strong voices of vested interests; these voices, including the landscape protection lobby, now have the opportunity to seek to influence the content of the draft NPPF.

The draft, and very brief, NPPF raises a whole raft of issues for discussion; we shall only comment on two issues in this blog now  – sustainable development and the burdens on planning applicants.

The brevity of the NPPF is supported yet it does bring the side effects of absence of policy and vagueness of policy. The NPPF qualifies a presumption in favour of sustainable development. This is a very bold statement. But what does it mean? How shall it be applied in the decision making process? Those practising Planners will know how you can argue sustainable so many different ways and that many material issues that are linked to the subject of sustainability can be conflicting. It is therefore inevitable that clarity will not immediately transpire and we shall see a long bedding in process for this policy and we practitioners (in public and private sectors) shall be on the look out for the latest and relevant precedent and case law. Will this be simplification or added complexity?  Only time will tell.

One fundamental issue that sticks in our claw with respect to the current planning system (from the private sector perspective, that is) is the burden being passed to the applicant in just seeking to get an application validated, never mind determined. More and more application submission requirements have arisen over the years and to date we see no practical address of this matter by the Coalition Government; and the action has to come from this source first. Greg Clark, Minister of State for the Communities and Local Government, stated back in March 2011 that local authorities need to ensure they do not impose unnecessary burdens on development. We know that the current approach is inhibiting development schemes coming forward. The nature of submission requirements for planning applications must be addressed by both national and
local government now.

Duncan Hartley, Director of Planning, Rural Solutions Ltd – September 2011

Rural Solutions Planning achieves consent for a superb new development in the Yorkshire Dales National Park

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Cleatop is a courtyard of derelict traditional agricultural barns located outside Settle on the A65 and within the boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Working in association with Mason Gillibrand Architects of Lancaster, Rural Solutions Planning received notification on 8 July 2011 that full planning permission had been granted by the National Park Authority for conversion of the barns to form over 3,100 square feet of retail space and 2,000 square feet of office space along with a large restaurant.  A new plant building will also be built to house a biomass boiler which will provide the heating for the premises.

Local Austwick furniture maker Dalesbred has taken a pre-let of the retail space.

Conversion and restoration of Cleatop – now to be known as ‘The Courtyard’ – began on 1 August 2011 using local contractors with completion expected in Spring 2012 and with it, the creation of new local jobs.
Visit for more information.

For more information on this project, please contact Emma Darbyshire, Press Liaison at Rural Solutions Ltd on or 0845 302 4767.


How to Make Good Use of Your Outbuildings

By | construction, consultancy, general, planning | One Comment

Property buyers are increasingly interested in buying a country house with outbuildings, which they are converting into gyms, art studios, holiday lets and home cinemas

For country-house buyers, outbuildings with the potential for conversion are increasingly becoming an essential requirement. ‘Barns are never just barns any more-they’re a deal clincher,’ says Adrian Wright of Strutt & Parker’s Private Property Search. ‘People’s lifestyles have progressed with technology; they work from home and require offices, gyms, and large entertaining spaces that simply can’t be squeezed into the floor plan of an average house.’ He’s encountered barns housing shooting ranges, classic-car collections and, most recently, a wine cellar masquerading as a vehicle-inspection pit.

‘It was only when I climbed into the pit that I discovered a door into an enormous temperature-controlled room.’ Conversions usually fall into one of four categories; sporting (gyms, swimming pools, games rooms and equestrian facilities); income streams (offices, light industrial spaces, studios, storage and wedding venues); lifestyle (home cinemas, play rooms, party rooms, wine cellars, machinery or classic-car stores) and accommodation (family, staff, guest, holiday or long-term rentals).

Not all are worth the effort: although planning laws have been relaxed for converting unlisted barns within close proximity to the main house, development can still be a long and arduous process. ‘If buildings are in poor condition, or listed, it can cost a fortune,’ explains Hugh Petter of Adam architects. ‘I often find myself scratching my head to find a revenue stream to justify the huge expense of restoration.’

If you have an unlisted building in good condition, however, there are plenty of ways to make it pay for itself. Accommodation is by far the most lucrative, according to Rob Jones-Davies of buying agents Middleton Advisors. ‘Not only can you rent the property out, but when you come to sell, the additional properties will be far more valuable than, say, stables or even offices.’
But holiday lets and long-term rentals aren’t for everyone-including the local planning authorities in many rural areas. Owners lucky enough to be granted permission to create accommodation within outbuildings may be required to sign a Section 106 legal agreement preventing their conversion from being rented commercially or sold as a separate dwelling.

Moreover, adds Martin Lamb of Savills in Exeter, you have to plan for a future resale: some buyers are put off by the prospect of too many holiday cottages. ‘Most people want just one or perhaps two cottages for staff, relatives or guests,’ he says. To cater to the various whims of potential buyers, home owners and property developers are increasingly hedging their bets and creating ‘reversible’ conversions. With minimum upheaval, for example, what is currently the ‘party room’ at the Old Rectory in Biddestone, Wiltshire, can become an indoor pool-key plant equipment and infra-structure elements are concealed beneath a sprung floor.

By far the most practical and cost-effective rooms, however, are those with multiple uses: a games room that is also a cinema, say, or a combined play room and party room, which can be rented out for shoot lunches. ‘Party barns that double up as play rooms are a particularly safe bet,’
says Mr Jones-Davies. ‘Parents appreciate having space for their children, and enjoy using the area themselves for entertaining.’ But amid the current fervour for home cinemas and media rooms, are we in danger of forgetting the simple beauty of an untouched outbuilding?

A medieval barn with a mud floor and cob walls at Sowton Barton in Devon, owned by Paul and Linda Kingdon, has been the venue for many memorable family parties-despite the fact that it’s unheated. ‘It’s Grade II* listed, so we’re not allowed to do anything to it except prevent it from falling down and rethatch it,’ Mrs Kingdon says. ‘But its untouched state gives it a unique atmosphere.’

Top UK outbuildings

Most fashionable

Party room

Most useful
Guest accommodation
Play room

Most sought-after
Home office
Games room/home cinema

Most lucrative
Holiday cottages
Long-term lets

Most affordable
Home cinema

Most expensive
Indoor swimming pool

Most obscure

Cricket nets
BMX tracks


For advice on the options open to you for conversion, planning and re-development of your existing outbuildings, contact Rural Solutions on 0845 302 4766 or


Extracts taken from an original article on

Market Towns Test Planning Powers

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RURAL and market towns are among 36 more communities that will try out new planning powers.

The 36 front-runners join 90 others that are among the first to test out neighbourhood planning powers introduced in the Localism Bill.

Planning minister Greg Clark said neighbourhood planning would give local people a real voice in deciding how development will look in their area.

It would allow people to shape their own vision for their community – in contrast to top-down regional strategies that are being scrapped.

Communities would be able to decide the locations of shops, offices and schools, protect valuable green spaces and set standards of design for new housing.

In areas where local people want to see homes and businesses built, communities would be allowed to grant blanket planning permission.

The community would also have the final say on whether a neighbourhood plan comes into force, said Mr Clark.

If more than 50% of people voting in a local referendum support the plan, then the local planning authority must bring it into force.

“For too long local people have been shut out of the planning process with no real voice to affect decisions about the places where they live.

“Unpopular regional strategies left people without the ability to influence the future of their community and this fuelled resentment towards growth.”

Each front runner’s local council will receive £20,000 to support work on neighbourhood planning and free advice from planning experts.

Rural consultant Brian Wilson, of Brian Wilson Associates, said rural communities had a proud history of developing parish and town plans.

“It will be fascinating to see how they use these proposed new neighbourhood planning powers,” he said.

“The advantage of the neighbourhood planning approach is that it will have statutory legitimacy.

“However, along with this will come additional complexity which could turn some rural communities off.”

In South Oxfordshire, Thame town council is already focusing on the local need for more affordable housing and transport infrastructure.

And in Northumberland, two rural parishes are concentrating on the need for more affordable housing, a new high school and an education campus.

In Wiltshire, Sherston Parish Council is aiming to deliver new homes, especially affordable homes for elderly and disabled residents.

Its plan will also look at the need for key local infrastructure such as high speed broadband, new schools and the development of a community orchard.

Meanwhile, local businesses and the community in Rutland are working together on a neighbourhood plan for Uppingham town centre.

The list of 36 communities is as follows:



Arun Angmering
Arun Multi parishes
Aylesbury Vale Buckingham
Brent Sudbury Town
Central Bedfordshire Caddington & Slip End
Cheshire West and Chester Winsford
Cornwall Rame Peninsula
Cornwall St. Erth
Cornwall St. Eval
Cornwall Truro
Exeter St James
Gateshead Team Valley Trading Estate
Liverpool Liverpool Innovation Park
Mendip Frome
Mid Sussex Cuckfield
Milton Keynes Castlethorpe
Milton Keynes Central Milton Keynes
Milton Keynes Stony Stratford
Milton Keynes Wolverton
North Somerset Long Ashton
Northampton Wootton and East Hunsbury
Northumberland Almwick
Rutland Uppingham
South Oxfordshire Thame
South Oxfordshire Woodcote
Trafford Trafford Park
Waltham Forest Highams Park
Waltham Forest Leytonstone
West Oxfordshire Chipping Norton
Wiltshire Malmesbury
Wiltshire Sherston
Winchester Denmead
Windsor and Maidenhead Bisham and Cookham
Windsor and Maidenhead Datchet, Horton, Old Windsor and
Windsor and Maidenhead Hurley and the Walthams
Wirral (Central Liscard) Central Liscard