Couple win three-year battle to convert pig barn near Bristol into home

Planning permission has been granted to turn the old stone barn into a two-bedroom home
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A couple has won a three-year battle to get permission to convert a pig barn near Bristol into a home for their disabled brother.

South Gloucestershire Council has granted planning permission to turn the old stone barn, in the countryside north of Bristol, into a small two-bedroom home.

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The barn lies on parts of the ground of Oakley House on Washingpool Hill, off the A38 between Alveston and Almondsbury. The conversion plans include a kitchen, living and dining room, an accessible bedroom, and a bedroom for a carer.

Kate Rowell and her husband bought the land in 2009, including the barn which used to house pigs. They first sought advice from the council on converting the barn in 2015. Then in 2018, her brother James suffered several strokes and went back to live with his mother in Dorset.

Speaking to councillors on the development management committee, on Thursday, September 14, Ms Rowell said: “James had to adjust to a new life and severe heart failure. Then in 2020, my mother died very unexpectedly from cancer. Her biggest concern was James’s future.

“Before she died, she asked my husband and I to make sure James was cared for. It seemed logical to resurrect the idea of converting the barn to a residence for James. It would mean proximity to family support, crucial for somebody dealing with debilitating health challenges.

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“Despite our good intentions and the pressing need, here we are three years later … still seeking approval. We thought this was a perfect idea and couldn’t see why this was a problem.”

The couple were previously refused planning permission for their plans to convert the pig barn and build a small extension. The building lies on the greenbelt, which protects parts of the countryside from development.

Planning officers recommended the committee refuse permission for a second time, because they said the slightly larger building would affect the views of the countryside, and construction materials used on the extension would not match the old stone barn.

Marie Bath, development manager, said: “The setting of the building is an open rural landscape with long ranging views. The site does have a distinctly attractive rural feel. The enlargement of the building and the residential use would noticeably increase the prominence of this building, having a detrimental impact.

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“The planning permission runs with the land, it doesn’t run with the person. So in theory, should permission be granted today, this land could be immediately sold and occupied by anybody.”

Several members of the public wrote to the council expressing their support for the plans, as well as the local ward councillor. The committee decided to reject the officer’s recommendation for refusal, and voted to grant planning permission for the conversion.

Councillor June Bamford said: “We are dealing with what is and will very soon be a pile of rubble, it’s completely derelict. I’m sure we would all dearly like to see our agricultural buildings in the greenbelt used for those purposes in perpetuity.

“But we’re in the real world and that just isn’t happening. The family has obviously suffered over the last few years a very sad and devastating personal problem, for such a young man to be taken as ill as he is, and then losing his mother, his primary carer.”

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