Does a need to assess for ecology still apply to new Permitted Development rights which came into force in April 2014?
The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment and Consequential Provisions) (England) Order 2014 allows the conversion of agricultural buildings under 450 square meters to up to a maximum of three residential dwellings without the need for Full Planning Permission. The owner needs to apply for prior approval from the local planning authority, and the owner will still need to consider ecology.
Along with a number of restrictions on the type of buildings that can be developed under this new Permitted Development (PD) legislation, these “barn conversions” still need prior approval by the LPA, who will consider whether there are significant issues from transport and highways, noise impacts, contamination risks and flooding risks. They will also look at the design and external appearance of the building, and the practicality and desirability of the change of use.
Ecology is not specifically referred to as a factor that needs to be considered prior to approval. There are differences between different LPA’s as to what information is needed before PD is agreed and what will be conditioned. However, regardless of needs for PD approval, safeguards under EU and UK law remain for protected species using the barn.
The most obvious protected species that may be impacted by this PD development are bats and nesting barn owls, but others may also be at risk. For example, if the barn is near to a pond which supports great crested newts (a scenario that is typical around older barns in Norfolk), these often use building foundations for hibernation and may be injured or killed when conversion works take place.
This means that whether the LPA has asked you for an assessment of the ecology of the site or not, if you undertake any work on a building and a protected species such as a bat is injured or killed, you could be liable for prosecution.
We would advise seeking the advice of an experienced ecologist in the early stages of a development so that they can help you determine what wildlife might be present and what you need to do in order to comply with and protect yourself from national and international law.