Three Barn Conversions in Dawlish: Prior Approvals, Flood Zones & Habitat Mitigation

Local Authority



Permitted Development and Prior Approval
  • Agriculture and Rural
  • Residential
Decoration Decoration

Three separate prior approvals secured for the change of use from agricultural to residential on an incredibly complex site in Devon

Client Private Individual
Architect 16A
Author Dan Rogers

Project Overview

Planning approval has been issued for the conversion of three barns on a farm in Ashcombe, Dawlish, Devon. Our client came to us following the refusal of an earlier application where the Local Planning Authority (LPA) had questioned the extent of the works required to facilitate the conversion and the consideration of flood risk issues.

Bell Cornwell undertook a review of this previous decision, provided a planning strategy to take these schemes forward and co-ordinated the consultant team on behalf of the client.

A prior approval application is required for the change of use from agricultural to residential via permitted development so that the LPA can assess the following criteria:

  • Transport and highways
  • Noise impacts
  • Contamination risks
  • Flooding risks
  • Suitability of location/siting
  • Design/external appearance of the building.

In this instance, detailed flood risk analysis was required (including channel capacity studies) to demonstrate that despite the site’s location in a flood zone, the natural levels of the site and capacity of adjacent streams meant that flood risk could be appropriately managed. Structural reports were also required to demonstrate that the barns could be converted rather than requiring a rebuild. We brought in specialist consultants to deal with these matters.

Beyond demonstrating the standard criteria detailed above, this application was particularly complex due to the site’s proximity to four different Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)/Special Protection Areas: South Hams SAC, Exe Estuary, Ramsar Wetlands & Dawlish Warren.

The General Permitted Development Order requires proposals to conform to the Habitat Regulations. This means that, to avoid significant effects (alone or in combination) on European Wildlife Sites, mitigation measures may be necessary in order for prior approval to be given. As this site is located within 10km of the Exe Estuary SPA,  Ramsar site and the Dawlish Warren SAC, a habitats mitigation contribution will be paid toward each new dwelling to offset the in combination impacts from increased recreational use.

However, the site is also located within the Landscape Connectivity Zone (LCZ) of the South Hams SAC, designated for its population of Greater Horseshoe Bats. In this instance, the possible mitigation measures needed are site specific and more complex to predict. This issue therefore had to be factored into our submission.

The site is also in close proximity (but ultimately outside) a HSE Safety Area.

All in all, these were not your average prior approval applications. The site proved incredibly complex with lots of issues to consider but we managed take three separate applications forward to a positive outcome.

Bell Cornwell have been involved in many prior approval schemes for the conversion of agricultural barns and other buildings to dwellings. We have extensive experience in preparing supporting statements which address the prior approval criteria and can coordinate any required reports from other consultants. There are many caveats with this type of application and we would recommend discussing your project with one of our experienced planners at an early stage.

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