The scheme in rural Yorkshire complies with stringent Class Q rules to create five new homes within the envelope of a former livestock barn
Converting an agricultural building to housing under Class Q comes with many criteria. The building itself must be capable of conversion without being demolished. You can create up to three larger dwellings as long as the total area converted does not exceed 465m2 or up to five smaller homes of up to 100m2 each.
These kinds of calculations had not initially been required at this project, Hill View Farm by Sheffield-based Peak Architects in Tickhill, a Yorkshire village 13km south of Doncaster. The client, a commercial and industrial property developer, had bought a 4.2ha grassy plot with an existing bungalow/former farmhouse, a scattering of outbuildings and a 929m2 agricultural unit.
The idea was that the client would demolish the existing agricultural building abutting the small country road, and build a large family house behind it further up the plot. At the same time they would convert the farmhouse at the far eastern side of the site into a separate annexe for a relative.
The setting is on the edge of the village in open countryside, classified as green belt. It is gently sloping with pleasant long views, albeit the peace interrupted somewhat by the reasonable roar from the A1(M) just over a kilometre away.
When it became apparent that planning guidance wouldn’t permit such a scheme, the client and architect changed tack and instead developed a proposal to retain the agricultural unit by converting it into a series of five speculative small homes.
Further rules under Class Q stipulate that the entire dwelling must be contained within the envelope of the existing building. In this case, Doncaster’s local authority specified that this included the private gardens. Proposals also had to show explicitly that the existing structure was sufficient for conversion. Peak Architects’ response to these strictures has been rather ingenious.
The agricultural unit had long been disused and fallen into disrepair. It had previously been used to house cattle and poultry and comprised eight clear span precast concrete portal frames supporting a corrugated roof with single-skin concrete blockwork and vertical timber infill walls. Along the front elevation, a series of pitched steel roof beams supported on external steel columns formed an additional lean-to.
Although the project has not been realised exactly to the architect’s plans (Peak Architects was only involved to RIBA stage 4), the practice’s concept was to retain all the existing structure and to reveal and enclose it in accordance with meeting the square meterage permissible under Class Q rules. In the rear section, for example, the plan was to remove the existing cladding and roof, leaving the structure exposed with the gardens in between. The houses, meanwhile, would be positioned within the tallest main section of the former barn, to accommodate two levels.
There were two key moves that have elevated this from a simple squeezing of houses into the envelope of a barn. Rather than demolish the additional lean-to at the front of the site, Peak Architects opted to retain it, recladding and enclosing it more simply as covered parking for 10 cars – two per house – including electric charging points. This maintains the building’s overall original volume as well as its large sliding doors for access, and means it still reads in the landscape and from the road entrance very much as a barn. Only snippet views through the large openings allow views of the new houses within.
The development still reads in the landscape and from the road entrance very much as a barn
The second crucial move takes place between this volume and the houses. The rear of the garage is open, leading on to a lateral courtyard that runs directly in front of all the houses. The roof and wall cladding have been removed, and the open-air space that is left has been paved with dynamically laid zigzagging paths to the front doors and luscious planting. The addition of louvres between the concrete structure above offers some sun protection. This design decision transforms the whole composition of the development into a kind of rural mews, set within an enclosing barn in the middle of fields. It is unusual and unexpected but the most interesting and successful aspect of the scheme.
Externally, materials were selected to reference the original barn. To the lower half of the external blockwork walls is a grey render with horizontal detailing; the upper half is clad in staggered vertical timber with feature fins and projecting window surrounds. The roof is aluminium standing seam.
The rear is a different affair completely, the client opted to remove the existing structures within the gardens, which has had the effect of making it much more domestic in nature and rather urban with its concrete effect render and grey uPVC windows. The interiors likewise were completed by the client and are standard developer style with glossy kitchen units, carpets and grey bathrooms.
Indeed, there are other moderations that were made during construction that slightly compromise the quality of the exterior, including the sliding barn doors, which are not real, just made for effect. Likewise those on the side elevation windows, as well as plastic drainpipes rather than galvanised steel. These replacement details are a shame perhaps but do not detract from a cleverly conceived and executed scheme that contains many ideas worth repeating for Class Q conversions.
Architect Peak Architects
Planning consultant Alistair Flatman
Structural Engineer Collins Green Hall
Landscape architect Weddle Landscape Design
Main contractor Greenfield Construction and Developments
Project management Land Development Solutions
Electrical sub-contractor JR Cockin Electrical Contractors
Plumbing sub-contractor PC Kelly Plumbing and Heating