Family wins three-year battle to convert derelict barn into home for disabled relative

A FAMILY has won a three-year battle to convert a former pig barn into a home for a disabled relative.

South Gloucestershire Council has granted planning permission to turn the dilapidated stone barn (above) on Washingpool Hill, off the A38 between Alveston and Almondsbury, into a small two-bedroom home.

The barn lies in the grounds of a house bought by Kate Rowell and her husband in 2009.

They first sought advice from the council on converting the barn in 2015. Then in 2018, Ms Rowell’s brother James suffered several strokes and went to live with his mother in Dorset.

She told councillors on the development management committee on September 14: “James had to adjust to a new life and severe heart failure.

“Then in 2020, my mother died very unexpectedly from cancer.

“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.

“Despite our good intentions and the pressing need, here we are three years later, still seeking approval.”

The couple were previously refused permission to convert the barn and build a small extension.

The building is in the Green Belt, which protects parts of the countryside from development.

Planning officers recommended councillors refuse permission again, because the slightly larger building would affect the views of the countryside, and construction materials used on the extension would not match the old stone.

Development manager Marie Bath said: “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 and a ward councillor wrote to support the plans.

The committee decided grant planning permission for the conversion, which includes a kitchen, living and dining room, accessible bedroom and a carer’s bedroom.

Councillor June Bamford (Con, Hanham) 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.”

By Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service