Farmhouse Lives Again
Thursday, 21 January 2010 11:28

TAKING a professional approach to obtaining planning permission yielded dividends for Hillsborough farmer Michael Magowan.

“Having acquired a farm with derelict dwelling at Cabra, a townland where my family have farmed for three generations, we needed planning permission, “ Michael recalled.

Smiles of success from the team, who made Cabra Cottage live again as a rural dwelling blending into the rolling drumlin landscape of Co Down. Michael and Vanessa Magowan with architect Jiradej Ermongkonchai, left, and planning consultant Lee Hannigan, right, of Knox and Clayton, Lisburn, a practice with 25 years experience of working with clients and the planning service.

“We turned to architects Knox and Clayton in Lisburn, who more than lived up to their promise to provide a professional service based on working with clients to meet Planning Service requirements.

“Fees were known from the start and we were impressed with the ethical approach taken by the Knox & Clayton team, which includes planners and architects. I like the way practice planners Claire Williamson and Lee Hannigan, working with architect Jiradej Ermongkonchai, are up front in telling clients just what is possible. A much better approach than raising false hopes of gaining planning permission.

” Planner Claire Williamson, like all in the Knox & Clayton practice, brought not only professional expertise to handling the Magowans’ planning application, but an understanding of the rural community. Claire’s husband coming from a family of prominent British Blue cattle breeders.

“Obtaining planning permission to restore this vernacular dwelling was a key part of returning a farm long let in conacre back to full agricultural use,” Claire explained.

Cabra Cottage when Hillsborough farmers Michael and Vanessa Magowan made a planning application.

“The house, though only ever used as a dwelling, had scarcely been lived in since the 1950s, until permission was obtained for the renovation of the building for a farm workers dwelling. Meanwhile Michael and Vanessa developed the farm business to create full time employment for one by specialising in soft fruit and flowers along with cereals and some sheep.

“A house has been on this site since at least 1831, but it is much older as, although outer walls are stone built, internal divisions were “sod” walls.

“The existing dwelling, then in near ruins, was only 760 sq ft, but planning permission was obtained for 925 sq ft. Under more recent planning policy Knox and Clayton gained approval for an extension, uplifting the floor area of the previous approval by 1818 sq ft, however this has yet to be built.

“The end result is a cottage of unusual comfort and charm amidst the rolling drumlins of Co. Down just 10 mins from Lisburn.

Cabra Cottage today

“Now planning regulations draft Planning Policy Statement 21 (PPS21) encourage more such re-use of non-listed vernacular buildings. Under draft PPS21 much greater emphasis is placed on the retention of vernacular rural buildings, which are important to the countryside landscape. The development of the countryside under the Planning Strategy for Rural Northern Ireland resulted in the growth of what is now widely referred to as “bungalow blight”, which is also a problem commonly seen throughout the beautiful landscapes of the Republic of Ireland. In draft PPS21 the replacement of existing dwellings remains important for the upgrade and renewal of the rural housing stock.

“Lessons have been learned from other regions of the UK where ‘barn conversions,’ the re-use of former farm buildings as homes, holiday lets or business premises have long been a means of rejuvenating the rural economy.

“Currently draft PPS21 can offer an opportunity to develop redundant farm buildings or build afresh adjacent to a farmhouse and farmyard cluster.”

With further reforms of planning regulations due this spring practice planner Lee Hannigan suggests those with an interest in obtaining planning permission should contact Knox & Clayton, tel; (028) 9267 4312 for a free initial consultation at their office, or arrangements can be made to visit your home or the site.