Historic farm buildings make a fundamental contribution to the landscape character and local distinctiveness of rural areas and are vital to our understanding of the development of agriculture and today’s settlement patterns.
Historic farm buildings also provide an important economic asset for modern farm businesses, often continuing in use on the farm. Where they have become redundant, they can provide a high-quality environment for new businesses or housing through adaptive re-use, helping to alleviate build pressure on green-field land and reducing the demand for new buildings in sensitive rural areas. Good design, responsive to local building traditions and landscape character, is essential if converted buildings are to enhance, rather than compromise local sense-of-place.
On this web site you will find advice for farmers, farm advisers, local authority planners and conservation officers, architects and others on the maintenance, management and adaptive re-use of these traditional buildings. It also provides access to the latest research on the condition of the traditional farm building stock as a whole and to new tools for understanding their character and their contribution to the landscape.
Finding a future for traditional farm buildings
In July 2006 English Heritage and the Countryside Agency, in association with the Countryside and Community Research Unit of the University of Gloucestershire, published a joint policy statement: Living buildings in a living landscape: finding a future for traditional farm buildings. This statement is also available as a short version, which sets out the policy alone.
This statement provides advice from English Heritage and the Countryside Agency to those involved in planning, grant-aid, management or policy decisions affecting the traditional farm building stock or individual farm buildings in England. It also contains a national overview of the importance of traditional farm buildings, the drivers of change that affect their management and regional summaries of their character.
Living buildings in a living landscape
Publication Date: 29 Jul 2006
This statement by English Heritage and the Countryside Agency provides advice to those involved in planning, grant-aid, management or policy decisions affecting the traditional farm building stock or individual farm buildings.
The statement is supported by eight Preliminary Regional Character Statements that provide more detailed information on the characteristics of traditional farm buildings on a region by region basis.
The English Heritage Characterisation Team is developing the evidence base further, through the mapping of farmstead character and change, the mapping of the patterns of current use, guidance for planners and land managers and guidance on character. A pilot website (http://www.farmsteadstoolkit.co.uk/) is now available for comment. It provides a character framework for all of England, including preliminary statements and sample illustrated statements for all of England’s 159 National Character Areas, and links to work on planning tools. A pilot project on the Bolton Abbey Estate in North Yorkshire has examined how the options for change for buildings common to many upland areas of England might be approached, and work is now progressing on refining character-based assessment in other parts of the country.
Guidance on good practice in converting farm buildings
To supplement the policy statement English Heritage has published in October 2006 The Conversion of Traditional Farm Buildings: a guide to good practice. This publication provides detailed guidance for owners, designers, builders and conservation officers on how to achieve high quality conversions which respect the farm building’s historic significance and are in keeping with the character of England’s countryside. The guidance includes a ‘toolkit’ to help guide and inform decisions when conversion is being considered.
Conversion of Traditional Farm Buildings
Publication Date: 29 Sep 2006
The purpose of this guidance is to act as an aid to understanding traditional farm buildings to help inform change, as well as to provide practical technical and design advice so that farm buildings capable of conversion can be repaired and adapted for new uses in a sensitive way, while preserving their character, significance and landscape setting.
Advice on the maintenance and repair of farm buildings
With Defra, the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group and Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers, English Heritage has published Farming the historic landscape: caring for farm buildings, which provides advice to land managers and others on the maintenance and repair of these important structures.
Farming the Historic Landscape. Caring for Farm Buildings
Publication Date: 14 May 2004
This leaflet has been designed to help farmers, land managers and farm advisers recognise the importance of traditional farm buildings and provide some guidance on taking care of one of the countryside’s important assets.
For more detailed practical advice on maintenance and repair, English Heritage has also published The Maintenance and Repair of Traditional Farm Buildings: a guide to good practice in 2011.
This guidance is primarily directed to farm buildings in active farm or related uses. However, it is also relevant for buildings that have uncertain futures or need urgent works to prevent further deterioration of their structure and fabric.
Research on the condition of traditional farm buildings
The publication Historic farm buildings: Extending the evidence base summarises recent research commissioned by English Heritage into the state of the traditional farm building stock, the contribution this stock makes to countryside character, and trends in its adaptive re-use. This builds on the joint University of Gloucestershire, English Heritage and Countryside Agency document Historic farm buildings: Constructing the evidence base published in 2005.
Historic farm buildings: Extending the evidence base
Publication Date: 29 May 2009
Despite their historic character, traditional farm buildings are important to the future of the countryside. As well as contributing to its local distinctiveness and historic interest they also represent a major economic asset in terms of their capacity to house new as well as traditional economic activities.
Historic farm buildings: constructing the evidence base
Publication Date: 22 Nov 2005
Despite the undoubted historic, scenic and economic importance of the historic farm building stock, there is a remarkable lack of basic information on its size, character, condition and trajectory of change. Without such basic information, informed and sensitive management of change and effective targeting of scarce resources will not be possible. This monograph, describing work commissioned from the University of Gloucestershire by English Heritage and the Countryside Agency, is a first step towards addressing this information deficit.
Social and economic research
English Heritage and Defra, in partnership with the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Park Authorities, have also carried out an evaluation of the social, economic and public benefits of the long-term programme of repairs to traditional farm buildings undertaken through the Lake District Environmentally Sensitive Area grant scheme between 1998 and 2004 (and through a variety of grant schemes in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, during the same period). The headline results of the project are published as Building Value: Public Benefits of Historic Farm Building Repair in the Lake District and Building Value: Public Benefits of Historic Farm Building and Drystone Wall Repairs in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.