PROPOSALS to allow people to convert barns into accommodation without planning permission may be scrapped after protests from the New Forest.
Planning minister Nick Boles says the Government will think again after critics claimed the relaxation of rules could have a devastating impact on the forest’s economy.
The National Park Authority (NPA)’s planning chairman Pat Wyeth said: “We’ve got an awful lot of barns and if many of them are converted into homes we could lose our farming economy.”
Fellow NPA member Maureen Holding said: “If we urbanise the forest we will lose our countryside and our visitors.”
The NPA says the move will threaten the Commoning system, and “would seriously undermine many of our long-established planning policies”.
During a Commons debate, New Forest East MP Julian Lewis said ministers should let national parks continue to make their own planning decisions. He said: “The proposal that national parks such as the New Forest should be open to this sort of unregulated development is preposterous.”
In reply Mr Boles suggested that national parks could retain the right to require planning permission.
He told MPs: “The Government recognises that national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty are called so for a reason and have a special status.”
The Country Landowners Association (CLA) has lobbied for looser planning rules on barn conversions and welcomed the proposals as a boost for the rural economy.