We are in England and moved to the countryside a little while ago. Quite a rural area. We have a house with a couple of outbuildings and a church that used to belong to the CofE, but was deconsecrated around 40 years ago. The church was for then local agricultural workers. The deconsecrated church and land got sold and was bought by one of the former owners of our home.
It is small, around the size of a hall, but has water and electricity. It is not listed. The former occupants used it as a storage shed. We have had a few parties in there, and a local youth group spent the night there as part of a badge they were doing, but I am receiving conflicting advice/ ideas about what I can do with it.
Local neighbours have a similar outbuilding (not a former church, but they have a similarly sized room above a free standing garage that was once a stable) which they let out.
I've been approached by a couple of people, one a beautician who wants to set up a pop-up beauty studio, once a week and asked if I would let it out to her. Another a local watercolour group who meet outdoors in Summer but wanted to know if they could rent it out for their watercolour group in bad weather. Another company have asked if they can hold their quarterly meeting there. Finally a young mother who said she wanted to explore running a children's playgroup "once a week".
My DH thinks that if we rent it out to any of these people, we will need permission from the council and that we will need to pay commercial rates on the building. Is he right and if so, what do I need to do?
I would go and book an appointment with a planning officer and a property specialist, to my eye it looks like you'd only get chicken feed rent from it which wouldnt necessarily cover the buisiness rates, upkeep, inspections, insurance and utilities.
But if you dont want the liability of it, but want it for the benefit of the community, there are mechanism you can use to this either with the local parish council or borough council. Its something they used to do, but in straightened times they may not commit either.
If it's big enough, and wouldn't spoil your enjoyment of the area, I would probably explore selling it and some land off for redevelopment as a separate dwelling. I would think that would be your most profitable route.
Thanks so much. You're right it would only be chicken feed. It seems such a pity to leave it empty and I like the community idea very much. I'll speak to the Parish Council.
I should have said that we are fortunate enough not to have a mortgage. The beautician who approached me uses one of her rooms at home the rest of the time and thought that it would be like me letting her use a "spare room" but as it's a walk across the field, I didn't think that could be right.
Set up a community interest company or charity instead? CICs are less complex to manage but share lots of the tax reliefs that charities are eligible for.
Planning law changed on buildings being reassigned for community use a few years back - so worth a look to see if an application is still necessary. Some local authorities provide positive encouragement for this too.
Here's some CIC info about set up. www.gov.uk/set-up-a-social-enterprise Might be a good idea to do in partnership, but get some advice about protecting your building as an asset if it's part of the company assets, or just be clear that it's a rented/ used space outside not part of the company assets.
Check your deeds to see what status applies to the building then the planning portal to see if changing use could be permitted development.