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Converting an Agricultural Building

Oct 1, 2018

Do you own a derelict barn or agricultural buildings you’re eager to convert into your new home, but don’t know where to start? Class Q under Permitted Development Rights for England tells you all you need to know. Introduced in 2014, the regulations mean you don’t need planning permission to convert agricultural buildings, and any land within its curtilage, into residential use. Sounds great, right? Yes and No – there are caveats* (see below) and not everyone would agree. You might be one of those that’s already gone down this route in the last few years and had your application rejected. But all is not lost…

In April 2018, the Housing Minster pledged to help rural communities meet local housing needs and introduced amendments to Class Q. This set-out to resolve the problems that had thwarted many applications since the introduction in 2014. If you were unsuccessful, you might want to review the reasons given as you might be successful this time around.

For example, problems with the sustainability of location affected some applications. Now it’s recognised that many farm buildings won’t be in villages and may not have access to public transport. Local planning authorities (LPAs) now consider whether the location would make it ‘impractical or undesirable’ to change use to residential, meaning ‘not sensible or realistic’, and ‘harmful or objectionable’.

One of the main issues was the requirement for the building to be structurally sound to cope with the conversion without internal alterations. The interpretation of ‘reasonable building operations’ left a lot of head-scratching and Class Q became a hot-bed of confusion and rejected applications.

The updated guidance on internal works in April 2018 states:
‘Internal works are not generally development. For the building to function as a dwelling it may be appropriate to undertake internal structural works, including to allow for a floor, the insertion of a mezzanine or upper floors within the overall residential floor space permitted, or internal walls, which are not prohibited by Class Q’.

Here are some conditions of Class Q:
• The building(s) must have been solely used for agricultural purposes on 20 March 2013; or if after this date then solely used as an agricultural building for 10 years before the date the development begins
• The building(s) can’t be in a National Park, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Conservation Areas, World Heritage Sites, Sites of Special Scientific Interest or listed
• The building(s) can be converted into up to three large homes within a maximum of 465m² (previously 450m²)
• Or up to five smaller homes of 100m² each
• Or a combination of both to a maximum of three large homes and no more than five homes in total (previously only three)
• The external dimensions of the development cannot extend beyond the existing building(s)

It is worth noting that although *Class Q does not require planning permission, this is somewhat arbitrary as it requires Prior Notification. This means your application must be submitted to the LPA who will determine if prior approval is needed in relation to:
• Transport and Highways
• Noise impact
• Contamination risk
• Flood risk
• Location (if it is impractical or undesirable for the building to be converted)
• Design and external appearance

For more information: