Guidance on Class Q permitted development rights

Class Q – Conversion of agricultural buildings to dwellings

It is not just traditional brick and tiled barns that can be converted nowadays as the government brought in planning legislation a few years ago that meant you could convert less traditional farm buildings as well, such as steel framed or blockwork buildings. This form of application is referred to as a Class Q application , which is a form of permitted development.

As this is seen by many planning departments as a form of legislation that uses a top down approach (from Government) , they are not always keen to allow permitted development under class Q. 

A number of criteria must be met to achieve permitted development for a Class Q barn conversion, and if all of them cannot be met then you will need to go down the planning permission route. So that time and money isn’t wasted, it is often a good point to start by checking off these criteria against your barn:

  • The existing barns must be structurally sound, and largely enclosed, and therefore capable of being converted without effectively re-building. 
  • No more than 5 dwellings can be created out of the existing barns. This can be achieved by converting the space either into 5 smaller units with a maximum floor area of 100m2 each, OR 3 larger dwellings (combined not exceeding 465m2 and two smaller units up to 100m2. – other combinations are available, but the maximum total area is 865m2.
  • The barns must have been being used for agricultural purposes on 20th March 2013, or when last in use before then. (See section below regarding converting non-agricultural units) 
  • Various reports may need to be commissioned including contamination reports, structural reports, flood risk assessments and bat/barn owl surveys. Noise maybe considered an issue depending on whether the barns are adjacent to an agricultural holding/barn that will continue to be used for agriculture or house livestock. 
  • Barns within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, The Broads, SSSIs, Conservation Areas, or curtilage-Listed buildings are not eligible for the Class Q route.
  • New openings such as windows/doors are permitted, but changes to the existing cladding are best kept to a minimum, and the building envelope cannot be exceeded. 
  • In most cases, a successful Class Q application can be followed up by a full planning application to achieve a better result, free from the various Class Q restrictions.

Class MA – Conversion of non- agricultural buildings to dwellings

If you have an agricultural building in an existing or redundant non-agricultural use, there may be another permitted development route to achieve its conversion to a residential use. The criteria are largely similar to those mentioned for class Q, however Class MA is available in Conservation Areas. Unlike the 20 March 2013 date on Class Q applications, a commercial use only needs to have been in place for a rolling two year period, and the building must have been vacant for 3 months. The area limit for Class MA is 1500m2.

Class MA is relatively new, and there are few precedents, but it is something worth considering.

Class R – Conversion of agricultural buildings to flexible uses (e.g. hotels)

An alternative route to Class Q for qualifying agricultural buildings is Class R. Unlike Class Q, this works in AONBs, and is often seen as a stepping stone to getting a brownfield use on an agricultural site.

Again, there are relatively few Class R examples compared to the well-established Class Q, but it is an option to be considered for AONBs, or where Class Q area allowances have been used up, for example.

The next step to obtaining permission….

For Class Q, Class MA and Class R, I work with a specialist team from Norfolk who will come out to visit your site for a free consultation. Having achieved permission for over 100 Class Q conversions, and predecessors to Class MA, they will be able to assess your building and determine the likelihood of you obtaining permission. 

A no win no fee service is available whereby they will only charge you an agreed sum once they have been successful; so no outlay on your behalf. They have even had success where other companies have failed to get permission; so if you have had no luck to date with a previous application/Architect then don’t give up as they might just be able to help. Get in touch for a no obligation chat about your potential Class Q project.

A few examples of successful Class Q permissions before and after construction.  

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