Class Q – barns and agricultural buildings to residential

 

Applications before 21st May 2024 Applications on or after 21st May 2024

 

Class Q was refreshed on 30th April 2024, with the changes taking effect from 21st May 2024. Any applications on or after this date, arel be subject to the new rules as laid out on this page. If your application was submitted before 21st May, please refer to this page for the old legislation. These Class Q changes are significant for some, so please read on.

The main differences are five becomes ten new dwellings. The amount of space you can convert has increased to 1,000 m², however the maximum size of any dwelling is now 150 m² – therefore in order to have ten new dwellings under Class Q, each one will need to be 100 m² each.

Note, that until the end of 20th May 2025, you may apply for any development which would have been compliant with the old rules, in other words units of up to 485 sq m. But you will not benefit from the extensions under the new legislation. See more below.

You can now extend to the rear of the barn or agricultural building by up to 4m on any hard surface to the rear only which was present on or before 24th July 2023 or if it didn’t exist on that date has existed for at least 10 years.

The biggest factor and advantage for owners of barns is that far more barns now qualify under Class Q including barns that are no longer used for agricultural purposes.

 

Clock has reset to 24th July 2023

The ten year clock has been reset! But there are still a few simple rules to see if your barn qualifies.

If your barn existed on or before 24th July 2023 and you have not taken advantage of Class A  or Class B of Part 6 (new or extensions to barns) in the last 10 years, you can now apply for Class Q provided it is on an established agricultural unit that has existed for at least 10 years!

If you built the barn under permitted development, you will need to wait for 10 years before undertaking a Class Q conversion.

If your barn or agricultural building was erected since 24th July 2023, it will need to have existed for 10 years or 10 years after using Class A  or Class B of Part 6 on the established agricultural unit.

Should the barn have existed on or before 24th July 2023 and was at that time part of an established agricultural unit, yet since 24th July 2023 it has ceased to be part of the established agricultural unit and not been used for non-agricultural purposes or has simply been left empty for 10 years you can also apply for Class Q. This allows for barns that ceased to be part of the agricultural unit to apply. But not until at least 24th July 2033!

If the barn is still part of an established agricultural unit, but has since been used for other purposes, it should now qualify for Class Q!  Just be careful that the use hasn’t changed during that time. This will be a question of fact and degree.

If you are looking to add a 4m extension to the barn as part of the application that hard standing must have existed since 24th July 2023 as well. You may need to prove this to the local authority. This does not need to be concrete, but any hard standing. Hard standing is not defined.

Planning Geek are ready to submit applications. Please fill in our form here, for a fee proposal. To celebrate the new Class Q, we are offering a 20% discount off our fees for any Class Q application submitted between 21st May 2024 and 31st December 2024

Note that the barn must have been part of an established agricultural unit. This means agricultural land occupied for the purposes of agriculture for at least 10 years before the date of development begins.  This is defined in Paragraph X

Section 336 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 describes agriculture as:

includes horticulture, fruit growing, seed growing, dairy farming, the breeding and keeping of livestock (including any creature kept for the production of food, wool, skins or fur, or for the purpose of its use in the farming of land), the use of land as grazing land, meadow land, osier land, market gardens and nursery grounds, and the use of land for woodlands where that use is ancillary to the farming of land for other agricultural purposes, and “agricultural” shall be construed accordingly;

More on this can be found on our page about agricultural land.

 

Class Q – The basics

New homes in the countryside? Class Q might be an option for you. 1,000 m² of space? Ten new homes? Read on….

There are a few limitations as one would expect. Probably one of the most important is that you can’t create 10 dwellings in one barn and then 10 in the barn next door. This would only be acceptable if the barns were on different agricultural holdings. Simply dividing the land into separate titles is not going to work either. You can however create 5 dwellings in one barn, 3 in another, and 2 in a third. The limit of 10 is a hard one on any agricultural unit.

See ‘What is an Agricultural Unit‘ as you can only do this once per agricultural unit. You can use multiple buildings until you maximise your floorspace or dwellings.

The prior approval covers not only the conversion, but the installation or replacement of external walls, doors, windows, roofs, drainage, services etc. In other words the work required to convert the building into one or more dwellinghouse (C3). You can also partially demolish if required.

if you need to put any services on the outside of the building these can’t protrude more than 0.2m. You could also extend by the same limit for any other works, such as velux windows for example in the roof.

The legislation clearly states that external walls can be installed this allows for barns or units that are currently open to the elements on one of more sides.

The existing building must, in structural terms, already be “capable of functioning as a dwelling”. This means is that the building as it stands must be capable of conversion. If it requires such substantial building operations then what is proposed amounts to the construction of a new building. If that is the case then the conversion would fall outside the scope of Class Q. This will inevitably be a question of fact and degree in each case. We strongly recommend a structural survey to demonstrate that it is capable of conversion.

It is not the intention of the permitted development right to allow rebuilding work which would go beyond what is reasonably necessary for the conversion of the building to residential use. Therefore it is only where the existing building is already suitable for conversion to residential use that the building would be considered to have the permitted development right.

See  Hibbitt and another v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) and Rushcliffe Borough Council (2) [2016] EWHC 2853 (Admin) for case law on what might be allowed.

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.

Please refer to the section above on dates as it is important that the barn or agricultural unit qualifies under Class Q.

The agricultural barn or unit, must now have a suitable access road already in existence. if this is not, then you can for the time being apply under the old rules until May 2025. But then you will not get the extension. Essentially if a Reliant Robin can make the journey to the new dwelling you ought to be fine – but if it needs a 4×4 Land Rover maybe not.

You must supply floor plans as part of the application and it will require the the provision of adequate natural light in all habitable rooms of the properties created under Class Q. The GPDO defines a habitable room as any rooms used or intended to be used for sleeping or living which are not solely used for cooking purposes, but does not include bath or toilet facilities, service rooms, corridors, laundry rooms, hallways or utility rooms. You will also need to adhere to minimum space standards including the original barn itself – this means that you can’t use the 4m rear extension to comply with the lowest space standards.

Finally the building being converted must now have a suitable existing access to a public highway.

 

Class Q - Barn conversion

 

4m rear extension!

For the first time you are able to extend to the rear by up to 4m. This must be on hard standing which existed on 24th July 2023 or of it was laid since it must have been there for 10 years. This is limited to a single storey. The extension must be developed at the same time as the change of use, and cannot for example be added to an existing dwellinghouse that has previously been developed under Class Q. The extension cannot be to the side or the front of the completed dwelling(s).

Where an extension is incorporated as part of the change of use, a determination as to prior approval as to the impact of the proposed extension on the amenity of any adjoining premises is additionally required.

 

One barn or more than one barn?

 

You can convert multiple agricultural buildings or barns until you reach either ten dwellings or 1,000 m²  If you have already converted a barn under Class Q, you can convert another barn as long as it qualifies and you do not exceed these limits.

You can however only have the limit once per agricultural unit – this might be spread over a number of fields and might be split by roads, rivers or even houses. This might be spread over one or more planning titles.  See ‘What is an Agricultural Unit‘ for more information.

These limits refer to the “established agricultural unit” within which the agricultural buildings are located.    Subject to these limits, conversions can be carried out to several different buildings on the same agricultural unit, assuming all other criteria are met. More than one dwelling can be created within each building, subject to the cumulative limits for Class Q development within the agricultural unit not being exceeded in total.

 

Transitional Period

Transitional arrangements exist so that any development that was permitted under Class Q immediately before these changes come into force, but is no longer permitted as a result of the changes on this page, will continue to be permitted for a further 12 months.

This will allow time for any applications for prior approval prepared under the existing right’s conditions and limitations to be submitted and decided under those conditions and limitations. This includes for example the delivery of larger and smaller homes, but does not include the requirement for suitable existing access to a public highway. Those homes must be delivered within three years of the prior approval date. However, it should be noted that any additional flexibilities being introduced – such as the ability to erect an extension as part of the change of use – will not be applicable to any scheme that delivers dwellinghouses with a floorspace over 150 square metres for this transitional period.

 

Other restrictions!

 

As expected there are a few locations where you can’t enjoy Class Q. They are Listed buildings (or its curtilage), conservation areasarea of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), National Parksthe Broads and World Heritage Sites. You also need to avoid sites of special scientific interest (SSSI), safety hazard areas or a military explosive storage area. That probably rules out anything the army uses!  Oh and finally forget a site that contains a scheduled monument.

There are a few criteria that the local planning authority will consider the prior approval against. They are highway impacts of the development (not how hard it is to drive the local roads), noise impacts of the development, contamination risks, flood risk, the design or external appearance of the building. The final one is the location or siting of the building and whether it makes it impractical or undesirable for the building to change from agricultural use to a C3 unit(s). The guidance makes it clear that the ‘location test’ should only be used very specifically, to prevent, for example, new dwellings in situations without access or close to potentially harmful activities.

The building being converted must also have a suitable existing access to a public highway.  Whilst ‘suitable’ is not defined, our take is that it now requires an old Reliant Robin to be able to access the barn to be converted as opposed to a 4×4! 

 

What next?

 

If you are confident that you barn fits all the above criteria for Class Q, you (or your friendly Planning Geek Consultant) would submit a prior approval application to convert the barn and wait the 56 days for the decision. Should it get declined by a local authority that wishes to control dwellings in the countryside then appeal!!!

You have three options to apply under Class Q

  • (a) a change of use of— (i) a building that is part of an established agricultural unit and any land within that building’s curtilage, or (ii) a former agricultural building that was (but is no longer) part of an established agricultural unit and any land within that building’s curtilage, to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses) of Schedule 1 to the Use Classes Order,
  • (b) development referred to in sub-paragraph (a) together with the extension of the building referred to in sub-paragraph (a)
  • (c) development referred to in sub-paragraph (a) together with building operations reasonably necessary to convert the building referred to in sub-paragraph (a) to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses) of that Schedule or to extend that building.

Normally, unless you are just converting internally, then the application should be made under (c). 

Should you be looking for an office, shop or hotel in a barn then look at Class R. or you might look at both Q and R if you have more space than is allowed under Class Q.

Check out other permitted development options on our changes of use page.

Planning Geek are ready to submit applications. Please fill in our form here, for a fee proposal. To celebrate the new Class Q, we are offering a 20% discount off our fees for any Class Q or Class R application submitted between 21st May 2024 and 31st December 2024

 

Fallback

 

Having obtained your Class Q, you might like to avail of using that as a fallback position.  You would submit a full planning application for a new dwelling at the same location. We have several cases where this has been passed, as the local authority has already accepted that a dwelling can be at that location. All they need to consider is whether the new dwelling meets all the other requirements.

If you need assistance with the opportunity, we can advise and submit on your behalf. Simply fill in our fee proposal form and leave the work to us.

 

Further Guidance

 

The Government has issued further guidance on the conversion of agricultural buildings. Please refer to the Government website for further details. Click here. Please note that this has not yet been updated for the new changes or hadn’t been last time we checked!

 

 

 

Full legislation

 

From 21st May 2024

 

Permitted development

Q. Development consisting of—

(a) a change of use of—
(i) a building that is part of an established agricultural unit and any land within that building’s curtilage, or
(ii) a former agricultural building that was (but is no longer) part of an established agricultural unit and any land within that building’s curtilage, to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses) of Schedule 1 to the Use Classes Order,

(b) development referred to in sub-paragraph (a) together with the extension of the building referred to in sub-paragraph (a), or

(c) development referred to in sub-paragraph (a) together with building operations reasonably necessary to convert the building referred to in sub-paragraph (a) to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses) of that Schedule or to extend that building.

Development not permitted

Q.1. Development is not permitted by Class Q if—

(a) in the case of a site that is part of an established agricultural unit, the site was not part of the established agricultural unit—
(i) on 24th July 2023, or
(ii) where the site became part of the established agricultural unit after 24th July 2023, for a period of at least 10 years before the date development under Class Q begins,

(b) in the case of a site that was (but is no longer) part of an established agricultural unit—
(i) the site was part of an established agricultural unit on 24th July 2023,
(ii) where the site ceased to be part of an established agricultural unit after 24th July 2023, the site has not been part of the established agricultural unit for a period of at least 10 years before the date development under Class Q begins, or
(iii) since ceasing to be part of an established agricultural unit, the site has been used for any non-agricultural purpose,

(c) the floor space of any dwellinghouse developed under Class Q having a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses) of Schedule 1 to the Use Classes Order exceeds 150 square metres,

(d) the development under Class Q, together with any previous development under Class Q, within the original limits of an established agricultural unit (see paragraph Q.3(2) of this Part) would result in—
(i) the cumulative number of separate dwellinghouses having a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses) of Schedule 1 to the Use Classes Order exceeding 10, or
(ii) the cumulative floor space of dwellinghouses having a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses) of Schedule 1 to the Use Classes Order exceeding 1,000 square metres,

(e) the site is occupied under an agricultural tenancy, unless the express consent of both the landlord and the tenant has been obtained,

(f) less than 1 year before the date development begins—
(i) an agricultural tenancy over the site has been terminated, and
(ii) the termination was for the purpose of carrying out development under Class Q, unless both the landlord and the tenant have agreed in writing that the site is no longer required for agricultural use,

(g) development under Class A(a) or Class B(a) of Part 6 of this Schedule (agricultural buildings and operations) has been carried out on the established agricultural unit during the period which is 10 years before the date development under Class Q begins,

(h) the development would result in the external dimensions of the building extending beyond the external dimensions of the existing building at any given point, other than—
(i) extension of the building allowed by paragraph Q.1(i);
(ii) protrusions of up to 0.2 metres to accommodate building operations allowed by paragraph Q.1(j)(i),

(i) the development under Class Q(b) would result in an extension that—
(i) has more than one storey,
(ii) is sited anywhere other than to the rear of the existing building,
(iii) extends beyond the rear wall of the existing building by more than 4 metres,
(iv) has eaves the height of which exceed the height of the eaves of the existing building,
(v) is higher than whichever is the lower of—
(aa) the highest part of the roof of the existing building, or
(bb) a height of 4 metres above the ground,
(vi) extends beyond a wall that forms a side or principal elevation of the existing building, or
(vii) would be sited on land that, before the development under Class Q(b), is not covered by a hard surface that was provided on the land by virtue of any development, and—
(aa) the hard surface was not provided on the land on or before 24th July 2023, or
(bb) where the hard surface was provided on the land after 24th July 2023, the hard surface has not been situated on the land for a period of at least 10 years before the date development under Class Q(b) begins,

(j)the development under Class Q(c) would consist of building operations other than—
(i) the installation or replacement of—
(aa) windows, doors, roofs, or exterior walls, or
(bb) water, drainage, electricity, gas or other services, to the extent reasonably necessary for the building to function as a dwellinghouse, and
(ii) partial demolition to the extent reasonably necessary to carry out building operations allowed by paragraph Q.1(j)(i),

(k) the site is on article 2(3) land,

(l) the site is, or forms part of—
(i) a site of special scientific interest;
(ii) a safety hazard area;
(iii) a military explosives storage area,

(m) the site is, or contains, a scheduled monument,

(n) the building is a listed building,

(o) the existing building, excluding any proposed extension under Class Q(b) but including any proposed building operations under Class Q(c), would not be capable of complying with the nationally described space standard issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government on 27th March 2015 as read with the notes dated 19th May 2016 which apply to it, or

(p) the building does not have suitable existing access to a public highway.

Conditions

Q.2. —(1) Where the development proposed is development under Class Q(a) together with development under Class Q(c), development is permitted subject to the condition that before beginning the development, the developer must apply to the local planning authority for a determination as to whether the prior approval of the authority will be required as to—
(a) transport and highways impacts of the development,
(b) noise impacts of the development,
(c) contamination risks on the site,
(d) flooding risks on the site,
(e) whether the location or siting of the building makes it otherwise impractical or undesirable for the building to change from agricultural use to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses) of Schedule 1 to the Use Classes Order,
(f) the design or external appearance of the building, and
(g) the provision of adequate natural light in all habitable rooms of the dwellinghouses, and the provisions of paragraph W (prior approval) of this Part apply in relation to that application.

(2) Where the development proposed is development under Class Q(a) only, development is permitted subject to the condition that before beginning the development, the developer must apply to the local planning authority for a determination as to whether the prior approval of the authority will be required as to the items referred to in sub-paragraphs (1)(a) to (e) and (g), and the provisions of paragraph W (prior approval) of this Part apply in relation to that application.

(3) Where the development proposed includes development under Class Q(b), the developer must also apply, as part of the application under sub-paragraph (1) or (2) (as the case may be), for a determination as to whether the prior approval of the authority will be required as to the impact of the proposed extension on the amenity of any adjoining premises.

(4) Development under Class Q is permitted subject to the condition that development under Class Q(a), and under Class Q(b) or (c), if any, must be completed within a period of 3 years starting with the prior approval date.

Interpretation of Class Q

Q.3. —(1) For the purposes of Class Q, “curtilage” means the lesser of—
(a) the piece of land, whether enclosed or unenclosed, immediately beside or around the building on an established agricultural unit or former agricultural building (as the case may be), closely associated with and serving the purposes of that building, and
(b) an area of land immediately beside or around the building on an established agricultural unit or former agricultural building (as the case may be) no larger than the land area occupied by that building.

(2) For the purposes of Class Q.1(d), “the original limits of an established agricultural unit” means—
(a) in the case of an established agricultural unit which ceased to exist prior to 24th July 2023, all the land which comprised the established agricultural unit at the time it came into existence;
(b) in the case of an established agricultural unit which exists on 24th July 2023, all the land which comprised the established agricultural unit at the time it came into existence;
(c) in any other case, all the land which comprises the established agricultural unit at the time it comes into existence.”.

 

Transitional provision

Paragraph (2) applies where development (“previously permitted development under Class Q”)—

(a) is permitted under Class Q immediately before 21st May 2024, and

(b) is, by virtue of any amendment made by article 3, no longer permitted under Class Q on and after 21st May 2024.

(2) Where this paragraph applies—

(a) a developer may, notwithstanding the amendments made by article 3, make an application for a determination as to prior approval in relation to previously permitted development under Class Q until the end of 20th May 2025, and

(b) the amendments made by articles 3 and 5 do not apply in relation to previously permitted development under Class Q in respect of which an application for a determination as to prior approval is made before 21st May 2025 (whether the application is made by virtue of sub-paragraph (a) or otherwise).

 In this article—

(a) Class Q” means Class Q of Part 3,

of Schedule 2 to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015.

 

 

Page updated: 27th June 2024

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