Class R – agriculture barn conversion to flexible commercial use

This has been branded by the media as Clarkson’s Law or Clarkson’s Clause, when in reality Class R  has been around for several years. It is found within Schedule 2, Part 3 of the General Permitted Development Order 2015 (as amended) (GPDO), and allows for change of use from an agricultural building (and land within its curtilage) in England to flexible commercial use – i.e. uses falling within the following use classes:

Class B2 (general industrial) ( raw goods, excluding livestock, which are produced on the site and are to be sold on the site)
Class B8 (storage or distribution)
Class C1 (hotels)
Class E (commercial, business or service)
Class F2(c) (outdoor sport & recreation) from 21st May 2024
The provision of agricultural training from 21st May 2024

At the end of April 2024 it was announced that the allowable floor space would be doubled to 1,000 square metres. This is in addition to the increased classes above.

See ‘What is an Agricultural Unit‘ as you can only do this once per agricultural unit.

Barn Conversion Class R

So if you need an office, gym, café, hotel or storage in the countryside, Class R might be an ideal permitted development option for you. But please see below regarding the real use class!

However, just like “Class Q” certain criteria must be met:

  • The subject building needs to have been solely in agricultural use for the last 10 years or more (or when it was last in use).
    (It does have a date stamp 3rd July 2012, but as we now more than 10 beyond that date a rolling minimum 10 year period is now in effect)
  • The total cumulative floor area of the existing building(s) – within the planning unit – which have changed under Class R rights, must not exceed 1,000m². (increased space from 21st May 2024, was previously 500m² )
  • The building(s) must not be:
    • a listed building (or within the curtilage of a listed building)
    • a scheduled monument (or part thereof)
    • form part of a (or be located within) a safety hazard area
    • form part of an explosives storage area
  • The new B2 (general industrial) Use Class is restricted to the processing of raw goods, excluding livestock, which are produced on the site and are to be sold on the site, together with goods ancillary to the processing of those raw goods
  • Any external building works will require planning permission

It can however be in a National Park, AONB, Conservation area etc. The building does not need to be redundant.

 

Becomes Sui Generis

Class R is unique in as much as instead of changing the use of the building to a specific use class, any completed conversion will be treated as ‘Sui Generis’, which means no specific use class. This means than any future changes to C3 or C4 for example will require full planning permission.

However as it will be converted under ‘flexible use’. you can apply again under class R to convert the building to another use within the six listed above.

 

Clarkson’s Law or Clarkson’s Clause

Jeremy Clarkson recently had battles with Oxfordshire District Council over planning for a café on his Diddly Squat farm as featured on Amazon Prime Video series Clarkson’s Farm. Despite the media buzz around the case, Clarkson would not have benefited from Class R on his farm, or at least not in the location of his choosing as the barn converted was too new. However he was advised by Planning Geek at the time to find another barn on the agricultural unit and convert that to a café.

Speaking about ‘Clarkson’s Clause’, Farming Minister Mark Spencer said: ‘I am extremely pleased to support our farmers and provide them the freedom to decide the best uses for buildings on their land, without needless bureaucracy holding them back’. 

Application process

The procedure to apply under Class R varies slightly upon the size of the building:-

Buildings with less than 150 m² of existing floor space:
For building(s) where the cumulative floor space (to be converted) does not exceed 150 m² the local authority following need to be advised (in writing) as follows:-

  1. the date the site will begin to be used for any flexible use
  2. the proposed nature of the use or uses
  3. a plan indicating the site and which buildings have changed use

For cumulative development of floor areas up to 150 m², on buildings that fit the criteria, there is no requirement to wait (from the date of submission) before development or use can start.

Buildings exceeding 150 m²
Where the cumulative, existing floor area to be changed exceeds 150 m² (but does not exceed 1,000 m²), the developer must submit a 56 day notice to the Planning Authority for prior approval. The cost is currently £120. There are four reasons why prior approval may not be given. No other reasons should be taken into account.

  1. Transport and highways impacts of the development.
  2. Noise impacts of the development.
  3. Contamination risks on the site
  4. Flood risks

For buildings exceeding 150s m², development under Class R cannot begin before written confirmation is received that either prior approval is – or is not required.

Should the local authority exceed 56 days then you may issue a default notice and commence works.

Any external changes would require a separate planning application.

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

 

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.

 

Legislation

Permitted development

R. Development consisting of a change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage from a use as an agricultural building to a flexible use—

(a) falling within one of the following provisions of the Use Classes Order—
(i) Class B2 (general industrial) of Schedule 1;
(ii) Class B8 (storage or distribution) of Schedule 1;
(iii) Class C1 (hotels) of Schedule 1;
(iv) Class E (commercial, business or service) of Schedule 2; or
(v) Class F.2(c) (outdoor sport or recreation) of Schedule 2; or

(b) for the provision of agricultural training.

Development not permitted

R.1 Development is not permitted by Class R if—
(a) the building was not used solely for an agricultural use as part of an established agricultural unit—
(i) on 3rd July 2012;
(ii) in the case of a building which was in use before that date but was not in use on that date, when it was last in use, or
(iii) in the case of a building which was brought into use after 3rd July 2012, for a period of at least 10 years before the date development under Class R begins;

(b) the cumulative floor space of buildings which have changed use under Class R within an established agricultural unit exceeds 1,000 square metres;

(c) the site is, or forms part of, a military explosives storage area;

(d) the site is, or forms part of, a safety hazard area; or

(e) the building is a listed building or a scheduled monument.

Conditions

R.2 Development is permitted by Class R subject to the following conditions—
(a) a site which has changed use under Class R may, subject to paragraph R.3, subsequently change use to another use falling within one of the use classes comprising the flexible use;

(b) for the purposes of the Use Classes Order and this Order, after a site has changed use under Class R the site is to be treated as having a sui generis use;

(c) after a site has changed use under Class R, the planning permissions granted by Class E of Part 7 of this Schedule apply to the building, subject to the following modifications—
(i) “curtilage” has the meaning given in paragraph X (interpretation) of this Part;
(ii) any reference to “office building” is to be read as a reference to the building which has changed use under Class R;

(d) where the site is to be used for general industrial purposes within Class B2, it must only be used for the processing of—
(i) raw goods, excluding livestock, which are produced on the site and are to be sold on the site, or
(ii) raw goods mentioned in paragraph (i) together with goods ancillary to the processing of those raw goods.

R.3— (1) Before changing the use of the site under Class R, and before any subsequent change of use to another use falling within one of the use classes comprising the flexible use, the developer must—
(a) where the cumulative floor space of the building or buildings which have changed use under Class R within an established agricultural unit does not exceed 150 square metres, provide the following information to the local planning authority—
(i) the date the site will begin to be used for any of the flexible uses;
(ii) the nature of the use or uses; and
(iii) a plan indicating the site and which buildings have changed use;

(b) where the cumulative floor space of the building or buildings which have changed use under Class R within an established agricultural unit exceeds 150 square metres, apply to the local planning authority for a determination as to whether the prior approval of the
authority will be required as to—
(i) transport and highways impacts of the development;
(ii) noise impacts of the development;
(iii) contamination risks on the site; and
(iv) flooding risks on the site,
and the provisions of paragraph W (prior approval) apply in relation to that application.

(2) Subject to sub-paragraph (3), development under Class R of the type described in paragraph R.3(1)(b) must begin within a period of 3 years starting with the prior approval date.

(3) Where, in relation to a particular development under Class R of the type described in paragraph R.3(1)(b), planning permission is granted on an application in respect of associated operational development before the end of the period referred to in sub-paragraph (2), then development under Class R must begin within the period of 3 years starting with the date that planning permission is granted.

(4) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (3), “associated operational development” means building or other operations in relation to the same building or land which are reasonably necessary to use the building or land for the use proposed under Class R.

Interpretation of Class R

R.4 For the purposes of Class R, “flexible use” means use of any building or land for a use falling within the list of uses set out in Class R and change of use (in accordance with Class R) between any use in that list.

 

Clarkson’s Law or Clause Page updated: 8th July 2024

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