Class R – agriculture building conversion to flexible commercial use
Class R 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 A1 (shops)
Class A2 (financial and professional services)
Class A3 (restaurants and cafes)
Class B1 (business)
Class B8 (storage or distribution)
Class C1 (hotels)
Class D2 (assembly and leisure)
So if you need an office or hotel or storage in the countryside this 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 on the 3rd July 2012 (or when it was last in use).
- If brought into use after 3rd July 2012, it must have been maintained in that use for a minimum of ten years.
- The total cumulative floor area of the existing building(s) – within the planning unit – which have changed under Class R rights, must not exceed 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
Note that from September 1st 2020 various changes are made to the Use Classes Order. Agricultural buildings remain as sui generis so Class R is unaffected. Until 31st July 2021 the GPDO will continue to operate using the old classifications as if nothing has changed.
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 seven listed above.
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:-
- the date the site will begin to be used for any flexible use
- the proposed nature of the use or uses
- 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 500 m²), the developer must submit a 56 day notice to the Planning Authority for prior approval. The cost is currently £96. There are four reasons why prior approval may not be given. No other reasons should be taken info account.
- Transport and highways impacts of the development.
- Noise impacts of the development.
- Contamination risks on the site
- 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.
The Government has issued further guidance on the conversion of agricultural buildings. Please refer to the Government website for further details. Click here.
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 falling within Class A1 (shops), Class A2
(financial and professional services), Class A3 (restaurants and cafes), Class B1 (business), Class
B8 (storage or distribution), Class C1 (hotels) or Class D2 (assembly and leisure) of the Schedule
to the Use Classes Order.
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
(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 500 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.
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 G 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.
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
(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
This page was updated 13th September 2020
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