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Class R – agriculture building conversion to flexible commercial use

Barn Conversion Class R

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

It can however be in an 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 seven listed above.

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 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.

  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.

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