Barn Conversions – Not just homes

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What can I use a redundant barn for?

When thinking of converting a barn or agricultural building most people assume that this is to create new homes or holiday accommodation in the countryside. But there are many other options to help diversify your rural business including commercial, storage and even educational uses. We explore some of the possibilities available.

If you looking to diversify your farming operations and generate stable rental income from your agricultural buildings there are several options worth exploring. In this article, we delve into various uses for your agricultural buildings, providing a summary of the necessary requirements and highlighting key limitations.

Understanding Permitted Development

Permitted development rights offer a range of possibilities, involving both the change of use and building operations. It’s important to note that, in some cases, no change of use is permitted without accompanying building alterations. When considering these developments, it’s essential to understand the statutory definition of “Development” under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990


There are four key types of conversion of agricultural buildings permitted;

  1. Class Q: Agricultural to Residential – for more information read here
  2. Class R: Agricultural Buildings to Flexible Commercial Use
  3. Class S: Agricultural Buildings to State-Funded School

Many farms also contain separate office buildings which (depending on the way they were used) can be converted under Class MA;

  1. Class MA: Commercial to Residential
External of Barn Conversion
Pies, pasties and other pastries displayed at a farm shop in England

Class R: Agricultural Buildings to Flexible Commercial Use

Class R allows for the conversion of agricultural buildings to flexible commercial use, including storage or distribution (Class B8), hotels (Class C1), or commercial, business, or service purposes (Class E). The conversion is limited to 500 square meters per farm and applies to buildings in agricultural use on July 3, 2012, that are not subject to certain restrictions.

For Agricultural Buildings under 150 square metres, no Prior Approval is required from the local authority. For Agricultural Buildings over 150 square metres, Prior Approval is required from the local authority. Prior Approval is required for the following matters:

  • transport and highways impacts of the development
  • noise impacts of the development
  • contamination risks on the site; and
  • flooding risks on the site

Permission granted under Class R must begin within 3 years of the grant of permission.

What is Class E Use Class

Class E consolidates former use classes (A1, A2, A3, parts of D1, and D2) into a new use class, and puts them all into one new use class.  This is generally accepted to apply to;

  • Shops (except some local ones under Use Class F2)
  • Post Offices
  • Cafés & Restaurants
  • Banks & Building Societies
  • Estate Agencies
  • Employment Agencies
  • Solicitors
  • Gymnasiums, Indoor Sports & Recreation
  • Doctors
  • Clinics & Health Centres
  • Crèche
  • Offices
  • Research & Development
  • Light Industrial in a residential area
Barn to Nursery

Class S: Agricultural Buildings to State-Funded School

Class S permits the change of use of agricultural buildings to a state-funded school or registered nursery.

On any one farm, the conversion should not exceed 500sq m. Class S applies to buildings in agricultural use on 20 March 2013 that are not listed or part of a scheduled ancient monument, safety hazard area, military explosives storage area or site of special scientific interest.

Development is not permitted by Class S if the site is occupied under an agricultural tenancy, unless the express consent of both the landlord and the tenant has been obtained.

Can I use permitted development rights?


In most cases, an application is required and needs to be submitted to the local planning authority for prior approval regarding siting, design, and external appearance. The authority has 28 days to confirm whether prior approval is needed. If not, work can proceed according to the submitted proposal. If approval is necessary, the authority may request more details or changes.

  • You should include a written description of the proposed development, materials and a plan showing the site.
  • If it is approved, the development must be started (and sometimes finished) within specified time periods which depend on the type of development proposed.
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