What is Class Q Permitted Development?

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One way to convert a barn into a home is to use permitted development rights.
Class Q is the name given to the permitted development right to convert agricultural buildings into dwellings which have been with us since 2014.

Permitted development is the right of an owner to develop his or her land within limits prescribed by the General Permitted Development Order. The point of the order was originally to allow minor development to go ahead without having to go through the planning application process. For example small extensions to houses and simple changes of use i.e. changing a pub to a restaurant or a bank to a shop.

In the interest of simplifying the planning system and boosting the supply of houses, the government extended permitted development rights to include the right to change agricultural buildings to dwellings.

How We Help You Acquire Planning Permission?

To use these rights an application has to be made to the Local Planning Authority to confirm that the development proposed fits within the limits set out in the General Permitted Development Order. This requires an application, a set of drawings, and either a supporting letter or report.

Converting an enclosed modern shed in the middle of the countryside to up to 5 dwellings generally does not accord with Local Plan policies and as such is met with opposition in many councils. As such, in most cases, an application is carefully scrutinised to make sure it fits the criteria.

Since the permitted development right was introduced there have been several notable appeal decisions that have altered and clarified how Class Q applications should be dealt with by an Authority. The two key ones address ‘what amounts to conversion’ and ‘establishing a fallback position’.

Barn Conversion Inside Outside Square

The question of whether a development is conversion or not was considered at length. The high court judge held that there is a conceptual difference between a “rebuild” and a “conversion” and that the concept of “conversion” introduces a discrete threshold. The result of the appeal is a test of whether or not the building operations amount to conversion or ‘fresh build’.

Unfortunately, this is considered on a case by case basis and there is no set rule on how to define ‘fresh build’. Whilst this has introduced an additional consideration for many authorities (who weren’t previously giving the question too much attention) it does in some ways clear up where the line is.

The other notable appeal decision has underlined the ability of Class Q to represent a ‘fallback position’. This simply means that where a site can be developed through Class Q then the planning authority must take this into consideration when dealing with an application for full planning permission. The fallback means applicants are no longer entirely bound by the stringent rules that surround Class Q development.

With a Class Q, the applicant has three years to complete the conversion. With full planning permission, the applicant has 3 years in which to start the conversion, and once started can take as long as it takes to complete it. Finishing a build of this scale within 3 years can be very difficult for a lot of projects. Delays in materials and trades persons can all make a Class Q build very stressful. Full Planning helps to mitigate some of this.

Barn conversion
Limestone Barn with Modern Extension Square
Barn conversion
Barn conversion

Can I Convert My Barn?

There are certain areas where Class Q permitted development rights cannot be used, such as within areas of outstanding natural beauty, World Heritage Sites and conservation areas (not exhaustive). Barns that are listed are also exempt.

The barn or agricultural building must have been in a use solely for agricultural uses on or before 20th March 2013. The use may have stopped before March 2013, but it can’t have had any other use since it stopped having agricultural use and you can’t build a barn now and then convert it, you will need to wait 10 years.

Under the Class Q regulations, you have to limit the conversion to the envelope of the existing building; no outward extensions are allowed. There are other conditions and limitations that need to be adhered to as well, the key one being that the building must be structurally sound and ‘capable of conversion’. This almost always requires the input of a structural engineer to assess the building’s structure. A rule of thumb is that if it looks as though it is about to fall over with the next strong winds, it probably isn’t going to be possible to convert it.

Can I request planning permission myself?

The short answer is YES! the application process is meant to be accessible to anyone. You can submit online via the Planning Portal or through a paper submission. Your local authority will inform you of their specific requirements. If you meet these criteria then you submit an application called a prior approval application to convert the barn and wait 56 days for the decision.

WIth the prior approval application you have two options to apply under Class Q

(a) a change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage from a use as an agricultural building to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses) of the Schedule to the Use Classes Order

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

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

Class Q applicaiton forms

Do you still have questions?

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