What works are allowed under Class Q?

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Class Q is the permitted development right to convert agricultural buildings into homes.


Permitted development (PD) is the right of an owner to develop his or her land within limits prescribed by a piece of legislation known as a General Permitted Development Order. The order was originally introduced to allow minor developments to go ahead without having to go through the planning application process, outlining sets of criteria that must be met in order to be considered permitted development. This requires an application, a set of drawings and either a supporting letter or report.

Conversion or Fresh Build?


The contentious point that often arises with a Class Q application is to what extent can the proposed works be considered a “conversion” or a “rebuild” and where is the line drawn? The question of whether a development is conversion or not was considered at length. The case of Hibbitt and another v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) and Rushcliffe Borough Council (2) [2016] EWHC 2853 (Admin) attempts to provide some clarity between conversion and ‘fresh build’ and provides an explanation of where the line is drawn between conversion and rebuilding. 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. His reasons include the fact that the concept of conversion is found in the overarching provisions of Class Q. In this case the judge considered it inappropriate to look to the dictionary when seeking to define the distinction as the permitted development rights were drafted for a professional audience and the distinction should be understood in a planning context.

The result of this appeal is a test of whether or not the required building operations amount to conversion or a “fresh build”. Unfortunately, there is no set method of defining a “fresh build” and each case is evaluated on an individual basis.

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

Is there any guidance on Class Q?

Paragraph 105 of the National Planning Practice Guidance was updated on 15th June 2018 to reflect this high court decision and attempts to provide some clarity on the works permissible by Class Q. The underlying principle is that the agricultural building in question is capable of functioning as a dwelling in it’s existing state and permits building operations that are necessary in order to convert the building into a dwelling. This includes the installation of windows, doors, exterior walls, electricity and other services that are reasonably necessary in order for the building to function as a dwelling. Required rebuilding or structural improvements are not permitted.

Permitted development rights can appear overwhelming and off-putting, especially Class Q, when considering how awkward the legislation is worded but, in many cases, Class Q is the best way of achieving your dream home in the open countryside. The high court ruling outlined above provides some clarity as to what is permissible through the remits of Class Q.

Class Q barn conversion concept

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