cLASS q barn conversions
In 2014, the Government introduced a new form of automatic planning consent, Class Q (formally Class MB), was seen as a way of assisting the housing shortage normally found in rural areas without endangering our open countryside.
It enables landowners to convert existing agricultural barns into homes without the need for full planning permission, instead prior approval is required.
In recent years this has meant that the phrases ‘Class Q’ and ‘automatic development rights’ are used regularly when talking about barn conversions, but what does it really mean and what criteria do you have to meet in order to go ahead?
What is Class Q?
Class Q was introduced in 2014 as a form of permitted planning development designed to help boost the supply of housing in rural areas. This type of Planning consent allows the change of building that meet certain criteria from agricultural to residential use. The criteria for Class Q permitted development states that the building must have been used for agriculture before or on the 20th March 2013, but some exceptions do apply. Planning Permission cannot be granted for buildings in Area's of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), National Parks, Conservation areas or if the building is listed.
What type of barns are eligible for Class Q automatic development rights?
- Firstly, the barn must have been in agricultural use on 20 March 2013, (or in agricultural use within 10 years before applying for the change of use – whichever is the lesser);
- If it has been built after 20 March 2013, it needs to have been in agricultural use for 10 years (e.g. this route will only kick in after 2023);
- The building mustn’t be Listed, or part of/included on a Listing, or sited on Article 2(3) land (e.g. a Conservation area, World Heritage Sites, AONBs, The Broads or National Park);
- The building must be structurally capable of the conversion. New or reinforcing of the structure is not permitted, but an independent mezzanine floor can be allowed;
- Permission won’t be granted if you have used your Class A or Class B agricultural rights to build another barn since 20 March 2013 (or within 10 years if after 2023).
- Click here for the full general permitted development legislation.
What am I allowed to build and can I extend my building?
- You are allowed to build up to 5 dwellings per established agricultural unit (or farm). These can be split into smaller dwellings and larger dwellings. Smaller dwellings are up to 100m2 and larger dwellings 100-465m2. This means a theoretical maximum limit of 865m2;
- The proposed conversion mustn’t be any larger than the current structure. You are allowed to add new walls, windows, doors etc, but you will not get permission for any kind of extension. But you could get secure consent in the future. This is worth bearing in mind during the design process.
- Under Class Q you cannot extend the building itself, even adding solar panels area risk. The garden of the property cannot be any bigger than the buildings footprint. This area doesn't need to include parking and access.
- 'Reasonable changes' can be made to allow the building to be used as a home including, replacing windows, doors, roofing, water drainage and other services.
Do I still have to apply to my Local Council?
Yes, you cant just start work, you need to go through a process called ‘Prior Approval.’ This involves making an application to your Local Planning Authority as they are the ones who determine whether your proposals are considered a ‘Permitted Development’ against the list of criteria. They will also need to consider if there are other factors to take into account, eg highways, contamination, access to services etc. The prior approval procedure requires Local Planning Authorities to make a decision within 56 days, this is often referred to as 'The 56-day rule'. Only once the approval is granted can you start the work. It is also important to be aware that new dwellings can attract Community Infrastructure Levy payments. Read more about Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).
Exemption must be in place, in writing, before work starts.
It is important to remember that Building Control regulations still fully apply.
The 56-day rule
The Prior Approval procedure requires Local Planning Authorities to determine applications made under Class Q within 56 days, as a result of this many applicants and authorities thought that failure to meet the deadline resulted in automatic approval. But this is NOT as simple as this, the deadline only applies where the proposal also satisfies the relevant criteria of Q1.
For example; if a barn is listed or the works required to convert it go beyond what is allowed under the Q1, the building would not automatically benefit from deemed consent simply because the application was not determined within the 56-day period. You then may be trapped in a quandary if you continue with work, you will preclude yourself from resubmission. (Because this is a Prior Notification process, and you may get hit for CIL too. The only way is to seek a Certificate
You must always be careful when taking forward any kind of proposal to make use of a Class Q permitted development rights in order to avoid the potential pitfalls. However, for those who proceed in the correct way Class Q remains an excellent way to enhance the value of agricultural buildings and create high-quality homes.
Rebuild or Conversion?
The case law surrounding Class Qs is evolves and there has been a lot of discussion in recent years about what is deemed a rebuild of a barn (and therefore not eligible under Class Q rights) and what can be genuinely described as a conversion. The distinction between the two may appear nuanced but it is still very important. We have a great deal of experience in this area.
Find out more about the Class Q applications we have progressed.
Find out how we can help