cLASS q barn conversions
In 2014, the Government introduced a new form of automatic planning permission, Class Q (formally Class MB), as a way of assisting the housing shortage normally found in rural areas without endangering our open countryside.
It effectively enables landowners to convert existing unused agricultural barns into homes without the need for formal planning permission.
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 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 (so 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 (eg 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;
- You need permission from any current agricultural tenants, and permission cannot be granted if a tenancy has been terminated within 1 year unless agreed in writing it is no longer needed for agricultural uses; and
- Permission won’t be granted if you have used your agricultural rights to build another structure since 20 March 2013 (or within 10 years if after 2023).
What am I allowed to build?
- 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. While you are allowed to add some walls, windows, doors etc you will not get permission for any kind of extension. This is worth bearing in mind during the design process.
Do I still have to apply to my Local Council?
Yes, 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 legal criteria. They will also need to consider if there are other factors to take into account, eg highways, contamination, access to services etc. 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. You can find out more about Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) here.
It is important to remember that Bulding Control regulations still fully apply.
Rebuild or Conversion?
The case law surrounding Class Qs is constantly changing 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. Please take a look at some of our projects on here and get in touch if you need some advice on the likely prospects of success.