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All you need to know about Class Q planning permission

Fri 24 February 2023

The increasing changes within the agricultural industry are encouraging more and more Farmers to look into diversification of their business or other opportunities to raise capital from their assets. With latest DEFRA statistics showing approximately 65% of Farms across the UK looking at diversifying into other areas, it is important for Farmers to fully understand the opportunities that may already exist in and around their business.

As many will know, Farmers benefit from a range of Permitted Development (PD) rights to assist in the expansion of their holdings. However, this is not the only benefit they have, as the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO) also allows for the residential or commercial conversion of suitable buildings, through a much-simplified Prior Approval approach.

Many farms have outdated, redundant or underutilised buildings, so if you think you have a building that can be transformed into highly valuable asset – or would like to create an office, shop or café within your unit – this may be the path for you.


Is the building(s) currently used for agriculture or was the building(s) last used for agriculture on or before 20th March 2013?

Residential conversion under “Class Q” requires barns or buildings to be in a solely agricultural use in line with these dates. If the building has been erected after March 2013, then a period of 10 years must have passed before conversion can take place.

The criteria under “Class R” for flexible commercial conversion differs however, requiring the subject building to have last been in solely agricultural use on 3rd July 2012. The same minimum ten-year period applies if brought into use after this date.


Is the building(s) less that 865m2?

When the PD rights were first introduced in 2014, the limit under “Class Q” was 450m2 to create a maximum of three dwellings. However, subsequent amendments have increased this limit to now give the potential for up to 865m2 of suitable buildings to be converted into up to five new dwellings.

The total cumulative floor area of buildings to be converted under “Class R” must not exceed 500m2 across the agricultural unit.


Have you recently used other permitted development rights on the Farm?

If development of a new or altered building under agricultural permitted development rights has taken place across the established agricultural unit since 2013, then conversion under “Class Q” cannot occur for a period of 10 years. That is not to say that a full planning application for a conversion would not be considered.


Is the building(s) in reasonable structural repair?

“Class Q” of the GPDO only allows for the conversion of suitable buildings, rather than total re-build. Whilst there is an allowance for the installation and replacement of walls, windows, doors, etc., the Local Planning Authorities will assess the structural quality and convertibility of the building(s), and this will depend largely on whether it can withstand conversion in its current state.

Conversions are commonly associated with traditional brick buildings; however, we are more regularly seeing the conversion of modern buildings to contemporary living spaces.


Can the building(s) be altered?

Under ‘Class Q’, replacing foundations or load-bearing flooring isn’t allowed – and adding a first floor can be troublesome. If any of these changes are likely to be needed, you would need to go through full planning permission rather than opting for Class Q.

The regulations also do not allow for extension of the building beyond its existing external dimensions.

Although a building’s use can be altered under Class R permitted development rights, any alterations that change the building’s external appearance are not (necessarily) permitted development, and therefore, a planning application may be necessary before any alteration work can begin.


Is the building(s) Listed? Or located in any of the following designations: a Conservation Area, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Park?

If the building(s) is located within any of the above, unfortunately the rights under the GPDO can’t be enjoyed. However, a full planning application may still be worth considering.

If the property is not located in the above designations, the location still plays a vital part in success. Buildings located within close proximity to; slurry lagoons, silage clamps, livestock sheds etc. need careful consideration.


If you think are thinking of diversification and have a building(s) that meets the criteria for conversion, we would be delighted to discuss this further with you. Please contact our planning & development team or our rural team, who would be happy to provide a site appraisal.

And if you’re looking for your own property conversion project in a rural setting, we currently have the following property available – click here for more information.