Following a consultation last year, the Government has announced changes to the Class Q permitted development legislation which allows for the conversion of agricultural buildings to dwellings without planning permission.

Until now the legislation has allowed for the conversion of up to 450 sq m of agricultural building floorspace to a maximum of three dwellings. The new amendments, which will take effect on 6 April, confirm that these thresholds will be increased so that it will now be possible to convert agricultural floorspace to create one of these alternatives:

  • Up to three ‘larger homes’, with a combined maximum floorspace of 465 sq m.
  • Up to five smaller homes (each less than 100 sq m).
  • A mix of both, with a total of no more than five homes, of which no more than three may be larger homes.

The announcement follows further changes to Government guidance in respect of Class Q permitted development rights, which confirmed that:

  • There is no longer a specific requirement for a building to be structurally strong enough to take the loading that comes with the works required to convert it. This suggests an acceptance that structural reinforcement may be required to enable a barn conversion to take place, such as providing a replacement roof.
  • Any interior works, such as introducing a new floor or mezzanine, do not constitute development so local planning authorities (LPAs) may not refuse proposals due to the extent of internal work involved (even if it involves new structural elements).

Lee Scott, Savills head of rural planning in the south east, said: “The revised guidance states that the test of whether a proposal is acceptable is whether it can reasonably be described as a ‘conversion’ or whether it crosses the line into a ‘rebuild’. There remains some ambiguity over the point at which a ‘conversion’ becomes a ‘rebuild’ so it is recommended that professional advice is sought to get a better understanding of the likely prospects for success in each case.

“These announcements provide a clear indication that the Government is throwing its support behind Class Q as a way of boosting housing supply in rural areas and creates an excellent opportunity for farmers and other landowners to realise value from their buildings.

“Those who have previously been refused prior approval by their local council are advised to review the reasons given as they may well be successful under this revised guidance. Likewise, for anyone who has not yet looked at the opportunity to convert their buildings, now is an excellent time to do so.”

For more information, contact Lee Scott at Savills Petworth on 01798 345971.