New planning regulations and guidance have been announced by Central Government with regards to Class Q permitted development rights, which allow agricultural buildings to be converted for residential use. Housing Minister Dominic Raab said:

“We need to be more creative if we are to meet the housing needs of rural communities. That’s why I’m changing planning rules so rural communities have more flexibility on how best to use existing buildings to deliver more much needed homes for families. This is part of our comprehensive reform programme to build the homes Britain needs.”

The original introduction of Class Q came in 2014 and since then, sadly, there has been a considerable amount of discussion and confusion about the extent of the works that are allowed to convert an agricultural building to residential use.

The debate has focused around structural works and whether they are permitted, as well as whether the existing building is structurally sound enough to support any required structural works.  Unfortunately, this grey area has led to many applications being rejected as they were suggesting internal works to structurally support the building and/or create a first floor.

Thankfully, the new guidance that has now been issued states that internal works will not be controlled by the Class Q regulations:

‘Internal works are not generally development. For the building to function as a dwelling it may be appropriate to undertake internal structural works, including to allow for a floor, the insertion of a mezzanine or upper floors within the overall residential floor space permitted, or internal walls, which are not prohibited by Class Q’.

Fingers crossed this new guidance will now resolve some of the main reasons why some Councils have refused Class Q development applications.

In addition to the new guidance, the new regulations, which will come into effect from 6th April, will make some key changes to the permitted development rights. The new regulations will allow:

  • up to 3 larger homes within a maximum of 465 square metres (was 450 square metres), or
  • up to 5 smaller homes each no larger than 100 square metres (was a maximum of 3) or
  • a mix of both, within a total of no more than 5 homes, of which no more than 3 may be larger homes

Rural Surveyor Charles Daniell commented:

‘These changes are a clear sign that central government is trying to free up the rights of farmers to convert agricultural buildings to dwellings. When these permitted development rights were first introduced in 2015, many took advantage, but unfortunately, local authorities didn’t seem to like being dictated to by central government and started to look for every way possible to say no. These changes are a welcome development and increase will the scope and the number of buildings that qualify. ‘

If you would like further advice on Class Q conversions of an agricultural building to residential use, please contact Charles at the office on 01684 325215 or 07814 033449