Class Q Permitted Development Rights

The ‘Choppy’ Waters of Class Q Permitted Development Rights

12 January 2018

With many years’ experience across the rural, agricultural and residential sectors we have extensive experience in the planning, design and build stages of barn conversions.  More recently we have been navigating the often choppy waters of the Class Q barn conversion.

These regulations, introduced in 2014, are known as ‘Class Q permitted development’ and were part of the government’s drive to ease the pressure on housing in rural areas. 

Class Q permitted development rights – A recap?

Class Q regulations can be applied to buildings which have been used for agriculture on or before 20th March 2013. It doesn’t apply to buildings which are in AONB, National Parks or conservation areas, or those which are listed.

The regulations state:
  • You can create up to three dwellings when converting existing buildings using a total floor space of 450sqm.
  • You cannot extend the building beyond its existing external dimensions and the garden area cannot be any bigger than the footprint of the building itself.
  • You can install or replace windows, doors, the roof, exterior walls, water, drainage, electricity, gas and other services to the extent that they are ‘reasonably necessary’ for the building to be used as a home.
  • As long as it is ‘reasonably necessary’, you can undertake partial demolition.
  • The regulations do not allow the introduction of new foundations or loadbearing floor slabs and you may also find it difficult to add a first floor. A structural appraisal will often be required to check that the current structure can support the conversion – if it can’t, you’ll have to go through the full planning process.

  • Class Q – Sheds into Houses

    Over the last 3 years we have worked on several Class Q developments, and while there are still plenty of restrictions on what you can and can’t do, the opportunities and projects we have been involved have been exciting. As you can see from the images, Class Q has allowed conversion of perhaps the least homely of structures –steel-framed barns – into beautiful, modern, and exciting homes, and of course, enhance the value of land.

    Whenever we are planning a barn conversion, whether using Class Q or the full planning process, we liaise closely with the local authority throughout to gauge what they will find acceptable. In any case, it will be necessary to submit a ‘prior approval’ notification which deals with aspects such as external appearance, materials and flood risk, contamination amongst other things.

    Refusal of a Class Q development can be made on the grounds of highway safety and it being ‘impractical or undesirable’ so it’s important to address accessibility and the impacts of adjacent uses. An eye for detail is also important as even small details such as a flue pipe can cause objections and delay, again depending on how sympathetic the planning authority feels (or otherwise) towards Class Q developments.

    Class Q – An Ever Changing Landscape

    In our experience, each local authority has its own interpretation of the Class Q rules, and some will be more stringent than others in following planning guidance, and the information required. Having local knowledge of each authority and their interpretation has therefore been very important in advising our clients.

    Earlier issues relating to the location of barns and their sustainability, have been replaced with debates regarding the structural integrity of the building and the agricultural use of the building.

    More recently the Hibbitt Case (Hibbitt v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) Rushcliffe Borough Council (2) [2016]) has taken the limelight and shed some light on what constitutes a conversion or not. However, there is still a lack of definitive detail on the extent of works that can be undertaken under class Q. Indeed since this decision we have still seen varying approaches from local planning authorities.

    There are also likely to be further changes to Class Q permitted development rights following the Government’s Rural Planning Review in 2016. Indeed as a result of this there are now plans in the pipeline to relax the Class Q rules further to allow the conversion of up to 750sqm for a maximum of 5 new homes.

    As the seas of Class Q continue to throw up new challenges we are continuing to help navigate our clients through these choppy waters and realise the potential of their assets.

    Can we help?

    If you are considering a barn conversion, we will be happy to talk in more detail about Class Q and planning options.

    Our portfolio section shows the broad range of developments we have been working on recently. If we can help you with your next project, please get in touch.