Converting an agricultural building to residential

Are you thinking of converting an agricultural building to residential? Building your dream home in the countryside can be tricky, plots becoming available can be scarce, and even more so those that you can actually develop on!

Class Q of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015 (as amended) (the GPDO) allows the conversion of a building under permitted development rights.

Our Fast Track Conversions article provides some details about converting a building in the countryside to a residential use.  In this article we’ll cover the process of Class Q Prior Approval.

What criteria do I need to meet to be eligible for Class Q?

Like with all permitted development rights there are lots of conditions and criteria you must meet in order to benefit from this fast-track process.

In this instance for a building to be eligible for Class Q planning permission, the following criteria applies:

  • The lawful use of the site must have been for agricultural purposes before the change of use is undertaken. A site which formed part of a mixed use of agriculture and (non-agricultural) equestrian uses, or agricultural activities which do not form a trade or business (in the manner of ‘hobby farming’), would not benefit from the permitted change of use.
  • The cumulative number of separate dwellinghouses developed under Class Q must not exceed five.

– up to three larger homes within a maximum of 465 square metres; or

– up to five smaller homes each no larger than 100 square metres; or

– a mix of both, within a total of no more than five homes, of which no more than three may be larger homes.

  • The development should not include any external projections from the existing structure.
  • There are limitations on the external works that can be carried out under permitted development.
  • The site cannot be on Article 2(3) land*, or forms part of a special scientific interest, a safety hazard area, military explosives area, a scheduled monument or a listed building. If the agricultural building is within the curtilage of a listed building, it may be curtilage listed.
  • Development under Class Q must be completed within a period of 3 years starting with the prior approval date.

Can I include works to a building in a prior approval application?

You can include building operations reasonably necessary to convert a building, however this does not include extensions, or substantial changes.  If you require more works than insertion of windows and doors, our advice is to secure a prior approval under Class Q then go back in with a full planning permission to secure any additional works.

The wording of the GPDO is set out below: Permitted development – Development consisting of….

(a) a change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage from a use as an agricultural building to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses) of the Schedule to the Use Classes Order

(b) development referred to in paragraph (a) together with building operations reasonably necessary to convert the building referred to in paragraph (a) to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses) of that Schedule.

What do I submit for a prior approval application?

The Planning Portal has the relevant application form to assist you in the process, however the basic requirements for a prior approval application are:

  • A written description of the proposed development, which must include any proposed building works or other operations.
  • A plan indicating the site and showing the proposed development.
  • The developer’s contact details.
  • If in Flood Zone 2 or 3, a site specific flood risk assessment.
  • The correct fee. For a development which comprises a change of use only the fee is £80, for any development which includes external alterations the fee is £172.
  • Submitting additional information, such as contamination and structural reports, to support an application can prevent any undue delays in the consideration of the application and may avoid refusal of the prior approval application.

How long is the Prior Approval process?

A Local Planning Authority has 56 days (8 weeks) to consider proposals against the criteria in Class Q from receipt of a valid application.

What does a Local Planning Authority consider during the application process?

The Council have a set list of things that they are able to consider for prior approval applications relating to Class Q development:

  • Transport and highways impacts of the development, for instance levels of vehicular movements, visibility, access
  • Noise impacts of the development, for example it is close to farm activities, railway lines, other uses which could generate noise disturbance. If there is uncertainty a noise assessment can be submitted with a prior approval application.
  • Contamination risks on the site, a contamination report should be submitted with an application if there is potential for contamination on the site.
  • Flooding risks on the site, if the site is within Flood Zone 2 or 3 a Flood Risk Assessment would be required to accompany a prior approval application. Take a look at our Practical Guide on Flood Risk for further details.
  • Whether the location or siting of the building makes it otherwise impractical or undesirable for the building to change from agricultural use to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses)
  • The design or external appearance of the building, and
  • The provision of adequate natural light in all habitable rooms of the dwellinghouses,

Is there a right of Appeal?

Yes, there is a right of appeal within 6 months of the refusal date.

If you are thinking of converting an agricultural building to residential and need a little assistance, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Related Content

Our eBook covering The Basics of Permitted Development and Use Class explores the scope of permitted development rights.

If you’re not sure if you need help from a Town Planner take a look at blog on When to Hire a Town Planner our download a Guide on How to Choose a Town Planner.  And if you need our help, CONTACT US!