Greater Flexibility for Converting Agricultural Buildings

Changes to Class Q Permitted Development Rights

The Government published its draft revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) on the 5th March 2018.  This was closely followed by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) issuing a statement on the 12th March advocating that rural communities will be given more options to convert agricultural buildings into family homes to meet local housing needs. Dominic Raab, the Housing Minister said:

“We need to be more creative if we are to meet the housing needs of rural communities. That’s why I’m changing the 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 class Q regulations have been with us since 2014 and allowed the conversion of agricultural buildings up to 3 dwellings on an agricultural unit up to a maximum floorspace of 450sqm. The new regulations, effective from 6th April 2018 have marginally increased the floor area threshold to 465sqm for three larger dwellings. They also allow for a development of up to 5 smaller dwellings with a total floorspace of 100sqm each. These more flexible provisions can be combined to deliver up to 5 dwellings per agricultural unit subject to individual floor space limitations although no more than 3 dwellings may be ‘larger dwellings’.

Since 2014, we have identified significant inconsistency in the way the Class Q Regulations are being applied by local planning authorities, particularly with regards to structural alterations and the extent of building works that are allowed. Local planning authorities have been reluctant to work with Applicant’s proactively and Government statistics indicate that only 42% of previous Class Q application have been approved.

The new Class Q Regulations, together with key landmark court decisions, have provided greater clarity over some of the more contentious issues relating to Class Q but it remains to be seen whether the changes will result in more pragmatic handling of prior approval applications by local planning authorities. However, the Government has signalled its firm commitment towards promoting rural housing, including Class Q conversions.

If you are thinking about exploring the options available to you under Class Q we would be delighted to hear from you. Whilst the changes to Class Q are a step in the right direction, we would recommend that you seek our professional assistance to optimise your chances of submitting a successful application.