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Jane Rarok | 1st March 2022

Converting agricultural buildings to a residential dwelling


Jane Rarok | 1st March 2022

Converting agricultural buildings to a residential dwelling

If you’re considering converting redundant, under-used agricultural buildings into residential dwellings, you may be able to do so without the need for planning permission.

The right to convert agricultural buildings

Permitted development rights (PDR) allows for certain types of development to be carried out without the need for planning permission provided certain criteria are met. The right to convert agricultural buildings to up to five residential dwellings is set out in Schedule 2, Part 3, Class Q of the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO).

As you’d expect, there are a number of limitations which include:

  • The site must be wholly in agricultural use;
  • On tenanted holdings both landlord and tenant approval must be obtained;
  • The maximum number of dwellings that can be created under Class Q is limited to 5. This can be made up of ‘smaller’ and ‘larger’ dwellings although total number of larger dwellings cannot exceed 3;
  • The distinction between smaller and larger dwellings is based on floorspace. Smaller dwellings are defined as having a floorspace of no greater than 100m2. The larger dwelling(s) is defined as having a floorspace greater than 100m2 but no more than 465m2;
  • Unlike smaller dwellings, the 465m2 floorspace limit for larger dwelling(s) is a cumulative maximum figure;
  • There is scope for a combination of smaller and larger dwellings (subject to the limits set out above). On this basis the absolute maximum floorspace that can be created is 865m2 (based on 1 larger dwelling at 465m2 and 4 smaller dwellings of 100m2 each);
  • The agricultural building must be structurally capable of conversion although some building operations “reasonably necessary to convert the building to residential use” are allowed (e.g. replacement windows, doors, roofs, walls and installation of services);
  • A 10-year rule applies so that agricultural buildings erected under other PDR rights after March 20th 2013 do not benefit from these conversion rights.

Class Q conversions do not apply to buildings in conservation areas, national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty, SSSIs nor if the building is listed or a scheduled monument. Also excluded are safety hazard and military explosive storage areas.

The Process

A ‘prior approval‘ application must be submitted to the relevant local planning authority before any works are carried out. The local planning authority will determine whether or not it wants to approve certain details of the scheme, namely design and external appearance, transport and highway impacts, noise impacts, and contamination and flooding risks. The local planning authority can also consider whether “the location or siting of the building makes it otherwise impractical or undesirable for the building to change from agricultural use to a dwelling”.

The local planning authority has 56 days to determine a Part Q prior approval (unless a written extension of time is agreed between the parties), after which time the proposal is considered to benefit form ‘deemed consent’. However, this is only the case where the proposal meets all the relevant criteria.

Drawings will need to be provided with any prior approval application. These drawings need to indicate the dimensions and proposed use of each room, along with the position and dimensions of doors, windows and walls. The drawings will need to demonstrate that adequate natural light is available to all habitable rooms (typically sleeping and living rooms) and minimum space standards for internal accommodation are achieved.

For further advice on converting agricultural buildings to other uses, whether that’s via permitted development rights or a full planning application, please contact  Jane Rarok, Principal Planning Consultant, Paris Smith Planning team.

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