When is a conversion not a conversion?

This barn could be difficult to achieve success with as a conversion under Class Q permission

This article examines Class Q development regulations – the change of use of an agricultural building to a dwelling, and recent case law. By CLA Head of Planning Policy Fenella Collins.

The CLA undertook a great deal of long-term lobbying to persuade the Government of the merits of introducing permitted development rights for the change of use of farm buildings to commercial uses, and subsequently to dwellings. When the Government first introduced permitted development rights that allow the change of use of farm buildings to dwellings, their intention was, and remains, to allow that change of use through the conversion of an existing building, subject to a range of conditions and limitations. The regulations granting this deemed permission are contained in The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015, Schedule 2, as amended (GPDO 2015), Part 3 Changes of use, Class Q – agricultural buildings to dwellinghouses.

The development permitted under Class Q is: “Development consisting of:

  • 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 C3 (dwellinghouses) of the Schedule to the Use Classes order, and
  • Building operations reasonably necessary to convert the building referred to in paragraph (a) to a use falling within C3 (dwellinghouses) of that Schedule.”

The Government has supported Class Q with guidance set out in the online National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG) – paragraphs 101 to109.

So Class Q(a) permits the change of use of a building, and any land in its (very restricted) curtilage, and Class Q(b) permits some limited building operations that are considered reasonably necessary to “convert” the building to a dwellinghouse.

It is particularly important to note the word “convert” in Class Q(b) which, in the CLA’s opinion, presupposes that there is in existence a building that can be converted in the first place. This assumption is supported by the Government’s guidance, set out in the NPPG paragraph 105 which states “the permitted development right under Class MB (now Q) assumes that the agricultural building is capable of functioning as dwelling”.

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