Transforming Agricultural buildings into Countryside Homes - Class Q Permitted Developments

Tips & Advice

Have you got a redundant barn that you are looking to find a new use for? A Class Q application allows the conversion of agricultural buildings and any land within their curtilage to residential use (Class C3) subject to certain conditions and limitations.


Through a less onerous process known as “Prior Approval”, a Class Q application negates the need to submit a full planning application, as long as the building meets the qualifying criteria, conditions and limitations associated with Class Q regulations.


Qualifying Building & Land Designations

The qualifying criteria for Class Q permitted developments states that the building must have been used solely for agriculture for a period of 10 years before development under Class Q begins.


An agricultural unit is defined as:

agricultural land occupied as a unit for the purposes of agriculture (and which was in use for that purpose on or before the relevant qualifying date under Classes Q, R and S respectively)”.

As long as the building is deemed structurally fit for conversion without requiring a complete re-build, then there is a good chance that a Class Q application is suitable for your project.


Class Q applications are not permitted in the following areas:

  1. Conservation Areas

  2. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

  3. National Park

  4. World Heritage Sites

  5. Sites of special scientific interest

  6. Sites that contain or are within the curtilage of an ancient monument

  7. Listed Buildings

However, Class Q does not preclude sites in the Green Belt.


Floorspace Thresholds

Whilst development must strictly be within the footprint of the existing agricultural building, Class Q floorspace thresholds vary depending on the amount and size of the proposed new residential buildings. The policy allows the creation of up to 3 ‘larger’ houses with a maximum combined floorspace of 465 sqm; up to 5 smaller houses (not exceeding 100 sqm each), or a combination of both that could spread over 865 sqm in total (i.e. 4 x 100 sqm and 1 x 465 sqm).

Whilst a Class Q application restricts conversions of barns that only require reasonable adjustments to convert them from an agricultural building to residential use, it does allow for various adjustments including the installation and/or replacement of: windows, doors, roofs, exterior walls, water, drainage, electricity, gas or other services, all to the extent reasonably necessary for the building to function as a residential building. Demolition is also allowed to the extent reasonably necessary to carry out the building operations listed above.


Submitting a Prior Approval

Once all the previously mentioned criteria have been met, a Prior Approval application can be submitted. The Prior approval application process will assess the transport and highways impact of the proposal, as well as noise impacts, flood risks on the site, whether the location or sitting of the buildings makes it otherwise impractical or undesirable, the design and external appearance of the building and lastly, the provision of adequate natural light to all habitable rooms (floor plans must be supplied).


To avoid doubt, it is recommended that a structural survey of the existing building is included with the Prior Approval application. The existing building must, in structural terms, be ‘reasonably’ able to be converted into a dwelling house. If the building requires substantial building operations, beyond what is deemed ‘reasonable’ by the local authority, then the development would fall outside the scope of Class Q and a full planning application is advised. This will inevitably be subjective in each case and so an assessment by a Structural Engineer will provide confirmation that the building is structurally fit for conversion.


If the agricultural building fits all the above criteria for Class Q, a prior approval application is submitted and after 56 days the local authority will provide a decision. If the local authority fail to issue a decision within the determination period, then planning permission is deemed as granted on the provision that the development qualifies.


Whilst the legislation sets out clear guidelines, there is a significant amount of case law and appeal decisions relating to Class Q applications. A well thought out, robust and attractive conversion that fulfils the criteria of Class Q permitted development however, will have a good chance of success, with the added benefits of being less onerous than submitting a full planning application.

To view an example of a recently approved Class Q development, visit the following link: Sycamore House


If you are considering a scheme under Class Q and would like assistance, please click here to get in touch and we would be pleased to discuss this with you further.