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Changes announced for permitted rural development

13 March 2018 | Planning Policy Updates

Current permitted development rights allow for the conversion of existing agricultural buildings of up to 450 sq m to a maximum of three dwellings. Following consultation last year, housing minister Dominic Raab has announced that changes will be made to the Class Q permitted development legislation to increase the thresholds thereby allowing for the conversion of agricultural buildings to create up to five houses without the need for planning permission.

The regulations, which will come into force on 6th April 2018, stipulate controls regarding the sizes of these dwellings and provide the following alternatives;

  • Up to three ‘larger homes’, with a combined maximum floorspace of 465 sq m.
  • Up to five smaller homes (each less than 100 sq m).
  • A mix of both, with a total of no more than five homes, of which no more than three may be larger homes.

The following changes will also be made to Class Q;

  • There is no longer a specific requirement for a building to be structurally strong enough to take the loading associated with the works required to convert it. This suggests an acceptance that structural reinforcement may be required to enable a barn conversion to take place, such as providing a replacement roof.
  • Any interior works, including the provision of structural elements (the introduction of a new floor or example), do not constitute development so local planning authorities may not refuse proposals due to the extent of internal work involved.

The Government's objective for this change is to boost housing supply in rural areas. Raab confirmed that more creativity is required if housing needs in rural areas are to be met. It certainly provides an excellent opportunity for farmers and other landowners to realise potential from their buildings.

The test of whether a proposal requires planning permission or not is whether it can be reasonably defined as a ‘conversion’ rather than a ‘rebuild’. There is, however, a certain amount of ambiguity over these definitions and as such it is recommended that professional advice is sought to obtain clarity regarding whether permission is required and if so the likely prospects for success.

The new measures will also see an increase in the size limit of new agricultural buildings on larger farms from 465 sq m to 1,000 sq m. It is the government’s intention that this change will help farmers to adopt the latest innovations in modern farming practices.


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