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Class Q – Agricultural building conversions to dwellinghouses

Processes and what we need to consider

We recently surveyed this lovely barn for the purpose of converting it to a living space. This conversion will come under the classification: Class Q- Agricultural buildings to dwellinghouses. As an architectural services practice, we provide a range of services including surveys, design and full project services for these kinds of buildings. 

Class Q was introduced in April 2014 in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted development) (England) order 2014 and then renamed to Class Q and came into force in 2015. Class Q allows the conversion of agricultural buildings to dwellinghouses subject to certain conditions and limitations. This includes the change of use of the building as well as the “operations reasonably necessary” to convert the building to dwelling.  

Co Create Architecs Barn change of use conversion to a dwelling house class Q agricultural building conversion devon design and planning

When a client comes to us with an agricultural building such as this barn to convert to a dwelling(s), we must take into consideration several aspects of the building and the site before we begin to break down specific project processes that are relevant and the formalities required for Planning Permission. If your building(s) meets the criteria, a Class Q project and planning process can be used instead of a full planning permission submission which is much more straightforward and faster to do with a higher success rate. New dwellings in rural areas face a high level of scrutiny in planning policy which is a fundamental risk.  

Firstly the main aspect we need to consider is whether the building was in agricultural use before or after the 20th March 2013. If after, the building must have been used for agricultural purposes for at least 10 years and this must be proven. If there is or was a tenancy, it must not have been terminated within 1 year of the prior approval application and for the purposes of Class Q, unless there is prior agreement between the landlord and tenant. 

Another aspect to consider is that this type of conversion is not permitted on lands in Conservation areas, Areas of outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), The Broads, National Parks, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Safety Hazard Areas, Military Explosive Storage Areas, is the curtilage of or contains, a scheduled monument or it is or within the curtilage of a listed building. 

A “prior approval” application will then need to be formally submitted to the local authority before any enabling works or construction work can start onsite. For a Class Q application, the following matters are typically evaluated for Prior Approval: (a) transport and highways impacts of the development, (b) noise impacts of the development, (c) contamination risks on the site, (d) flooding risks on the site, (e) whether the location or siting of the building makes it otherwise impractical or undesirable for the building to change from agricultural use to a use such as dwellinghouses, and (f) the design or external appearance of the building.

In 2018, an amendment made to Class Q makes a distinction between larger and smaller dwellinghouses. If you are converting buildings larger than 100 m2, you can have a maximum of 3 and the total floorspace cannot exceed 465 m2.  If you are converting buildings smaller than 100 m2, you cannot exceed 5 with a maximum floorspace of 500 m2. You can have a combination of larger and smaller dwellinghouses where you can have 1 larger with a floorspace of 465 m2 and 4 smaller dwellinghouses of 100 m2 each, with a maximum total floorspace of 865 m2

Furthermore, the development of the building(s) must be within the existing footprint of the agricultural building(s). 

Under the heading of “Building operations reasonably necessary for the building to function as a dwellinghouse” it is only permitted to install and/or replace new windows, doors, roofs or walls, water, drainage, electricity, gas or other services to the extent reasonably necessary for the building to function as a dwellinghouse. Demolition is also only permitted to the extent reasonably necessary to carry out building operations previously mentioned. 

Would you like some help with this process? 

Whether you’re unsure about the eligibility of your property, you need help with the application process, or you’re looking for a complete architectural design service, we’re here to help.  

If you’re planning a Class Q barn conversion and you’d like some support from experienced architects, do not hesitate to contact us. 

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We’re always ready to start new and exciting projects. But we also understand if you’re not ready yet. If you’d like a chat through an idea or have a query, we’re always happy to talk.

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Co Create Architects | RIBA Chartered Architects Devon