From our work at Crawford Building Consultancy throughout the UK, visiting many farms and estates, we often come across hidden gems of residential development potential particularly in the form of barns. Many landowners are unaware of this potential, and how such opportunities can be managed to fruition. Through our rural consultancy, we are able to offer strategic advice on this type of project, no matter what the size is.
The conversion of agricultural units into residential ones can be done (for the most part) without the need for full planning permission, using the prior approval route, whereby the Local Authority is notified and provided with relevant information enabling them to reach a decision within eight weeks.
In order to go down this route, the barn must satisfy certain conditions:
It must have been in use for an agricultural purpose on or before 20 March 2013 and cannot have had a change from agricultural use subsequently (it is important to understand here that an “agricultural use” does not include equestrian use).
From 1 August 2020, you must be able to supply floor plans, and show that all living spaces in the proposed new dwelling will have adequate natural light.
The barn must be “capable of functioning as a dwelling” already – this means that it should be structurally sound with the roof intact, however, there is nothing to stop a landowner from making repairs to said barn as part of a routine maintenance schedule, before then applying for conversion.
Lastly, the agricultural unit must not exceed 865 sqm (this is the maximum possible over five residential units).
This permitted development is known as Class Q, and was introduced in 2015. Back then you could create a maximum of three dwellings from one unit, but since 2018 you can now create five – if they all fall within the footprint that is. You cannot extend beyond the existing footprint, and the garden area must not exceed the size of the building footprint. Also, you cannot raise the roof as part of the permitted development.
When this type of permitted development is utilised, it can occur only once on the holding so you couldn’t for example convert two sets of barns in one yard if they exceeded the threshold of 865 sqm. You would also be unable to undertake any other permitted development on a holding for ten years, which is food for thought if a landowner intended to increase grain storage by the addition of a new building for example. Dividing the holding up sounds plausible, but isn’t an option as the Local Authority will expect a site and location plan.
Exceptions to the above, where a full planning application will be required, are Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Conservation Areas, World Heritage Sites, hazardous areas such as military installations, anything with a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and listed buildings.
If the above is of interest to you or you have identified just such a farm building on your travels, please do get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and hopefully, we can find a way of making Class Q work for you.