The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 was amended in 2015 to permit changes of redundant agricultural buildings to other land uses subject to certain safeguards but without the need for a formal planning application although there is still a shortened process to go through to get approval to the change.

Class Q of Schedule 2 to Part 3 of the above Order now permits the permanent change of an agricultural building to a Class C3 dwelling house along with building operations (ie the physical works) reasonably necessary to convert a structurally sound building into a dwelling such as the insertion of windows.


There are limitations to the exercise of this permitted development right, including:

use for agriculture — the site must have been used solely for an agricultural use as part of an established agricultural unit on 20 March 2013, or if not in agricultural use on that date the building’s last use preceding the 20 March 2013 date must have been for agriculture. Where the agricultural use was first begun after 20 March 2013 the permitted right under Class Q to convert to residential cannot be exercised for a period of at least ten years

floor space and dimension restrictions — the building(s) changing use (including and works to convert) cannot exceed 450 square metres, the number of units being converted cannot exceed three and any works to convert must not result in the external dimensions of the building(s) extending beyond the external dimensions of the existing building(s) at any given point. Garden areas are also limited.

agricultural tenancy — if the site is occupied under an agricultural tenancy then express consent of both the landlord and the tenant is required. If the tenancy is terminated for the purposes of using Class Q then more than a year must have lapsed unless both the landlord and tenant have agreed the site is no longer required for agriculture

physical building works — building operations necessary to convert include the installation or replacement of windows, doors, roofs or exterior walls, or water, drainage, electricity, gas or other services to the extent reasonably necessary for the building to function as a dwelling house, and partial demolition to the extent reasonably necessary to carry out building operations

excluded land — the permitted right under Class Q cannot be exercised on particular categories of land such as land in National Parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and conservation areas, sites forming part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest, safety hazard areas, military explosives storage areas, sites which are or contain a scheduled monument, and listed buildings.

Conditions of using the permitted development right in Class Q

Prior approval

The developer must obtain prior approval from the LPA before carrying out the permitted development. In dealing with the prior approval the LPA can only consider:

• transport and highways impacts

• noise impacts of the development

• contamination risks on the site

• flooding risks on the site

• 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 falling within Class C3 (dwelling houses) of the Use Classes Order (but not the rural or otherwise remote location of the building) and

• the design or external appearance of the building

The prior approval process is much shorter than an ordinary planning application.

In considering whether to grantprior approval, the LPA can only consider the National Planning Policy Framework to the extent that it is relevant to the matter on which prior approval is sought, eg transport, highways, noise etc. The LPA cannot, for example, consider affordable housing policies or whether the building is in a sustainable location.

However LPAs may refuse applications for prior approval to use this permitted development right on the basis of subjective considerations, for example that it is impractical or undesirable for the building to change from agricultural use, or because of undesirable building design or external appearance. There are appeal rights if prior approval is refused.

Commencement of the development

The ‘permitted development’ must not begin before the occurrence of one of the following:

• the receipt by the applicant from the LPA of a written notice of their determination that such prior approval is not required

• the receipt by the applicant from the LPA of a written notice giving their prior approval, or

• the expiry of 56 days following the date on which the application was received by the LPA without the LPA notifying the applicant as to whether prior approval is given or refused

Completion of the development

Development under Class Q is permitted subject to the condition that development must be completed within a period of three years starting with the prior approval date.

For more information contact Claire Barritt.
The above article is for general information and does not constitute specific legal advice.