Is your barn suitable for converting into a dwelling?

27 February 2018

The Government has produced new guidance to help farmers choose which of their buildings would be suitable for conversion to a dwelling house under permitted development rights, known as Class Q rights[i]. For some farmers this new guidance may clarify why they need to provide more information when they apply for prior approval to convert a building to residential use.

The new barn conversion guidance covers one particularly troublesome element of the permitted development rules for barn conversions to residential use, where the interpretation of planning guidance and planning legislation has been challenged in the Planning Court.

The guidance reinforces the Government’s view that the purpose of Class Q permitted development rights is to allow the conversion of buildings that are already suitable for use as a dwelling house with reasonable alternations. It is not for those buildings which will affectively require rebuilding work. More usefully the guidance also clarifies what internal works can be carried out under Class Q, including the addition of a floor or mezzanine floor and internal partition walls.

The NFU will continue to ask for a more pragmatic structural test for farm buildings, which would allow more historic buildings to be rebuilt, as well as new buildings, if the resulting structure provides a more functional dwelling in keeping with the rural surroundings.

The updated guidance is in new paragraph 105 of the Planning Practice Guidance, members are advised to read with the following paragraphs 106 – 109 to get the full national planning policy guidance on barn conversions. The rules fall within the section

NFU members can also request a copy of the NFU Business Guide 903 Permitted Development Change of Use of Redundant Agricultural Buildings to Class C3 Residential Purposes.

Why farmers should check for Planning Practice Guidance before submitting planning applications.

The purpose of Planning Practice Guidance is to show how planning law and policy is intended to be used. It has been published by national Government since 2014 for new types of planning or where there has been a need for up to date guidance to support national policy in the National Planning Policy Framework. Local planning authorities should also take this guidance into account.

The updated agricultural conversion guidance is part of new Planning Practice Guidance the Government has published online this month to help farmers and local planning authorities to understand how permitted development rights for farming should work.

New guidance on farm tracks and flood protection and alleviation works on farm has also been published at paragraph 115 and 116 within the same section

National planning policy is contained in the National Planning Policy Framework. Published in 2012, this document set out to cover all national policy. It is expected to be revised in summer 2018, following a consultation in the spring.

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