Most of my colleagues arrive at work, sit down at their desks and get ready to start their day. My day starts a few hours earlier by pulling on a pair of wellington boots and at this time of year donning a headtorch and waterproofs before venturing outside to tend to our livestock. By the time, I sit down at my desk I have already fed over fifty mouths with pigs, sheep, poultry, farm cats and Pickle, the border terrier, to look after. Some call me “Barbara”…. My extra curricula activities have resulted in a particular interest in the changes to the revised General Permitted Development Order and in particular Class Q which relates to the permitted development of agricultural buildings into dwellings.
The Government introduced Class Q to increase the supply of rural dwellings avoiding the need for a full planning application assuming certain criterion are met. For agricultural landowners, this is a real opportunity to add value to their holdings. But, before you start popping the champagne corks, a word of warning… You will still need to submit a prior notification application to your local planning authority and whilst planning officers should apply a light touch approach to this type of application many appear to be looking for any reason to say that a full planning application is required.
Across the planning authority districts there seems to be inconsistency in determining this type of application with some local authorities interpreting the limitations of Class Q more leniently than others. Cornwall Council who reputedly seem to be deciding that most prior approval applications are not permitted development have issued a revised Guidance Note on this type of application in February 2017. They seem to consider the structural integrity of the building as a key issue. A key question they will contemplate is – can it be converted without alterations or additions to the primary structure of the building? Most genuine agricultural buildings will need extensive works to meet Building Regulations which are a necessity for it to be certified as a dwelling and this issue seems to be a major hurdle to most Class Q applications as the works required for Building Regulations frequently go beyond what is allowed under Class Q. I believe it is likely that the Government will re-visit this area of Class Q and provide more clarification on the interpretation of the current legislation and planning guidance before long… Class Q does offer a real opportunity for owners of agricultural buildings but applications need to be put together carefully.
If you would like us to advise whether you have a potential Class Q project, please get in touch. We have provided valuation and building surveying advice on many Class Q schemes and would be happy to assist you.
In the meantime, it’s not long until lambing starts again…
Beth Stubbs BSc (Hons) MRICS