My work takes me into some of the most beautiful parts of the country and I often come across beautiful redundant agriculutral buildings that are crying out to be converted. As a design-led architect, I get excited by the idea of reusing agricultural buildings. So much so, my wife is now bored of my constant – “that barn would make a stunning house” or “look at that timber and metal cladding!”

As a design-led residential architect, I can really see the potential in these redundant farm buildings and I want to work with landowners to show that they can be transformed into beautiful dwellings and highly valuable assets.

Under normal planning conditions these buildings would test the patience of most architects and clients alike. However, there are now relatively new regulations in place which allow the conversion of redundant agricultural buildings without the need to go through the full planning permission process. These regulations, introduced in 2014, are known as ‘Class Q permitted development’ and they’re part of the government’s drive to ease the pressure on housing in rural areas.

Whether you have a range of old stone barns or a more utilitarian steel-framed storage shelter, Class Q opens up possibilities for residential development.

Class Q Permitted Development

What is allowed under Class Q permitted development rights?

Class Q regulations can be applied to buildings which have been used for agricultural purposes on or before 20th March 2013. However, It does not apply to buildings which are in AONB, National Parks or conservation areas, or those which are listed.

The regulations state:

  •  You can create up to three dwellings when converting existing buildings using a total floor space of 450sqm.
  • You cannot extend the building beyond its existing external dimensions and the garden area cannot be any bigger than the footprint of the building itself.
  • You can install or replace windows, doors, the roof, exterior walls, water, drainage, electricity, gas and other services to the extent that they are ‘reasonably necessary’ for the building to be used as a home.
  • As long as it is ‘reasonably necessary’, you can undertake partial demolition.
  • The regulations do not allow the introduction of new foundations or loadbearing floor slabs and you may also find it difficult to add a first floor. A structural appraisal will often be required to check that the current structure can support the conversion – if it can’t, you’ll have to go through the full planning process.
Class Q – is it that simple?

In a nut-shell. No.

Many farmers and landowners have tried and failed to get the go-ahead for residential conversions. Choosing the right building is vital and this is where I can advise early in the process to ensure that time and money isn’t invested into a project that stands no real chance of success. During our initial consultation, I will review the existing building and give you my honest opinion on whether it is worth proceeding.

Whenever I am planning a barn conversion, whether using Class Q or a full planning application, I liaise closely with the local planning authority to gauge what they will find acceptable. In any case, it will be necessary to submit a ‘prior approval’ notification which deals with aspects such as external appearance, materials and flood risk, amongst other things.

From my experience with Class Q and from reviewing recent precedents that have had planning success, it is evident that planners prefer to see a design-led, creative approach that centres largely on conversion and creative re-use. Many of the successful conversions are architecturally designed and feature sustainable technologies. They also give a nod to their previous agricultural use, so it is crucial to maintain and celebrate the agricultural character and context of the building.

Here is a press article that shows what can be achieved under Class Q:
Yorkshire Post – Grain store now a luxury rural home

Let me help you

If you are considering a barn conversion, please get in touch, I will be happy to talk in more detail about Class Q and any potential planning issues which may affect your project.