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What is Class Q?

The change of use of a building represents development in planning law and this usually requires planning permission from the Local Planning Authority. However, there are now provisions that allow for development to be undertaken without permission being granted commonly known as general permitted development. Class Q is an example of a certain type of permitted development and it refers to the change of use of an agricultural building into a dwellinghouse.

The provision of this is set out in Class Q, Part 3 of the Town and Country Planning Order 2015. This can be read at

What's Permitted?

The legislation in 2014 only allowed for the conversion of up to 450 sqm of agricultural building floorspace to a maximum of three dwellings. However, the new amendments that took effect in April 2018, increase those thresholds so that it is now possible to convert agricultural floorspace to create one of these alternatives:

  • Up to three ‘larger homes’, with a combined maximum floor space of 465 sqm.

  • Up to five smaller homes (each less than 100 sq m).

  • A mix of both, with a total of no more than five homes, of which no more than three may be larger homes.

To qualify for Class Q, the building must be a working agricultural building so it does not include an agricultural use that is purely recreational. Sometimes, it may be necessary to clarify the extent of this business if the size of the holding is modest. Note that the definition expressly excludes equine activities unless in very specific cases. Whilst determining an application, planners have no discretion if a qualifying condition is not met; however each local authority has its own interpretation of Class Q and some will be more rigorous than others.

Pros and Cons

One main advantage of Class Q is that a limited amount of technical information is necessary upfront unlike a planning application. Ecology and biodiversity considerations are not necessary to the Council’s determination of an application under Class Q. Although applying for Class Q development is no faster than a standard planning application, the upfront cost is significantly cheaper (around £96 for change of use or £205 for change of use plus building operations). Developing this and submitting supporting planning applications, however, will incur further costs.

Common Pitfalls

Agricultural Use: Is your building solely used for an agricultural use and is it part of an established agricultural unit?

Structure: Is your building incapable of conversion due to being structurally unsound, or does it need works above and beyond what is acceptable under the criteria of Class Q?

Desirability: Class Q applications can be refused on the grounds that it may be ‘impractical or undesirable’ i.e. near a slurry lagoon, intensive livestock unit or machinery shed.

Curtilage: Does the area you wish to incorporate as a garden extend beyond the area allowed under Class Q? To combat this, you could consider a two-tiered approach?

Future Development: When you proceed through the process of Class Q, one of the main conditions applied centres around removing agricultural permitted development rights for the rest of the unit for 10 years.

Building Operations / Demolition: Partial demolition is permitted to the extent reasonably necessary to facilitate works but cannot subsequently entail the rebuilding of the structure. The development is restricted to the dimensions of the existing building’s envelope.

In practice, it is not the aim of these permitted development rights to allow the domestication of the countryside. Any conversion should utilise existing openings and minimise the number of new openings.

How can we Help?

As we have discussed, Class Q opens a whole new scope of rural development and like most alterations in planning policy it also presents several restrictions. Each Local Planning Authority (LPA) must be considered separately due the interpretation and variation of the policy. Nevertheless, development is achievable and out expert team can help you through the process and significantly enhance your chances of success.

At Arkhi we strive to design and develop a scheme which reflects your aspirations – we are simply here to facilitate your visons. As architects, we acknowledge and pride ourselves in our sensitive approach to construction and the creation of new dwellings in rural locations. If you’d like to discuss your scheme with our team, get in touch on 01260 540170 or drop us an email at


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