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Lockwood Farm


Proposed Development: External alterations to building and erection of detached triple garage.

Following the initial prior approval of the change of use of a former agricultural building to residential C3 use under Class Q of the General Permitted Development Order (Please see below for more information)EN-PLAN were able to gain planning permission for the re-cladding of the building use render, cedar cladding, and a zinc seam roof, to enable a more pleading final development that moves the aesthetic of the building away from the industrial look that it has and softens the appearance to a more domestic vernacular.  EN-PLAN also gained permission of a detached triple garage and extended the residential curtilage of the approved unit to include the new garage and enable the development to move away from an unsightly building conversion with extremely limited curtilage to what will be a family home complete with a detached triple garage.


Lockwood Farm Bournebridge Lane Stapleford Abbotts Essex RM4 1LU

External alterations to existing building (approved for residential use under Prior Approval EPF/3288/16). Erection of ancillary domestic garage in an enlarged residential curtilage, and the removal of two existing storage buildings.

FINAL DECISION13-02-2018Grant Permission (With Conditions)

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Barn conversions under Part Q and the Planning System.

Whats is Part Q?

Class Q of the General Permitted Development order covers the conversion of agricultural buildings to dwellinghouses:

Permitted development

Q. Development consisting of—

a) a change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage from a use as an agricultural building to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses) of the Schedule to the Use Classes Order; or
b) development referred to in paragraph (a) together with building operations reasonably necessary to convert the building referred to in paragraph (a) to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses) of that Schedule.

Following the introduction of Part Q and anxious to increase the amount of rural housing stock and conscious that applying the location test to farm buildings is illogical, the government issued revised guidance in 2015 clarifying that a proposed building conversion under Class Q should be judged on whether it is ‘impractical’ or ‘undesirable’. In other words, the location should not be a barrier to development unless the proposed site had either no, or very limited, access (impractical) or it was next to an intensive livestock unit or other ‘objectionable’ activity (undesirable). 


Part Q has since been revised on 6 April 2018 that will increase the number of dwellings that it will be possible to develop under the Class Q permitted development right to five on each established agricultural unit”, says Brian Dinnis of Acorn Rural Property Consultants. The cumulative number of dwellings that it has been possible to create under the right has been limited to three. The total floor area changing use within each established unit has also been limited to 450 square metres.  To help make the best use of existing agricultural buildings to meet housing needs, Class Q has been amended to allow:

a) up to three larger dwellings; or
b) up to five smaller dwellings; or
c) a combination of larger and smaller dwellings of which the number of larger dwellings cannot exceed three and the total number of dwellings cannot exceed five on each established agricultural unit.

Part Q is unique within Part 3 of the General Permitted Development Order in that it allows building works to be undertaken which affect the external appearance of a building. It specifically allows new walls, new roofing, new windows and doors. It also allows for mains services and the provision of drainage.

Direction on how to deal with these types of prior notification is provided within National Planning Guidance (NPG). In preparing planning applications we have found problems with the structure of some steel framed barns which were not built to be converted into dwellings. The NPG states: It is not the intention of the permitted development right to include the construction of new structural elements for the building. Therefore it is only where the existing building is structurally strong enough to take the loading which comes with the external works to provide for residential use that the building would be considered to have the permitted development right.


Class Q –Possibilities and Pitfalls

When converting a steel-framed structure like this, it is necessary, of course, to alter the external appearance of the building by introducing new walls, roofing, windows and doors, all of which are permitted so long as the original structure is strong enough to take the load of the conversion.

“Despite the restrictions, Class Q regulations do allow for creative design and a healthy dose of modernity.”
However, applicants should be aware of the problems around "structure" have led to LPAs to require structural surveys to accompany applications. For some council's this requirement is triggered by the proposed insertion of a first floor. For others a structural report has to be submitted on each application.

The Hibbitt case was referred to the High Court by the appellant. The building consisted of an open structure with a mono-pitch roof with flimsy steel sheet cladding on one and a half sides. The structure was held to be structurally sound and capable of taking the loading which would come from the external works to provide for residential use. The case went to the high court after the appellant was unhappy with his appeal decision. The inspector found that the extensive works required to make the building habitable were tantamount to a re-build or fresh build. The inspector’s decision was supported by the Secretary of State.

The high court judge held that there is a conceptual difference between a “rebuild” and a “conversion” and that the concept of “conversion” introduces a discrete threshold. His reasons include the fact that the concept of conversion is found in the overarching provisions of Class Q (i.e. not in Q.1). Further, he states that it is inappropriate to look to the dictionary when seeking to define the distinction as the Order was drafted for a professional audience and the distinction should be understood in a planning context.

This judgment will provide some encouragement to local planning authorities seeking to restrict the development of agricultural barns into dwelling-houses. Nevertheless, the distinction between a conversion and a rebuild is indefinite. The judge makes clear that the extent of the works is not decisive. In §34, he states, “In many permitted developments the work might be extensive yet that does not thereby disqualify a development from automatic permission.”

In discussions with local Planning Managers councils are grappling with the amount of ‘new build’ which acceptable under Class Q. The implications of the Decision are that open sided barns, hay barns and the like cannot now be converted under Class Q. More enclosed barns (those with 3 or 4 sides enclosed) should be acceptable but conversion also means leaving more of the original building intact. This could mean retaining external steel sheeting and incorporating existing walling and roofing materials into the converted building. A traditional barn conversion has always meant using the building you have in broadly the un converted form – use of existing opening etc. Class Q will continue to give greater flexibility but the options have been reduced and early pre-application discussions will probably be needed unless further guidance is issued by the government or a council has determined exactly what can or cannot be converted.

If the existing structure is not sufficeintly robust to take the additional load a conversio will place on the structure Under Section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 building works for alteration, maintenance or improvement which are internal or do not materially affect the external appearance of a building are not development and cannot be controlled through planning. This allows for an enclosed agricultural building the possibility of strengthening the internal steel frame so that it is strong enough to take the loading which comes from the external works. These works to a weak structure would have to be undertaken first before a planning application is made and would be needed to set upoirself for success in the the planing sustem.

Using Class Q in practice

Whenever we are planning a barn conversion, whether using Class Q or full planning, we liaise closely with the local authority throughout 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, among other things.

Refusal of a Class Q development can be made on the grounds of it being ‘impractical or undesirable’ so it’s important to show accessibility and impact on the landscape. Even seemingly small details such as a flue pipe can cause objections and delay, depending on how sympathetic the planning authority feels (or otherwise) towards Class Q developments.

Future Changes?

The Government’s Rural Planning Review, announced in 2016, is currently underway and is likely to impact Class Q permitted development rights. The review proposed changing Class Q to allow the conversion of up to 750sqm for a maximum of 5 new homes, each with a maximum floor space of 50sqm. Additionally, there may be an extension of the existing regulations to increase the conversion allowance from 450sqm to 465sqm for the creation of up to three homes.

Let EN-PLAN help you!

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

Shropshire Office


Back Lane

Bomere Heath



Norfolk Office

34 Queen Elizabeth Avenue

Kings Lynn


PE30 4BX

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