‘Clarkson’s Clause’ creates new opportunities for barn conversions

By Sally Ormiston | 02.07.24

New permitted development rights are making it easier to create new homes through the conversion of agricultural buildings, without the need for a full planning application. Dubbed the ‘Clarkson’s Clause’ Sally Ormiston unravels the facts.

Got your eye on a barn conversion? Jeremy Clarkson may just have made that a more attainable way to find a home in the countryside.

If the weekend queues at his Diddly Squat farm shop are anything to go by, Mr Clarkson is clearly doing something right when it comes to making a success of rural life. For a man famously not fond of rules, this venture has tested planning policy and is credited with influencing recent changes.

New permitted development rights introduced

In May, new permitted development rights were introduced to make it easier to create new homes through the conversion of agricultural buildings, without the need for a full planning application. The ‘Clarkson’s Clause’ reference relates to commercial use – which permitted development rights also cover, but this change has positive implications for those looking to create homes from farm buildings.

"Introduced in 2013, 'Class Q' legislation has been used to permit the development of an estimated 13,000 rural homes and businesses. "

There are rules to follow, and prior approval is needed from the planning authority, however providing conditions are met, an eligible Class Q development proposal starts from a ‘presumption in favour of development’.

What makes a building eligible for Class Q?

To qualify, an agricultural building must be structurally sound, and suitable for conversion. This is open to interpretation, but it isn’t a pass to demolish and rebuild. The original fabric of the building should largely remain, and building work is restricted. The rights do not extend to conservation areas or listed buildings.

External changes should be light touch, using existing openings and keeping new doors and windows to a minimum. With a creative approach there are opportunities to look beyond the traditional stone and slate to more modern agricultural buildings, which present the opportunity for homes with a more contemporary industrial aesthetic, whilst retaining the agricultural vernacular.

What are the recent changes to Class Q?

And so, to the recent changes which impact those buildings eligible for conversion. How many properties can be created and how large?

-Class Q can now be used to create up to ten houses (formerly 5) from an agricultural unit.

- The house size limit has been reduced to 150m2 from 465m2. Given the average size of a rural property in the UK is 123m2 it is still suitable for decent sized family homes.

- Where previously conversions had to stay within the original footprint, single storey rear extensions are now allowed.

What does Class Q cover?

‘Clarkson’s Clause’ relates to expanding the eligibility of buildings for conversion. Class Q covers buildings no longer in active agricultural use, and those not used solely for agricultural purposes.

Supply of new homes in rural locations

Enabling more conversions in rural areas is a means of increasing rural housing supply and a key tool in addressing the rural housing crisis.

One area of frustration is that the new rights do not expand to National Parks or National Landscapes. This overlooks an important route to creating new homes in these areas, where affordable housing is in short supply.

With Labour looking most likely to be in Number 10 next month and promising a more adaptable approach to fulfilling housing needs, this may come back on the agenda. In the meantime, transitional arrangements are in place allowing proposals for larger dwellings to apply under the old Class Q guidelines until the end of 20 May 2025.

Do get in touch on info@ruralsolutions.co.uk if you have a project you’d like to discuss, we'd love to hear from you.



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