Delivering rural development
By Kate Girling & Selby Stocks | 31.10.23
Class Q permitted development rights were introduced in April 2014 to streamline and simplify the process of converting underused agricultural buildings and boost the supply of rural housing.
Ever since their introduction, permitted development rights (PDRs) have become an integral part of the planning process. In almost ten years, more than 21,500 Class Q applications have been submitted for the change of use of agricultural buildings to dwelling houses. The approval rate is 61%.
"Amendments to some existing areas of permitted development rights may benefit rural landowners if approved."
The Government’s recent consultation on proposed changes to permitted development legislation closed on 25 September 2023 and the submitted feedback is being analysed.
Changes put forward by the Government for consideration included the expansion of the use of Class Q PDRs into Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and National Parks. Though concerning highly protected landscapes, the proposed changes are intended to enable much needed small-scale housing growth and allow communities in rural areas and the countryside to thrive and prosper.
Wider scope for development
Several other changes to Class Q PDRs were included in the consultation. These included:
- an increase from a maximum of five to ten dwellings.
- an increase in the maximum potential floor area from 865 to 1,000sqm.
- a reduction in the maximum floorspace threshold from 465 to 150sqm per large unit.
- small extensions to be allowed as part of the operational development works in barn conversions.
We await further updates from the Government to see if any of the proposed changes will be introduced.
Benefit to rural landowners
Amendments to some existing areas of PDRs may benefit rural landowners if approved.
Class R permitted development allows for the change of use of agricultural buildings to a range of commercial uses including retail, guest accommodation, storage, and commercial buildings. The Government is proposing to expand the use of Class R to forestry and equestrian buildings.
The Government is considering increasing the size limits of new agricultural buildings and extensions erected under Part 6 of PDRs. For developments on units of five hectares or more, the existing right allows up to 1,000 sqm of ground area to be covered by any building or extension. It is proposed that is increased to 1,500 sqm of ground area.
For development on units of less than five hectares, the existing right allows for 1,000 sqm for new agricultural buildings or extensions, as well as 20% cubic content increase (internal volume of the building). Proposals would see this increased to 1,250 sqm and a cubic content increase of 25%.
Mini case study
We recently gained approval for a new build dwelling for clients Lynn and Ray Watterson using Class Q as a route through the planning system.
The site had been in Lynn Watterson’s family since the mid-1940s. However, despite the land having a small agricultural building on it used to breed and rear rabbits, the site had always been outside the settlement boundary of nearby Denmead, and subsequently, numerous applications and an appeal for a dwelling made during the 1990s had been refused as inappropriate development in the countryside.
Lynn and Ray approached us to pursue any avenue that would secure a consent. The Class Q PDRs allowed for the conversion of the existing building.
This was not straight forward as the site lay within a high-risk flood zone and therefore it fell afoul of criteria laid down within the legislation. Nevertheless, with the help of a flood risk consultant and some flood risk modelling, we were able to persuade the Environment Agency and local planning authority to agree to the development.
This initial consent was used to establish the principle of a dwelling on the site. We submitted a further application to trade the conversion for a new build dwelling which had several advantages over the conversion. The new build was more appropriately designed for the site and energy efficient. The local planning authority accepted the preference for a new dwelling over the conversion and approved the new build scheme.
The new house is currently being built and Lynn and Ray hope to be living there in the new year.
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