New permitted development rights welcomed, but opportunity missed

By Duncan Hartley | 22.05.24

In May 2024, the UK Government announced amendments to permitted development rights for agricultural buildings for both residential and commercial development.

The new rules include for:

  • change of use of agricultural buildings, and former agricultural buildings, to residential (Class Q)
  • change of use of agricultural buildings to commercial uses (Class R)
  • new agricultural buildings

Protected Landscapes omitted from the plans

While these changes present some additional opportunities for change of use of agricultural buildings under permitted development rights in England which are to be welcomed, the new regime does not include the hoped-for expansion to Class Q change of use rights to Protected Landscapes - National Parks and National Landscapes – formerly referred to as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).

This is an opportunity missed by the Government to increase the availability of small-scale housing and affordable homes in rural areas. These designated landscapes represent 25% of the land area of England, and the communities living there suffer disproportionately from the paucity of supply of affordable housing.

Opportunities to increase rural housing supply without a lengthy and risky planning process are few, so we must be using each planning policy tool to greater effect if we are serious about addressing the rural housing crisis.

Living in Protected Landscapes

The latent potential for housing supply through the reuse of buildings within Protected Landscapes is significant. As we ask more of these places in terms of contribution to the climate and nature loss emergencies, and for their role in recreation and associated public health benefits, it is vital that we enable people to live affordably and sustainably amongst these special landscapes.

Planning opportunities available for rural communities

Class Q represents one of the few planning opportunities to enhance the vitality of rural communities. For this advantage not to be extended to Protected Landscapes where, with high quality design such conversions can enhance their setting and make good use of redundant buildings, overlooks an important route to boosting the supply of affordable homes.

There are however some welcome changes. These include:

Class Q – agricultural to residential

The amended Class Q permitted development right will see an increase in the change of use allowable from five to ten dwellings with a new maximum floor space limit of 1000sqm (up from 865sqm), while each dwelling will be limited to 150sqm.

In addition, restrictions on development will be eased as rear single-storey extensions will also be allowed for Class Q proposals. Buildings proposed for change of use, must now be able to demonstrate an existing highways access.

These changes will aid the supply housing by limiting the size of residential units and increasing the number of dwellings permitted ten dwellings.

Transitional period for Class Q

There may be certain instances whereby the previous iteration of Class Q is more favourable, for example if you wish to create a dwelling with a floor area exceeding 150 sqm. The amended legislation helpfully includes transitional arrangements for those wishing to apply under the previous Class Q criteria until 21 May 2025.

Class R – agricultural to commercial / leisure

The revised Class R permitted development right creates further flexibility when changing agricultural buildings to commercial uses. As from the 21 May 2024, agricultural buildings can be changed to sport and recreational uses – including holiday accommodation, as well as for general industrial use. The previous floor space limit has been doubled to 1000sqm.

This positive change will serve the important role of change of use in expanding the potential for diversification of rural leisure and commercial economies.

It should be noted that Class R rights do apply in Protected Landscapes and have been widely used by Rural Solutions in enabling our clients to diversify into new commercial activities. This change opens further options for those looking for new uses for redundant buildings.

Agriculture development

In some instances, permitted development rights for agricultural development have been expanded. Now:

  • for farms of over five hectares, the revised permitted development allows the erection of buildings up to 1500sqm (from a previous 1000sqm)
  • for farms of under five hectares, the ability to extend existing agricultural buildings has increased from 20% to 25%.

Opportunity missed but not lost

Rural Solutions will continue to engage with the Government and rural stakeholders including The CLA to seek ways to boost the supply of housing in rural areas.

The greatest challenge facing rural communities is the continuing lack of housing supply and affordable homes. Housing supply has an obvious direct link to the social and economic vitality of a place.

Rural areas are an essential engine room in the economic sustainability of England. It is important every small opportunity for change in the supply of housing is grasped and cumulatively we shall see the enhanced vibrancy of the rural places we love.

Need help or advice?

We help unravel the complexities of the planning system, providing clear advice to address the unique challenges of rural planning. Give us a call on 01756 797501 or email to discuss your project.

Rural Solutions offers a full range of planning, architectural and landscape design and project management services.



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