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Agricultural Buildings: Permitted Development Rights For Certain Changes Of Use – An Overview

Is planning permission required?

Under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (TCPA 1990), planning permission is required for the carrying out on land of any development. Development is defined as the “carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under the land, or the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land”.

Certain operations and uses of land are deemed for the purposes of the TCPA 1990 not to involve development. These include “the use of any land for the purposes of agriculture or forestry…and the use for any of those purposes of any building occupied together with land so used”.

Agriculture is defined to include horticulture, fruit growing, seed growing, dairy farming, the breeding and keeping of livestock (including any creature kept for the production of food, wool, skins, or fur, or for the purpose of its use in farming the land), the use of land as grazing land, meadow land, osier land, market gardens and nursery grounds, and the use of land for woodlands where that use is ancillary to the farming of land for other agricultural purposes.

Permitted development rights under Part 3 of Schedule 2 to the GPDO 2015

The GPDO 2015 is, in effect, a national grant of planning permission. It operates by giving deemed planning permission for certain developments without the developer having to make a formal application for planning permission. Schedule 2 to the GPDO 2015 grants planning permission for classes of development described as “permitted development”.

Class Q permits a change of use of an agricultural building and any land within its curtilage to a dwellinghouse Class R permits a change of use of an agricultural building and any land within its curtilage to a number of flexible commercial uses.

Change of use to a dwellinghouse (class Q)

Class Q permits the change of use of an agricultural building and any land within its curtilage to use as a dwellinghouse and any building operations reasonably necessary to convert that building to a dwellinghouse. There are, however, a number of exceptions and conditions to the Class Q Permitted Development Rule.

The government’s aim is to bring forward additional homes for rural communities and make best use of existing agricultural buildings.

There are however a number of exceptions to the Class Q Permitted Development Rule. . If any of those criteria are met, express planning permission is required, these include:

  • The site was not used solely for an agricultural use, as part of an established agricultural unit:
    • on 20 March 2013; or
    • if the building was not in use on that date, when it was last in use; or
    • if the building was brought into use after 20 March 2013, for a period of at least ten years before the date development under class Q begins.
    • The cumulative floorspace of the existing building(s) changing use (within an established agricultural unit) exceeds 450 square metres.
    • The cumulative number of separate dwellinghouses developed under class Q (within an established agricultural unit) exceeds three.
    • The external dimensions of the converted building would extend beyond the external dimensions of the existing building at any given point.
    • Class Q(b) Development would consist of building operations other than:
    • the installation or replacement of windows, doors, roofs, exterior walls or water, drainage, electricity, gas or other services (to the extent reasonably necessary for the building to function as a dwellinghouse); and
    • partial demolition to the extent reasonably necessary to carry out the above building operations.
    • The site is or forms part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI); military explosives storage area; or safety hazard area.
    • The site is, or contains, a scheduled monument.
    • The building is a listed building.

If the proposed development does not fall within any of the Exceptions to the Class Q Permitted Development Rule, it will be permitted development and have deemed planning permission. The deemed planning permission is granted subject to a number of conditions. If these conditions are not complied with, the development will be unauthorised and may be subject to planning enforcement action.

The conditions are:

Before beginning Class Q(a) Development, the developer must apply for a determination as to whether the prior approval of the LPA is required for:
• transport and highway impacts;
• noise impacts of the development;
• contamination risks on the site;
• flooding risks on the site; or
• whether the location or siting of the building makes it otherwise impractical or undesirable for the building to change from agricultural use to a dwellinghouse.
• Before beginning both Class Q Development, the developer must apply for a determination as to whether the prior approval of the LPA is required for the above five items and in addition to the design or external appearance of the building.
• Development must commence within three years of the prior approval date.

The GPDO 2015 grants permitted development rights for dwellinghouses. However these rights do not apply where buildings have become dwellinghouses under class Q. Express planning permission will, therefore, be required for development such as dormers, conservatories and garden sheds.

Change of use to certain commercial uses (class R)

Class R permits the change of use of an agricultural building and any land within its curtilage to a flexible use falling within any of the following use classes in the UCO 1987:

  • Class A1 (shops).
    • Class A2 (financial and professional services).
    • Class A3 (restaurants and cafes).
    • Class B1 (business).
    • Class B8 (storage and distribution).
    • Class C1 (hotels).
    • Class D2 (assembly and leisure).

The GPDO 2015 lists a number of exceptions to the Class R Permitted Development Rule. If any of the following criteria are met, express planning permission is required:

  • The building was not used solely for an agricultural use, as part of an established agricultural unit:
    • on 3 July 2012; or
    • if the building was not in use on that date, when it was last in use; or
    • if the building was brought into use after 3 July 2012, for a period of at least ten years before the date development under class R begins.
    • The cumulative floorspace of buildings which have changed use under class R (within an established agricultural unit) exceeds 500 square metres.
    • The site is or forms part of a military explosives storage area or a safety hazard area.
    • The building is a listed building or a scheduled monument.

If the proposed development does not fall within any of the Exceptions to the Class R Permitted Development Rule, it will be permitted development and will have deemed planning permission. The deemed planning permission is granted subject to a number of conditions. If these conditions are not complied with, the development will be unauthorised and may be subject to planning enforcement action.

The conditions are:

• A site which has changed use under class R may, subject to the provision of certain information to the LPA, subsequently change to another flexible use.
• For the purposes of the UCO 1987 and the GPDO 2015, after the site has changed use under class R it will have a sui generis use.
• After a site has changed use under class R, the planning permission granted by class G (hard surfaces for office buildings) in Part 7 of Schedule 2 to the GPDO 2015 applies to the building subject to modifications to the definitions of curtilage and office building.
• Before changing the use and before any subsequent change of use to another flexible use the developer must provide the LPA with certain information. Where the cumulative floorspace of the building(s) that has changed (within an established agricultural unit) is 150 square metres or less, certain information must be provided to the LPA. Where the cumulative floorspace is more than 150 square metres, a prior approval application needs to be made to the LPA.
• Development of more than 150 square metres must usually commence within three years starting with the prior approval date. However, where planning permission is granted for associated operational development within three years of the prior approval date, development under class R must begin within three years of the date the associated operational development planning permission is granted.

• Restricting permitted development rights

Permitted development rights can be restricted in which case express planning permission will be required for the proposed change of use. It therefore imperative to liaise closely with the relevant Planning Authority if considering development under the permitted development rules. Often the advice of an experienced planning consultant is crucial in ensuring all the criteria are met and adhered to.

For further information or advice please contact our Specialist Team