More change! Changes to agricultural permitted development rights!

April 2024 has been quite the month for changes within the planning system.  At the start of the month, we saw the final deadline for mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) come into force which means the vast majority of applications are now required to demonstrate this gain (a legal requirement for 10% or more).  Then came announcements of changes to enforcement rules and timings which came into force from 25th April and now, on 30th April 2024, the Government has announced changes to Permitted Development Rights which are available to agricultural holdings/buildings which take effect from 21st May 2024.

These changes and rights are not applicable to equestrian sites; however, we have included this post on The Equestrian Planning Consultancy website (as well as Eldnar), mainly because many of our clients who have horses also have farmland and farm buildings so this may be of use to some of you and, after all, we don’t just do equestrian planning…  For the avoidance of doubt “agriculture” is clearly defined within the Town and Country Planning Act and horses do not, generally, come under this definition.

Class Q

The permitted development rights relating to agricultural buildings to dwellinghouses (commonly referred to/known as Class Q) will no longer have to be part of an established agricultural holding providing it was, in the past, part of an established agricultural holding and its last use was agricultural.  This is a key change to the qualification criteria which is likely to mean that more buildings are now eligible for this prior approval route where they have, for example, been sold off since.  In addition, buildings that are on agricultural holdings but have been put to non-agricultural uses could also be eligible, which is likely to open up potentially refused prior approvals, to date, which have been turned down on this reason in the past.

Most notably, Class Q now allows the conversion to be extended by up to 4 metres (single storey) off the rear of the building provided that the area the extension would be sited on was a hard surface on or before 24 July 2023.  This is perhaps one of the most significant changes to the legislation since it was brought into force as Class Q (and its previous form, Class MB) have, to date, only allowed conversion within the confines of the existing structure.  In a similar manner, overall dimensions of the building can now be increased by up to 0.2 metres to allow for new or replacement windows, doors, roofs or exterior walls (i.e. building works which are reasonably necessary) whereas due to the previous requirement to remain within the existing dimensions of the building, this has caused issue for some proposals with regard to cladding and insultation.  This is likely to make conversions more viable without loss of internal floor area.

The overall limit for convertible floor area has been increased to 1,000 sq./m with the maximum number of dwellings permitted being raised to 10.  This does, however, come at a price to some extent insofar as the maximum floor area of a dwelling has now been reduced to 150 sq./m which is a contrast to the previous (current at the time of writing) floor area which allows larger homes at up to 465 sq./m.  Farm buildings which were constructed under full planning permission (prior to the 24 July 2023, can now be eligible, but if they were built under Part 6 (Prior Approval – Permitted Development) the buildings need to be at least 10 years old.

The proposed development (in this case conversions) must meet National Space Standards and overall, the building must already have suitable existing access to a public highway.

These are evidently, significant changes representing a notable overhaul in the approach and what is permitted under Class Q, and it is likely that this will offer significant opportunities for sites which were not previously eligible.  This is a great opportunity to revisit any sites, including those with refusals, to see if there is now scope for conversion.  We understand that there are transitional arrangements so that any development that was permitted, by Class Q, immediately before the changes into force but is no longer permitted for a further twelve months.  This means, therefore, that it will be technically possible to submit for a larger dwelling up until 20th May 2025.  Despite this the new rules introduced, such as those which allow extension, will not be applicable to scheme that deliver dwellinghouses with a floorspace of over 150 sq./m during that period.

Class R

The announcement also outlines changes to Permitted Development Rights relating to agricultural buildings to as flexible commercial use (more commonly known as Class R).  In addition to the existing use classes permitted via this route, it is now permissible to convert to B2 (General Industrial), F2(c) (Outdoor Sports or Recreation) and also provision of “agricultural training”.  The B2 use must, however, be associated with the processing of rural goods (but not livestock) which are produced on the site and sold from the site.

The Class R maximum floor area for conversion has also doubled from 500 sq./m to 1,000 sq./m but this will (over 150 sq./m) still require prior approval to consider the relevant matters which are set out within the General Permitted Development Order.

Agricultural Development (5ha or more)

In relation to agricultural development on farm holdings (Part 6 – Class A) (Development on Units of 5 hectares or more) the area for permitted development under prior approval will increase by a further 500 sq./m making the overall limit 1.500 sq./m.

Agricultural Development (5ha or less)

There is a small increase to Part 6 Class B (Agricultural Development on Units of Less than 5 Hectares) which means that existing buildings can now be extended by 25% (an increase of 5% on the existing 20%) up to a limit of 1,250 sq./m).

These changes are significant and likely to offer people new opportunities as a result of changing legislation coming into force from 21st May 2024.  If you think the changes could impact on your site and need further clarification for advice, please do get in touch.