Barn conversions: Class Q and full planning permission

Understanding the difference between Class Q barn conversions and when you require full planning permission.

Barn conversions have been around a long time, but are still just as popular. The main reason for this is that they are usually situated in the countryside, where planning policies do not usually allow for new residential development. They can also offer large amounts of internal living space, which can be great for families.

Barn conversions provide a valuable contribution towards housing numbers in rural areas and the two most common routes to achieving them include a permitted change of use under Class Q of the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO) or applying for full planning permission. The following briefly explores these two options.

Class Q conversion

Class Q of the GPDO allows for the change of use of an agricultural barn into residential use, as well as building operations needed to facilitate the conversion, such as new walls, roofs, windows and doors, as well as internal works. 

A Class Q conversion is conditional on the barn(s) being capable of conversion without needing significant rebuilding works. Therefore, a structural report is always a must; at Atticus Planning, we advise getting this report done at an early stage, to avoid potentially abortive costs. 

Under the Class Q regulations, you have to limit the conversion to the envelope of the existing building; no outward extensions are allowed. There are other conditions and limitations that need to be adhered to as well, and we can advise at the outset whether your proposal is likely to comply with these. 

There are certain areas where Class Q permitted development rights cannot be used, such as within areas of outstanding natural beauty, World Heritage Sites and conservation areas (not exhaustive). Barns that are listed are also exempt. If you’re unsure whether your barn benefits from Class Q rights, we would be happy to let you know. 

The main advantage of applying for a conversion under Class Q is that a local planning authority’s assessment is limited to the conditions and limitations laid out in the regulations; there is no assessment against local planning policies. 

Another advantage is that an approval under Class Q can act as a stepping stone towards achieving your dream home in the countryside; it provides a fallback position and material planning consideration in the local planning authority’s assessment of an application for a new build. Often, Class Q barns are more modern in their construction and appearance, and are not usually the type of buildings local planning authorities want to see retained. A new build dwelling can offer a better scheme from a design perspective, as well as improved standards of living accommodation. In our experience, local planning authorities are generally receptive to this approach. 

Full planning conversion

Rural areas across England are scattered with redundant stone, brick and timber barns, some with local or even national heritage value. Converting them into residential use can offer the opportunity to secure their restoration, renewal and long term use. 

The conversion of barns that are locally distinctive, historic and / or are of solid construction, are usually supported by local planning policies and applying for full planning permission allows you to include external modifications and extensions that are not permitted by Class Q. Unlike the Class Q route, there is more scope within a full planning application for creativity and innovation; whilst barn conversions are generally traditional in their appearance and extensions usually have to be modest in scale, in the correct setting, extensions can provide an injection of contemporary architecture into an otherwise traditional proposal. 

Learn more about our planning applications service

As with conversions done under Class Q, a report confirming the structural condition of the barn will be a prerequisite for any application, in addition to a bat and barn owl survey. Other reports may be needed to and we can advise at an early stage what you would need to provide with an application.

If you have a barn you are thinking about converting or you just want to know the planning potential for a barn / barns on your land, please get in touch today via email or mobile.

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