Interpreting The New Rules For Farm Building Conversion

Many farmers and landowners are looking at unlocking capital currently tied up in redundant farm buildings.

Mike Bracegirdle, our Head of Agriculture and Estates, looks closely at the “do’s and don’ts” and where Butcher & Barlow can assist.


Following the Class Q Permitted Development Rights released in 2015, the Governments has recently issues revised guidance.  This is designed to increase the number of permissions granted.  The current statistics are not encouraging. Nearly 50% of applications for conversion were refused in the third quarter of 2017.

As these figures suggest, obtaining a Class Q approval is not as easy as was envisaged when the regulations were relaxed in 2015.  Buildings which have a prior approval are becoming much more desirable as a result for both developers and owner occupiers.

What are the 2018 changes?

In essence the thresholds associated with permitted development rights for Class Q applications have been increased:

  • The maximum permissible floor space associated with a change of use increased to 465 square metres; and
  • The permissible number of units increased from three to five.

These changes suggest that the Government is committed to increasing the housing stock in rural areas, and that the policy is here to stay.

Before submitting an application

  1. Check who owns the land

Whilst the answer thought to be straightforward, in many farming families both property and land may be held in trust, or be within a partnership.  Butcher & Barlow can both advise and assist with any transfer for tax reasons prior to any planning application being submitted.

  1. Check if the land is subject to a mortgage or charge

In certain cases it is not always clear if the land is subject to a charge. In many farming families the land may be the subject of an equitable charge or a restriction in favour of a family member, who may have no involvement in the farming enterprise.  Butcher & Barlow can review the title and advise on the release of charge or restriction, in part or in whole.

  1. Obtain detailed evidence to substantiate that the building use has, until the date of the application, been for agricultural use.

This may mean approaching former family members or local residents.  Butcher & Barlow can assist in obtaining and preparing a Statement of Truth.

  1. Does the building have any unique issues?

Each building will have its own issues, whether they be its structural condition or relating to right of access.  For example, a farm access may be insufficient for residential use for multiple dwelling. Are the necessary easements in place for services?

Ensuring that the necessary rights are in place or can be put in place is essential.  Butcher & Barlow can advise upon the rights required to ensure that any property for which planning consent is granted can be developed.  This is not limited to rights of way but includes easements for services.

  1. Check the practicality of the application.

If the proposed dwelling is adjacent to a noisy piece of farm equipment it is unlikely to be approved.

This information will be under scrutiny by the local planners.

Butcher & Barlow have a team of both Agricultural and Commercial Property lawyers who have wide experience of this type of application, and who can assist with the site set up should an application for multiple units be successful.

Mike Bracegirdle

Mike Bracegirdle