You can perform certain types of work without needing to apply for planning permission. These are called "permitted development rights". They derive from a general planning permission granted not by the local authority but by Parliament.
One area of permitted development which allows the change of use of an agricultural building to residential could have a significant impact on housing supply by allowing houses to be built in the countryside.
This allows the change of use of a livestock barn or agricultural storage into a maximum of three houses. This is significant because generally speaking most local authorities, especially in the rural districts specifically prohibit residential development in the open countryside. They do usually allow replacement or rebuild of a residential building but you certainly can't normally build one from scratch eg ‘new build’. The various limitations and conditions of this usage change can be quite complex and the local authorities certainly don't make it any easier because they have jealously guarded their rural policies for years, so any means that allows somebody to circumvent those policies are usually resisted.
Under part 3 schedule 2 of the general permitted development order, Use Class Q allows for this change of use. The first part of this class allows for the change of use, and the second part allows for the building works.
It's this second part that generally speaking trips up the developer. You see, most conversions require a certain amount of building work. The phrase used under that Class is that the building work must be’ reasonable’, and it's this word ‘reasonable’ that the local authorities tend to use to prevent the application being approved. Eg the amount of building work required to convert the barn to a house is ‘unreasonable’ and in excess of what they would allow as a conversion. They would term it as ‘new build’ which is not normally allowed.
Most planning consultants when making an application under Class Q, are not aware that you can apply just for the first part e.g Q(a) which is the change of use. The legislation is a little confusing and it could be read that an application under class Q must be made for both the change of use and the building works. But this is not the case. Planning inspectors on appeal have ruled that an application can be made for the change of use only, class Q(a). Now, this is very significant because it's the change of use that is actually the important part because you can apply separately either using class Q(b) or a separate planning application for the building work.
Its this change of use that allows the residential part to go ahead, not the building of it.
Most agricultural barns are unsuitable for conversion without substantial building work, therefore, most applications under class Q are refused. But now consider what would happen if you were able to successfully get a change of use only under the first part of class Q and then subsequently at a later date able to apply for the building works.
This is, in my opinion, a game changer.
In part 2 I will outline how to do it.