Barn conversions: don’t risk being left in the dark

7th August, 2020

Revised Class Q Permitted Development came into force August 1

Barn conversions can make beautiful, bespoke homes filled with character while potentially adding value to redundant sites.

The relatively new ‘Class Q’ Permitted Development gives owners the option in certain, specified cases to convert a disused farm building into up to five dwellings without the need for full planning permission. This allows residential development in the countryside where normally it would not be permitted. Government aims include increasing rural housing delivery and speeding up the planning process.

A Class Q application is submitted to the relevant local authority, so planning officers can check the barn meets all the criteria for conversion. This process is known as Prior Approval. If it fails any of the criteria, it will not be given permission under permitted development rights.

Under the revised regulations for Class Q Prior Approval applications, planning officers will now be able to consider whether proposed barn conversions will provide adequate natural light in all habitable rooms.

This is in addition to the following existing matters which are already considered:

(a) transport and highways impacts of the development,

(b) noise impacts of the development,

(c) contamination risks on the site,

(d) flooding risks on the site,

(e) whether the location or siting of the building makes it otherwise impractical or undesirable for the building to change from agricultural use to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses) of the Schedule to the Use Classes Order, and

(f) the design or external appearance of the building.

For these matters, the regulations state that the Local Authority ‘MAY’ refuse “if (a) the proposed development does not comply with, or (b) the developer has provided insufficient information to enable the authority to establish whether the proposed development complies with, any conditions, limitations or restrictions specified in this Part as being applicable to the development in question.”

For the new consideration - (g) “The provision of adequate natural light in all habitable rooms of the dwellinghouses,”  it is noteworthy that the new regulations instruct that “the local planning authority must refuse prior approval if adequate natural light is not provided in all the habitable rooms of the dwellinghouses.”

“Habitable rooms” are defined in the revised regulations as: “any rooms used or intended to be used for sleeping or living which are not solely used for cooking purposes, but does not include bath or toilet facilities, service rooms, corridors, laundry rooms, hallways or utilityrooms.”

Class Q Prior Approval applications must now include submission of: “a floor plan indicating the dimensions and proposed use of each room, the position and dimensions of windows, doors and walls, and the elevations of the dwellinghouses.”

The Class Q provisions in the ‘The Town and Country Planning (Permitted Development and Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020’ came into force from August 1 this year.

Whilst in practice, most local planning authorities already demand rigour in the consideration of the structural integrity of the building and its suitability for conversion, it is important to note that this new specific requirement for floor plans to be submitted is now an additional requirement and it will be necessary to ensure that all habitable rooms in the dwelling will have adequate natural light. Floor plans and elevations will be required in addition to a site plan and a report on the structural integrity of the building. And, of course, the building will need to perform to the Building Regulations which include standards for adequate natural ventilation and glazed areas for habitable rooms.

At Pro Vision, we have designed and secured permission for many barn conversions. If you would like to check if your barn might be suitable for a Class Q conversion to residential, or if you require assistance with other projects, our expert team is here to help. Please do not hesitate to get in touch by telephone 01794 368698 or email