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Cara Groves

Development and house building

In a bid to stimulate development of redundant and underused buildings, the Government has recently amended permitted development rights (PDRs) to allow for the change of use of agricultural buildings to residential use and commercial uses (Class Q). The changes will come into effect from 21st May 2024.


Previous development rights

Prior to the amendment, the legislation allowed the conversion of one agricultural unit (being agricultural land occupied as a unit for the purposes of agriculture) to five dwellings (with a floorspace of not exceeding 100sq m) or three homes (with a floorspace of more than 100sq m). The total floorspace of the three large properties could not exceed 465sq m. A maximum of five properties was allowed and could include a mix of large and small properties up to a maximum floorspace of 865 sq m.


Key changes to development rights

The main changes are as follows:

  • Expansion of the scope of Class Q, eliminating the requirement for agricultural buildings to have been used solely for agricultural purposes in order for them to qualify for PDRs.
  • The clock has been reset from March 2013 - former agricultural buildings are now eligible for conversion to residential or commercial use provided that the building was part of an agricultural unit on or before 24th July 2023, noting:

a.   A building which was, prior to July 2023, part of an agricultural unit, which has since that date ceased to be used for agricultural purposes, cannot have been used for any other non-agricultural purposes.

b.   However, if a building has been erected since 24th July 2024 under full planning, then Class Q may still be utilised. If permitted development rights have been exercised under Class A or Class B of Part 6 and the building was erected after 24th July 2024 it will need to have existed for 10 years before Class Q can be utilised.

  • Crucially the definition of ‘curtilage’ has been updated. ‘Curtilage’ is now specifically defined within Class Q and accounts for curtilage associated with former agricultural buildings.

The changes will not only increase the limits on floorspace and number of permitted residential units but simplify these restrictions. The number of units permitted has been doubled to 10 dwellings up to an overall maximum floorspace of 1000sq m and the maximum size of any dwelling can be up to 150 sq m. This translates to an average floorspace of 100 sq m if the maximum allowance is utilised.

Developers/landowners seeking to utilise the amended Class Q must be aware that these thresholds apply to each agricultural unit not per building. Developers/landowners will not be permitted to create 10 dwellings in the first barn and a further 10 dwellings in the second barn – land titles cannot be split to bypass this restriction either!

In addition, for the first time the legislation now allows the single storey rear extension of a building as part of the conversion to use as a dwellinghouse by up to 4m in length. This must be on a hard standing which existed on 24th July 2023 or if laid since this date the hard standing must have been there for 10 years before the extension can be carried out under Class Q. The extension must be developed at the same time as the change of use and cannot for example, be added to an existing dwellinghouse that has previously been developed under Class Q.

The legislation allows for all ancillary works which facilitate the conversion, as well as the change of use itself, including partial demolition of the building if required. Protrusions of 0.2m will be allowed to accommodate building operations for example, to run services on the exterior of the building.


New and existing limitations

While the amendment has taken a big step to extending the scope of permitted development under Class Q there are still, as expected, some restrictions as below.

Protected Landscapes

There was a proposal to introduce Class Q into protected landscapes however, the government resolved not to proceed, and the restriction remains. Class Q will not apply where the building is listed, located in a Conservation Area, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, within a National Park, Broad, SSSI or World Heritage Site.

Highways Access 

Any building proposed for conversion must have an existing highways access.

Structural Capabilities 

The existing building must be capable of functioning as a dwelling meaning that as it stands the building must be structurally capable of conversion without a substantial amount of building work.

Transitional arrangements exist so that any development that was permitted under Class Q immediately before the amendments come into effect but is no longer permitted due to the changes, will continue to be permitted for a further 12 months. This will allow time for any prior approval application prepared under the existing PDRs to be submitted and decided under the original provisions.

This update to PDRs under Class Q together with Class MA, which abolished the floor space limit and 3-month vacancy requirement for conversions of buildings under Class E to residential (*which is now in effect as of 5th March 2024*) represents a significant step forward in addressing the housing crisis by repurposing underused and redundant commercial and agricultural buildings.

If you think you could benefit from recent changes to PDRs, please do not hesitate to contact Boyes Turner to see how we can help.


Our team can assist

Our development and house building solicitors specialise in advising developers and landowners on development transactions, planning, and infrastructure agreements to respond to the challenges and pressures of each development. Find out more and get in touch with our team today on [email protected].

Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.

Get in touch

If you have any questions relating to this article or have any legal disputes you would like to discuss, please contact the Development & house building team on

[email protected]
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