Permitted development rights to boost rural housing in England

Kate Russell

Farmers and landowners will be able to create new housing for local people in England more easily from 6 April, following changes to permitted development rules.

The new rights will enable landowners to convert farm buildings into up to five houses without requiring full planning permission, explains Kate Russell, policy and technical adviser at the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV).

“This is great news for rural communities, as it will create new housing in rural areas where local people often struggle to find homes, supporting the rural economy by keeping people in those areas.”

The key changes to Class Q permitted development rights allow landowners to convert farm buildings into up to five dwellings in total. Of those five, up to three may be ‘larger dwelling houses’ of more than 100 sq m of floor space, provided that their total floor space is no more than 465 sq m.

“There is flexibility for a range of options within this,” explains Ms Russell. “For example, landowners might choose to create one larger house of 465 sq m plus four smaller houses of up to 100 sq m each, or they might create five smaller houses. In addition, people who have already converted buildings under the old Class Q now have the opportunity for further development, within these guidelines.”

The changes will encourage the creation of smaller houses which could be eminently suitable as starter homes, farm workers’ houses, or retirement homes, she adds. “There is a real need for more rural houses – often local people have to move away due to lack of affordable housing. These new regulations will make it much easier for landowners to give a new lease of life to disused farm buildings and offer a real boost to the rural economy.”

All other aspects of Class Q remain the same, including the requirement that the external dimensions of the original building are not exceeded by the conversion. Landowners must still apply to the Council to check whether prior approval is required, and the rights do not apply in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or National Parks.

“We have seen that different councils have interpreted the Class Q rules in different ways in the past,” says Ms Russell. “Hopefully the new regulations will ensure a more even-handed approach – but it’s vital that landowners take professional advice from the start to maximise their chances of success.”

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