A cunning plan?

Class Q of the GPDO allows for the change of use of an agricultural building to a dwelling, along with the building operations reasonably necessary to convert the building. In a number of cases concerning rudimentary or dilapidated barns the proposed works have been deemed to go beyond what could reasonably be described as conversion such that they would be so extensive as to comprise rebuilding, thereby falling outside the limits of permitted development. If this has happened to you we have a cunning plan. Here it is:

STEP 1

Take a look at Class R. Class R allows for “a change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage from a use as an agricultural building to a flexible use falling within Class A1 (shops), Class A2 (financial and professional services), Class A3 (restaurants and cafes), Class B1 (business), Class B8 (storage or distribution), Class C1 (hotels) or Class D2 (assembly and leisure) of the Schedule to the Use Classes Order”.

In a case concerning the change of use of a Dutch barn in the Cotswolds to an hotel (DCS Number 400-018-251) the inspector made reference to Hibbitt and another v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and another [2016], drawing an important distinction between conversion under Class Q and change of use under Class R. Here is the key bit of the decision:

“As part of the permitted development right, Class Q(b) allows for building operations reasonably necessary to convert the building to a dwelling. The concept of conversion is central to the Hibbitt judgement. This is because the building operations within the permitted development right must be reasonably necessary to convert the building (emphasis added). However, for the purposes of Class R the term “associated operational development” means “building or other operations in relation to the same building or land which are reasonably necessary to use the building or land for the use proposed under Class R.” Unlike in Class Q, the word “convert” is not used.”

In the case before the inspector the council had already confirmed that prior approval was not required. As the inspector pointed out, the development that was subject to the appeal was not for the change of use, nor was it for the construction of a new hotel; it was expressly for the building works that related to implementing the change of use. The council was nonetheless concerned that the works were so significant that it would go beyond what could reasonably be considered to be the conversion of the building. The inspector acknowledged that the works proposed were extensive and would result in new external walls on all four elevations and a new external roof. However, given the nature of the existing building, she could not envisage that works which were significantly more modest than what was proposed would be sufficient to allow the building and land to be used for its intended purpose. The works would not exceed what was reasonably necessary, she held.

Significantly, the inspector ruled that the concept of conversion is not embedded in Class R, noting that there is no specific advice in the PPG as to what, if any, limits there should be on the extent of any associated operational development in a subsequent planning application.

STEP 2

Once you have obtained prior approval for flexible use of your dilapidated barn under Class R, together with planning permission for the associated operational development, see if everybody wouldn’t really have preferred to see conversion to a dwelling, after all.

A cunning plan or cynical exploitation of the system? You decide.

Section 4.3423 of DCP Online concerns Part 3 GPDO changes of use.