An undesirable

The residential conversion of agricultural barns under Class Q of the GPDO is precluded if the location or siting would make it ‘impractical’ or ‘undesirable’. Conversion is often found to be ‘impractical’, but when might a conversion be considered ‘undesirable’? 

In a recent appeal (DCS Number 400-027-779) involving a barn in Yorkshire, an inspector decided that harm to the character and appearance of the surrounding area resulting from domestication of the site and light spillage would be undesirable. 

The inspector found that despite being close to settlements, the area had a dramatic and attractive rural character, with the topography affording wide-ranging views over the rolling upland landscape. The appeal building, he observed, was a prominent, isolated structure sitting comfortably in its setting with its simple agricultural character. He reasoned that domestication of the land and its use as curtilage would potentially result in parked cars, garden furniture, formal planting and means of enclosure, garden ornaments and play equipment. And, even with management of the entrance gate and surface treatment, there would be an incremental domestication of the access from the formalisation of the access point onto the highway and its functional use serving a domestic property. Light spill from the building, he went on, would be evident despite most windows being on the least visible elevation. The combination of these elements, in this particular isolated and exposed location, would have an unacceptable urbanising effect on the landscape, he decided. 

The inspector recognised that the context of the permitted development right conferred by Class Q is such that it is to be expected that buildings will be in a rural setting. Moreover, he acknowledged that the examples in the Planning Practice Guidance of what is meant by ‘undesirable’ do not include the impact on the character and appearance of the surrounding landscape. He reasoned, nevertheless, that the list within the PPG is not a closed list, finding that a degree of planning judgement is required.

Further details regarding Class Q can be found at section 4.3423 of DCP Online.