“In February we mentioned the planning guidance that says that where buildings are being converted using Class Q permitted development rights they must be structurally sound and capable of conversion without any new structural works being required. There have been a number of planning applications under Class Q that have been refused because local planning authorities have applied the guidance and taken the view that the structure of the existing building is not strong enough to take the additional loadings associated with the works that would be necessary to convert it for residential use” says Brian Dinnis of Acorn Rural Property Consultants.
Dinnis says that The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 itself offers a solution to this problem that is currently being overlooked by many planning consultants, local planning authorities and planning inspectors.
Section 55(2)(a) of the Act says that works carried out for the maintenance, improvement or other alteration of any building which affect only the interior of the building or do not materially affect the external appearance of the building are excluded from the definition of development for the purposes of the Act and, accordingly, do not require planning consent.
“What that means in practice is that it is possible to carry out maintenance, improvement or other alteration work, including work that repairs and strengthens the structure of an existing building, without the need for planning consent at all, as long as it does not materially affect the external appearance of a building”, explains Dinnis. Dinnis says that that work can either be carried out before submitting an application under Class Q or can be separately referred to in a supporting statement that is submitted with a Class Q application to make it clear that the works necessary to ensure that the building is structurally sound and capable of conversion will be done and do not form part of the Class Q conversion works themselves.
Dinnis acknowledges that, given the way that some local planning authorities have been dealing with Class Q applications, it is likely that Class Q applications for buildings that may not be sufficiently structurally sound to be capable of being converted will continue to be refused but says that if the planning application includes a statement that specifically refers to works that can be carried out under Section 55(2)(a) of the Act to make the building capable of conversion it is difficult to see how a refusal can be justified or upheld by a planning inspector on appeal.
For advice on rural planning matters please contact Brian Dinnis at Acorn Rural Property Consultants on 01884 214052 or at email@example.com. Brian is a Chartered Surveyor and an associate member of the Royal Town Planning Institute.