Class Q conversion of steel frame buildings
Ruling handed down by The High Court

Class Q conversion of steel frame buildings

“The High Court has handed down a significant ruling on whether proposed works necessary to change an agricultural building to a dwelling went further than a conversion and amounted to rebuilding falling outside the provisions of Class Q permitted development rights”, says Brian Dinnis of Acorn Rural Property Consultants.

The case relates to a mono pitch steel frame agricultural building.  The building was open on three sides and clad on one with steel sheeting.  The roof was covered with fibre cement.   The applicant proposed to convert the building to a dwelling by retaining the existing roof; infilling the steel frame with non load bearing insulated panels; and adding windows and doors.  A structural survey report demonstrated the building could take the weight of the panels.

The planning authority refused the application and the applicant appealed.  The Planning Inspector dismissed the appeal.  The Inspector considered the proposed work would be so extensive as to comprise rebuilding and therefore it was not permissible under Class Q.  The applicant then applied to the High Court to quash the Inspector’s decision.

The Court stated there is a conceptual difference between a rebuild and a conversion and that the concept of conversion in the provisions of Class Q introduces a threshold.  It agreed with the Inspector that there is a limit on the extent of works that fall within Class Q.  It then held that the proposal was a rebuild or a fresh build, but not a conversion.  It concluded that, although the arguments on each side were very finely balanced, the Inspector’s analysis was correct and that the proposal was not permitted development.

“The outcome of this case goes against many approvals for the change of use of similar buildings under Class Q.  It is of course a matter of planning judgement where the line is drawn between a conversion and a rebuild.  The Court’s decision does not set out any tests and each case must be assessed on its own merits.  It also confirmed that in many permitted developments work might be extensive but that would not automatically disqualify a development from permission.  Planning authorities should not therefore use the judgment to refuse Class Q applications for all steel frame buildings but must continue to make a proper assessment of all relevant factors,” says Dinnis.

For specialist advice on rural planning matters please contact Brian Dinnis at Acorn Rural Property Consultants on 01884 214052 or at

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