“A recent appeal case that allowed the conversion of a commercial glasshouse at Nailsbourne, near Taunton, as Class Q permitted development has raised some interesting issues”, says Isabella Pyne of Acorn Rural Property Consultants.
“The glasshouse was used for commercial horticulture until 2005. There had been no change of use since then, and, as a commercial horticultural use falls within the definition of agriculture for planning purposes, it was within the scope of Class Q. The proposal involved the retention of the majority of the existing structure to provide a weatherproof skin for the new dwelling and the construction of a new ceiling and internal walls which were set well back from the external walls of the glasshouse to allow for the creation of a conservatory and garden areas within the envelope of the existing building”, explains Pyne.
“The Local Planning Authority (LPA) argued that, applying the principles of Hibbitt v. SSCLG  EWHC 2853 (Admin) (the Hibbitt case) the proposed works were tantamount to the construction of a new dwelling and therefore went beyond works that were reasonably necessary to enable the building to function as a dwelling and were therefore outside the scope of Class Q. That was, accordingly, the key question for the planning inspector”, continues Pyne.
“In upholding the appeal and granting approval under Class Q, the inspector determined that, because the roof and walls of the existing structure were being retained, the proposals were very different from the Hibbitt case, which involved a steel frame Dutch barn with minimal external cladding. There was also a structural report that concluded that, although some repairs were required, the building could satisfactorily be converted to residential accommodation. The planning inspector attached significant weight to the fact that the structural report had been prepared by a suitably qualified professional and that no evidence had been provided to cast doubt on its findings”, explains Pyne.
“Although all planning and appeal decision turn on their own facts, this appeal decision is useful is providing some guidance on where the principles established in the Hibbitt case may not be applicable, and is also useful in confirming that, where the conditions of Class Q are met, they apply to commercial glasshouses in the same way as they apply to agricultural buildings”, concludes Pyne.
For further information please contact Acorn Rural Property Consultants on 01884 212380