New farm dwellings – Conversion or new build?

6th August 2019
Head shot of Claire Quick

Claire Quick BSc (Hons) MRICS FAAV - Rural Chartered Surveyor

For an established farming business, housing two generations of a family on the farm can provide problematic when there is only one farmhouse. In this instance there are two main options, either the construction of a new agricultural workers dwelling or alternatively, the change of use of an agricultural building to a dwelling under Class Q.

The construction of a new agricultural workers dwelling will need to be supported by a strong business case to prove the need for an additional dwelling on the farm. The rules of agricultural workers dwellings are only dealt with briefly in the National Planning Policy Framework, therefore most Local Planning Authorities tend to refer to their Local Plans when interpreting an application. This generally includes the need to prove a clear functional need for a full time worker to live on site and financial stability. New farming business (less than 3 years accounts) without a dwelling on their land may find it difficult to prove a need for a permanent dwelling in the early years. Therefore, often this is overcome by way of an application for a temporary dwelling such as a mobile home, for a period of three years. If by the end of the three years, the business can provide evidence there is an essential need for the presence on site and the business is sustainable, an application can be submitted to the Local Planning Authority for a permanent agricultural workers dwelling.

The second option to gain a dwelling on site is through Class Q and since this was introduced in 2014, Kivells have seen many successful applications applied for. We are always in discussions with Local Authorities and keep up to date with all decided applications to ensure we can give the best advice. This is especially the situation after the case of Hibbit v SOS CLG. Within this case, prior approval for the conversion of a modern steel framed, open side agricultural building to residential use was applied for under Class Q. This was refused by the local authority and dismissed on appeal on the grounds that works required to turn the building into dwellings were too extensive to be deemed a conversion and was more likely a rebuild. This decision highlights the lack of detail in the guidance so contact with the local authorities to see how the case is interpreted locally is paramount.

The updated guidelines within Class Q allows up to three ‘larger homes’ with a combined maximum floor space of 465m2; up to five ‘smaller homes’ (each less than 100 m2) or a mix of both, with a total of no more than five homes, of which no more than three may be ‘larger homes’. This is not relevant to buildings within National Parks, AONBs or Listed Buildings which does restrict some areas slightly. Whilst the conversion of buildings under Class Q does not include any agricultural occupancy conditions as a new build would, there is often a condition attached to the planning stating that the conversion must be completed within three years of the permission being granted.

Kivells are involved in a large range of planning applications across the South West so please do not hesitate to contact any of the Kivells team if you have any questions or would like further guidance or assistance.

Claire Quick BSc (Hons) MRICS FAAV - Rural Chartered Surveyor

Tel: 01392 252262 | Mobile: 07789 980204 | Email: