Monday, 17 March 2014

Barn conversions - the new rules

NOTE: There have been significant changes to the law since this blog post was published, and so the material printed below (including the appended comments) does not accurately reflect the current position. For completely up-to-date and fully comprehensive coverage of this subject, we would strongly recommend readers to obtain a copy of the author’s new book - “A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO PERMITTED CHANGES OF USE” published by Bath Publishing in October 2015. You can order your copy by clicking on the link on the left-hand sidebar of this page.

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment and Consequential Provisions) (England) Order 2014 was made on 10 March, laid before Parliament on 13 March and will come into force on 6 April. This is the long promised amendment to the GPDO that will allow the conversion of agricultural buildings to residential use (‘barn conversions’), and also some additional changes of use of A1 (shops) and A2 office premises. The Order applies to England only.

I will deal in a later post with changes of use of premises currently in use or including a use within Class A1 or A2, and go straight to the one you have all been waiting for – barn conversions.

Among other changes, the Order introduces a new Class MB into Part 3 of the Second Schedule to the GPDO. This new class authorises change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage from use as an agricultural building to a use falling within Use Class C3 (dwellinghouses). This new Class includes the authorisation of building operations reasonably necessary to convert the building to residential use.

As predicted, however, this new PD right is hedged around with important exceptions, limitations and conditions. First, development is not permitted by Class MB where the site was not used solely for an agricultural use, as part of an established agricultural unit on 20th March 2013 or, if the site was not in use on that date, when it was last in use before that date. Other agricultural buildings may qualify for residential conversion in future if the site was brought into use after 20 March 2013, and is used for that purpose for ten years before the date the development begins.

The cumulative floor space of the existing building or buildings changing use under Class MB within an established agricultural unit must not exceed 450 square metres, and no more than three separate dwellinghouses can be developed within an established agricultural unit. The 450 sq m limit is absolute, so that once any residential conversions carried out under Class MB have reached the 450 sq m limit, there can be no further such developments within the same agricultural unit.

Furthermore, this change of use is not permitted if the site is occupied under an agricultural tenancy, unless the express consent of both the landlord and the tenant has been obtained To avoid ‘winkling’ of agricultural tenants by rapacious farm owners, change of use is also precluded if less than one year before the date development begins an agricultural tenancy over the site has been terminated, and the termination was for the purpose of carrying out development under Class MB, unless both the landlord and the tenant have agreed in writing that the site is no longer required for agricultural use.

The amendment order also prevents this change of use where the erection or extension of agricultural buildings has been carried out under Part 6, Classes A(a) or B(a) of the Second Schedule to the GPDO on the established agricultural unit since 20th March 2013, or within 10 years before the date development under Class MB begins, whichever is the lesser. So you can’t put up new agricultural buildings or extend them and then convert them soon afterwards to residential use.

Although Class MB permits building operations reasonably necessary to convert the building to residential use, it does not allow development that would result in the external dimensions of the converted building extending beyond the external dimensions of the existing building at any given point; so it has to be wholly contained within the envelope of the original building. The type of building operations that are allowed under this heading are listed as the installation or replacement of windows, doors, roofs, or exterior walls, or water, drainage, electricity, gas or other services, to the extent reasonably necessary for the building to function as a dwellinghouse; and partial demolition to the extent reasonably necessary to carry out these building operations.

The inclusion of the two items I have put in italics in the preceding paragraph (roofs and exterior walls) seems to allow scope for some significant rebuilding or replacement of the existing fabric, although the reference to partial demolition would seem to indicate that wholesale demolition of the building and its entire replacement is not contemplated by this amendment to the GPDO. It would seem that there is potential here for disputes with LPAs as to the scope of ‘partial’ demolition that can be carried out within this class, and also the extent to which any such partial demotion and rebuilding is “reasonably necessary to carry out these building operations”. I would, however, suggest that it is very unlikely that the new PD right can be exploited in such a way as to build houses on the site of glasshouses or flimsily clad dutch barns and the like. But we shall see.

As confirmed in the Commons a couple of weeks ago, the development permitted by Class MB is specifically excluded on any site that is on “Article 1(5) land” (i.e. in a National Park, the Broads, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a Conservation Area or a World Heritage Site) or if the site is or forms part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a designated safety hazard area or a military explosives storage area, or if the site is, or contains, a scheduled ancient monument. Development under Class MB is also excluded if the building in question is a Listed Building.

As expected, the new PD right is subject to a prior notification procedure. In fact, there are two separate requirements, one in respect of the change of use and the other in respect of any associated building operations.

Before beginning the development, the developer must apply to the LPA for a determination as to whether the prior approval of the authority will be required as to —

(a) transport and highways impacts of the development,
(b) noise impacts of the development,
(c) contamination risks on the site,
(d) flooding risks on the site, or
(e) whether the location or siting of the building makes it otherwise impractical or undesirable for the building to change from agricultural use to residential use.

I have put the last of these in italics, because it seems to me that this gives the LPA a very wide discretion to resist such changes of use, without having to resort to an Article 4 Direction. The provisions of paragraph N of Part 3 (introduced in May 2013) will apply in relation to any such application, and this includes the requirement that the LPA must, when determining one of these prior approval applications, have regard to the National Planning Policy Framework as if the application were a planning application. I discussed the practical effect of this requirement in relation to office conversions (B1(a) to C3) in a blog post on Wednesday, 22 May 2013 (“Offices to residential – a further thought”). In relation to those conversions, there was some doubt as to whether this requirement had to be read in the context of the three criteria that were to be specifically applied to office conversions, but the inclusion in Class MB of the paragraph I have put in italics [(e) above] suggests to me that the NPPF can be applied on a much wider basis to these barn conversions. In fact, it would seem to turn the whole process into just another type of planning application – a sort of ‘planning permission-lite’.

As regards the building operations permitted by Class MB, this is subject to a separate an additional condition that before beginning the development, the developer must apply to the LPA for a determination as to whether the prior approval of the authority will be required as to the design or external appearance of the building. Again, the provisions of paragraph N will apply in relation to this application, including the requirement that the LPA must, when determining the application, have regard to the NPPF as if the application were a planning application. In this case, however, it would appear that the NPPF will only be relevant to the extent that it addresses design issues (in paragraphs 56 to 68).

There is no requirement to have regard to the development plan, so section 38(6) of the 2004 Act does not apply as such, but I have previously discussed, in the blog post mentioned above, the extent to which the reference to the NPPF may to some degree bring the development plan into the equation (due to the references to the development plan contained in the NPPF itself).

Other conditions in the GPDO amendment provide that this class of development is subject to the condition that the development must begin within a period of three years beginning with the date on which any prior approval is granted for that development, or beginning with the date on which the period of 56 days expires without the LPA notifying the developer as to whether prior approval for that development is given or refused, whichever is the earlier. This will work in exactly the same way as other time limits for determination of prior notification/approval applications (as previously discussed in this blog).

There are some consequential amendments to various existing provisions in the GPDO, which I may discuss on another occasion (including information requirements in connection with prior approval applications), but one point of clarification which resolves an issue that has been the subject of discussion, both in this blog and elsewhere, relates to the ability of an LPA to impose conditions on a prior approval (not only under Class MB, but on the other prior approvals under Part 3 governed by paragraph N). A further sub-paragraph has been added:

(11) The local planning authority may grant prior approval unconditionally or subject to conditions reasonably related to the subject matter of the prior approval.

This confirms that an LPA does have power to impose conditions on a prior approval under Part 3, but the scope of such conditions is limited. Any such conditions must be reasonably related to the subject matter of the prior approval, and cannot therefore be more wide-ranging. There would appear, however, to be some scope for dispute on this issue, and it may become necessary to pursue a section 73 application in some cases, and (if necessary) a section 78 appeal against the refusal of any such an application, coupled with an application for costs where appropriate.

FOOTNOTE (added on 7/8/14): The ‘barn’ (or other agricultural building) does not qualify for conversion under this provision if the site was not used solely for an agricultural use, as part of “an established agricultural unit” on 20th March 2013, or (if the site was not in use on that date) when it was last in use (or, if the site was brought into use after that date, for ten years before the date the development begins).

A correspondent has queried the fact that nowhere in my articles on this and related topics is the definition of an “agricultural unit” mentioned. I am happy to repair that omission.

By Paragraph 3(N)(7) of the Second Schedule to the GPDO (as substituted by Article 5(8)(c) of the 2014 Amendment Order) “established agricultural unit” means agricultural land occupied as a unit for the purposes of agriculture - (i) for the purposes of Class M, on or before 3rd July 2012 or for ten years before the date the development begins; or (ii) for the purposes of Class MA or MB, on or before 20th March 2013 or for ten years before the date the development begins.

By Paragraph 3(O) of the Second Schedule to the GPDO (inserted by the 2013 Amendment Order), “agricultural building” means a building used for agriculture and which is so used for the purposes of a trade or business, and excludes any dwellinghouse, and “agricultural use” refers to such uses. Note particularly that, in order to qualify as an agricultural building, it must have been used for the purposes of a trade or business. Non-commercial use of the building is a disqualification.

However, “agriculture” itself is not defined by the GPDO, and so the definition in section 336(1) of the 1990 Act prevails in the absence of any indication to the contrary. [viz: “Agriculture” includes horticulture, fruit growing, seed growing, dairy farming, the breeding and keeping of livestock (including any creature kept for the production of food, wool, skins or fur, or for the purpose of its use in the farming of land), the use of land as grazing land, meadow land, osier land, market gardens and nursery grounds, and the use of land for woodlands where that use is ancillary to the farming of land for other agricultural purposes, and “agricultural” shall be construed accordingly.”]

[NOTE: If you scroll down to the comments, only 200 are displayed on the page. We are (as of 9 March 2016) up to 202 on this post! If you want to see the latest comments, you will have to click on "Newer comments" at the bottom right-hand corner of the page. The commments on the second page start with an interesting discussion on the 450 sq m floorspace limit.]



  1. prior approval point (e) - pfffft
    back to square 1.

    been waiting for your blog on this for ages, so thank you for your continued hard work

  2. A well written report as always, thank you Martin.

  3. Hi,
    Does this also impact on the possibility for replacement dwelling for agricultural/forestry buildings?

    So if a woodland has a large shed to support the woodland enterprise can this be the basis for development and/or replacement dwelling?


  4. Hi,
    Does this also impact on the possibility for replacement dwelling for agricultural/forestry buildings?

    So if a woodland has a large shed to support the woodland enterprise can this be the basis for development and/or replacement dwelling?


  5. So we can change the walls, change the roof but unable to replace the whole unit !
    My barn is located in a flood zone.
    Does this mean my GPDO are revoked full stop or with the correct FRA and evacuation plan in place this can be overcome? Maybe the dwelling could be raised say 500mm still keeping within the height of the existing barn.
    Barn located close to a 3ft wide stream( never seen it flood even this winter)
    Thank you

  6. Yes thank you for this - I have read the primary document as well but your summary has helped hugely in my understanding of things. I've already had to advise some clients about this.

  7. Very helpful report thank you. I assume that agricultural use is the same as the statutory definition for agriculture for planning purposes as defined in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

  8. Thanks, Martin.

    My initial reading of the new provisions indicates that at the current time, those who have used PD rights under Schedule 2, Part 6, Class A(a) or Class B(a) since 20 March 2013 on the agricultural unit are excluded from using the provision under Class MB, regardless of whether they wish to use the provision for the same building.

    If this is the case, a developer who wishes to exercise both sets of PD rights (and has not yet done so) might be sensible to use the provisions under Class MB first, so as not to be excluded later (for 10 years).

    In addition, the predicted restriction of 150sqm per dwelling would not appear to apply.

  9. Thanks, Martin

    Two thoughts spring to mind:

    1) At the current time, developers who have used PD rights on an agricultural unit under Schedule 2, Part 6, Class A(a) or Class B(a) since 20 March 2013 are now excluded from using the new provision under Class MB regardless of which agricultural building they wish to convert to residential use. If this is the case, developers who wish to exercise both sets of PD rights going forward should exhaust the new provisions under Class MB before utilising the existing PD rights for erection/extension/alteration of an agricultural building.

    2) The anticipated restriction of 150sqm per dwelling has not been imposed (such that one large dwelling of 450sqm is possible).

    Would you agree?

  10. Hi Martin,

    I question which has bugged me since the inroduction of prior approval for larger home extensions is whether an individual has an opportunity to apply for a lawful development certificate for a proposed development of a larger home extension (ie a 6 metres singel storey rear exension). Surely this cannot be the case as there is an element of judgement involved in such a determination and as such, is not a strict "examination" against the perametes of the the GPOD.

    Any help is appreciated.

  11. On reflection from an earlier comment, it would seem that following the new paragraphs A.1(aa) and B2(ca) (of Part 6 of Schedule 2 to the GPDO Class A and Class B), utilising the provision under MB would indeed prevent the otherwise existing PD rights so affected.

  12. Martin
    if PD for a barn was obtained in 2012 but the barn not fully built by 20/3/13 will it still qualify

  13. Hi Martin, (excellent blog bye the way)
    I own a listed farmhouse with a barn to the rear. Although the barn itself isn't on the listing it has been assumed to be a cartilage building. Would these new P.D. rights apply in this case? I am sure the LPA will insist that any change of use of the barn affects the setting of the listed building, but is that sufficient to refuse?

  14. Martin,
    If the planners, "when determining one of these prior approval applications, have regard to the National Planning Policy Framework as if the application"; could they refuse on sustainability grounds if the barn was considered isolated? If so would that not discount many barns from using this procedure rendering almost useless?

  15. I agree with Martin that there are a number of areas which will be open to interpretation and will only be 'rectified' through appeal cases etc. One particular query I have relates to the floorspace allowance. If the cumulative floorspace of the existing building is 450sq m as a single storey building, is the cumulative floorspace affected if you introduce additional floors.

  16. Looking forward to the 6th April when we (along with most other LPAs) will be inundated with prior notifications for barn conversions for which we will receive the princely sum of £80.00 (well I hope we get something). More than the office to resi nonsense, this has the potential to make many an LPA grind to a halt and also probably go into the red. Thanks Nick.

  17. I have previously commented on this blog that I deplore this blurring of the lines between permitted development and development requiring the submission of a planning application. It should be clear to a prospective developer that what he or she proposes to do is development which is, or is not, permitted under PD rights. While I accept there are always going to be matters of interpretation regarding the limitations of PD rights in the legislation, these were previously confined to marginal cases, and the passage of time usually led to a consensus. The recent tinkering with the system means there is more and more subjectivity written into the legislation itself. Instead of a simpler planning system we now have a three tier system, where development may be clearly permitted; permitted provided the planning authority agrees; or, requires a full planning application. We are left in the situation where what is deemed to be permitted development in one local authority area will not be permitted development in another one. For what is purported to be a “general” permitted development right this is ridiculous.

    If the government want to make it easier to convert barns to houses (and I make no comment on whether this is a good idea or not) they should change policy to support this, but because they cling to the silly notion that the number of pages in guidance or policy is directly correlated to how complex a system is, they shy away from doing the necessary and have instead implemented policy by shoehorning it into the GPDO instead. Their position appears to be that producing detailed planning policy and guidance is bad and complex, but trying to achieve the same aim by increasing the length and decreasing the certainty of legislation is good. Go figure.

  18. I simply haven’t got time to answer all the queries that have been posted in response to this item. I suspect that the answers to some of these questions will only be resolved through the appeals process, maybe with a trip to the High Court thrown in as well.

    I think we can expect quite a few refusals of prior approval from LPAs for a variety of reasons, including possibly sustainability, although (as someone has pointed out on the RTPI Linked-in discussion forum) this could potentially be applied to a large number of barn conversions in the open countryside, and could well render this change in the rule practically useless – point that one of our commentators above has also made. Only time will tell.

  19. We have a barn that was built in 2010. We then added a small extension (5m wide x 4m length, built with timber and steel roof, single storey) without permission in 2012. Would this affect our chances of converting the barn to a house under the new laws from 6th of April as the extension is obviously not on the original plans and was built without permission.

  20. In response to the two most recent comments – first, I absolutely and entirely agree with JNH. Secondly, with regard to Millicent’s query, one would have to look at the precise facts (in a little more detail than stated above), but it may well be that the PD right under Part 3 Class MB might not be available in the circumstances. I think Keystone Law would have to be instructed to advise properly on this point if a definitive answer is required.

  21. Thanks for a massively informative post.

    I have an old stone barn that we would dearly love to change into a family home - would you imagine an early application near the 6th of April would be a good idea, or better to bide my time and see how things settle down?

  22. Martin, what provision (if any) has been made for providing a residential curtilage with the new dwellings? All I can see is pd rights to convert barns with no mention of the other matter. While some LPAs may be willing to allow a modest curtilage 'gratis' some developers may well submit plans showing a ridiculously large red line that some LPAs may take exception to. On the face of it while it may be pd to convert the barn, a separate application for planning permission would subsequetly be needed to resolve this issue it would seem?

  23. Will this change mean that those that are converting barns/agricultural buildings into deellings will now not be required to provide a bat and protected species survey to the planning authority?

  24. In response to the anonymous query of 25/3/14 – I cannot answer this question without a detailed knowledge of local circumstances. There may be pros and cons to either of the suggested courses of action. If a prior approval application is delayed for the time being, it may be possible to see how the council deals with other cases, and maybe even to see the outcome of appeals where there is a refusal. On the other hand, if there is a rush of such applications in the district, this might ‘spook’ the council, who might then become much more negative in dealing with further applications of this sort.

  25. In answer to the anonymous query of 26/3/14 - The new rules (Class MB) refer to “change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage”. So the change of use can extend to the whole or any part of the existing curtilage of the agricultural building (if it has one). However, it would appear that the change of use cannot extend to any additional land outside the bounds of the pre-existing curtilage of the building. (Note that the reference is to the “curtilage” of the building, which is likely to be somewhat smaller than the planning unit of which it forms part.)

  26. In answer to the anonymous query on 28/3/14 - The LPA does have certain powers to request further information when dealing with a prior approval application, and I can envisage circumstances when a bat survey might be called for. But I have not had time to double-check the Order to see whether and, if so, in what circumstances this information could properly be requested.

  27. Under Part 3 Paragraph N (11) The local planning authority may grant prior approval unconditionally or subject to conditions reasonably related to the subject matter of the prior approval. Presumably LPAs could use conditions precedent to satisfy any considered need for bird and bat surveys?

  28. will the new change of permitted development rights for farm buildings permit the conversion of steel framed buildings clad with sheeting, or does it only apply to brick built farm buildings?

  29. It is very concerning in para 9(b) there is a new definition for curtilage for M, MA & MB only which states it is the lesser of the associated surrounding land or an area no larger than land area occupied by the building.

    As an example if you had a 3 unit scheme over an existing two storey building of 450sqm that's a footprint/land area of 225sqm and an average of 75sqm per unit so the average curtilage per unit could not exceed 75sqm which is pretty unreasonable in order to accommodate garden, parking and access. Access and parking needs to be included to make the whole use lawful particularly if the owner wished to borrow against the property as a residential unit.

    75sqm would just about suffice for private garden space if it is of a regular shape which is unlikely to be the case working around an old farmyard.

    Unless I've missed something I think the government have not thought this through properly. I agree that there needs to be some science behind the curtilage area calculation and it seems sensible to link it to the footprint but they have used the wrong multiple ie. it should be 2 or 3 o4 times the footprint or access and parking should be a separate allowance.

    I think this issue could make the majority of these new potential MB sites completely unworkable.

    This also brings up another issue with parking - garaging: obviously a new build garage would not be permitted under MB but assuming the LPA did not condition the removal of normal PD rights presumably a new build garage or shed or extension could be built after completion of the scheme if normal resi PD criteria were met and it fell within the curtilage of the MB conversion....?

    Sorry one more query/observation!: MB1(b) cumulative floor space of existing building not exceeding 450sqm (presumably floor space is the Gross Internal Area) if a barn had say an existing floor space of 450sqm as a single storey building but had high enough eaves and ridge to fit in an additional floor within the building space making a new total of 900sqm, presumably that would be permitted because the external dimensions won't change and the existing floor space was under 450sqm?

    Sorry for the long comment!

  30. would the bit about not extending beyond the external dimensions at any given point stop you cladding an existing wall

  31. In response to Walter’s query of 02/04/14, I would agree that in principle this ought to be possible, provided the test of relevance is met.

  32. In answer to the anonymous query of 03/04/14, I think it will depend. It might in theory be possible, although it would seem that substantial demolition and replacement of the pre-existing building is not permissible, nor can the new building go outside the envelope of the existing building. These factors are likely to operate as a strong practical constraint where the conversion of thinly clad steel-framed buildings is contemplated.

    In practice, the existing cladding may have to be left more or less intact (apart from making new door and window openings), and a layer of internal insulation would then have to be introduced. It would clearly require careful design and a detailed consideration of the new rules, to ensure that the development would come within those rules.

  33. In answer to the anonymous comment of 03/04/14 regarding the definition of curtilage, this is one of the topics I intend to cover in a forthcoming post on ‘the small print’ in the new PD rules.

  34. In answer to the anonymous query on 07/04/14, and as mentioned in an a reply to a previous comment, external cladding might well be ruled out, and so internal insulation might be the only way to carry out the conversion. I suppose it might just be possible to add some thin additional covering to the external surface of the wall, but not if it would materially extend the envelope of the building.

  35. Does the cumulative number of
    dwellings limit of 3 relate
    solely to the number of dwellings
    developed on a unit under Class MB
    or does it relate to the number of
    dwellings developed under Class MB
    together with those developed through the grant of planning permission ?

  36. Previously I have always looked to clad-in open sided barns prior to submitting pd approvals for commercial etc. Presumably the new rules now allow a new wall to be put in an open sided barn as part of the development? (as long as it doesn't go outside the existing area of the building). I have had numerous different opinions on this that the construction of a new external wall would not be allowed. I am of the view that it would be??

  37. I own an established agricultural workshop, originally a dutch barn, cladded and fitted out in the late 80's, which 3 years ago was granted B2 Industrial use to allow me to repair cars. I still work and maintain my tractors in there as well. I was thinking of making a quarter of the building into a dwelling using block construction behind the cladding. Save for a few windows it would maintain most of its outside appearance. I wonder, would partial conversion be allowed ?

  38. Martin,

    We have recently been granted permission to convert an agri barn into a permanent dwelling, with an agg tie. This was achieved through a full planning application with all the relevant surveys, drawings, landscaping, highways input etc. etc. etc. We have yet to implement the approval in anyway.

    Would we be right in thinking that this new piece of legislation could apply in our instance (understand you don't know the specifics) as we have effectively ticked off almost all of the things they could reject on? We are not changing the size, shape or form of the building, nor are we in an ANOB or NP and total size is below the 450sq m threshold.

    Kind regards.

  39. As we are now into Day 17 of the new MB rights it will soon become clear how LPA's want to deal with these applications (I have 3 which were submitted on Day 1)
    It would be helpful to have martin's comments on the following:
    1. My clear understanding is that the size limit is 150sq.m x 3 of the EXISTING building/s. If they are tall enough to accommodate more than one floor then the resulting floorspace can be larger accordingly. It might even be possible to lower the ground floor level to achieve more usable space
    2. Complete demolition is not permitted but 'partial demolition' is not defined. It might well be possible to work around an existing building stage by stage until all of it has been replaced.
    3. The LPA might well refuse to make a decision until details of siting and design have been submitted in which case they run the risk of running out of time and for the development to be absolutely permitted whether they like it or not.
    4. If they don't like the resulting permission for Change of Use and are difficult about agreeing the detailed Design it will be open to the applicant to submit a full planning application for a replacement dwelling using the PD position as a valid 'fallback.'

  40. If the change of use of the building does not constitute PD under Class MB(a) due to a new access being proposed (thus needing full permission for the COU), could one still apply separately under MB(b) purely for the alterations to the building? i.e. seek full planning permission for the COU and submit a notification for just the alterations? Thanks.

  41. In answer to the anonymous query of 17/04/14, the relevant wording of the limiting conditions is:

    "(b) the cumulative floor space of the existing building or buildings changing use under Class MB within an established agricultural unit exceeds 450 square metres;
    (c) the cumulative number of separate dwellinghouses developed within an established agricultural unit exceeds three;

    Sub-paragraph (b) (the floorspace limit) clearly applies only to conversions under Class MB, but the omission of any reference to Class MB in sub-paragraph(c) (the numerical limit) suggest that its effect may be intended to be wider, so that any residential units created under planning permission also count towards the maximum of three. Of course, it could just be sloppy drafting, but I think we have to take the wording at face value.

  42. In answer to the anonymous query of 22/04/14, I can see why opinions differ. This is not an easy question to answer. I think one would have to look at the specific facts in a particular case, and even then there must inevitably be at least an element of doubt as to how the new rules will be applied in practice where a fourth wall would have to be added to an open-sided barn.

  43. In answer to Sam Johnson (22/04/14), I rather doubt if this building would qualify under the new rules, but we could advise professionally if instructed to do so, and could then look into the possibilities in more detail.

  44. In answer to the anonymous query of 23/04/14, the important point is that the planning permission has not yet been implemented, so the AOC has not come into effect yet (and will not do so if the PP remains unimplemented). It would therefore seem that use could now be made of the new permitted development rights, although this may not be all plain sailing. The LPA might still find reasons for refusing prior approval, and could impose conditions, although the imposition of an AOC would not appear to me to be in accordance with the spirit of the new rules.

  45. In answer to Paul Harvey (23/04/14), I regret that I haven’t got time right now to go into each of his points, although I did comment a short time ago, in response to another query, on the suggestion of replacing the walls one at a time in turn – this idea is definitely a non-starter (for the reason previously explained). Some of Paul’s other ideas might work, others might not. It would require careful consideration of specific proposals in a particular case to enable a definite answer to be given.

  46. In answer to the anonymous comment of 24/04/24, I am pretty sure that sub-paragraph (b) was intended to apply only to conversions under Class MB, subparagraph (a) (although I agree that the wording is not necessarily preclusive of other changes of use in its effect). However, I am not clear as to what advantage would be obtained by seeking to rely on sub-paragraph (b) where full planning permission for change of use has been sought and obtained. One might as well apply for permission for alterations at the same time, in which case these need not necessarily be confined within the pre-existing envelope of the building as they would have to be if relying on the PD rights under Class MB.

  47. Martin,
    Thanks for your response of 28th April to my query of 17th April re. the 3 dwelling limit.
    The definition of 'established agricultural unit' at para O(d) is agricultural land occupied as a unit for the purposes of agriculture.
    The only defintion of agricultural land I can find is at D1 of Part 6 which is land in use for agriculture for a trade or business and excludes any dwellinghouse or garden. It seems to me that as the established agricultural unit definition only refers to land, any unit can benefit from up to 3 additional dwellinghouses under Class MB

  48. I would refer you to an appeal in Norfolk (DCS ref 400-003-379)which relates to an office to residential conversion (but I think the principle would apply to barn conversions)in relation to further information requirements. Essentially the LPA required further information on amenity space and then refused the application. The inspector said that the LPA could only consider those parts of the NPPF which the LPA could consider under the Prior Notification procedure (in that case highways/transport, contamination and flooding).

    However I agree that the provision concerning undesirable location of the building being "undesirable" may be a "get out of jail free" card for LPAs as agricultural buildings will generally be in undesirable (i.e. unsustainable) locations

  49. What an interesting and useful blog. I am advising a client whose small farm has been established since before 20/03/13. He is now looking to rent out part of the farm for a leisure use. Even though this may create a new planning unit, this doesn't seem to interfere with the rights under Class MB. The agricultural unit would still have been in existence on 20/03/13 and provided the building concerned remains used for agriculture (or, if vacant, last used) then Class MB can be used. I welcome discussion of this point.

  50. I still might of missed something since my comment on 3rd April but the restriction on the curtilage size i.e. the extent on the ground to where PD rights will apply to is a show stopper in my opinion.

    Unless I have interpreted it incorrectly the curtilage cannot exceed area larger than the "land area occupied by the agricultural building".

    The MB prior notification form available on Planning Portal has two boxes for areas I have noticed two recent MB applications submitted to my local LPA and on both application forms the curtilage areas far exceed the floor area of the buildings (cumulative area on form). Even if the LPA miss this and accept the prior notification etc. it won't obviously make the COU to the curtilage lawful if my interpretation is correct.

    Apologies if I have missed something but I still think this is a fundamental issue. In practice it will be nearly impossible to include garden, parking and acess etc within the curtilage size limitations.



  51. Paul Barkley's comment of 9 May re what LPA could consider under the Prior Notification procedure is of immediate direct interest as my LPA is insisting on an upfront Ecology Survey before considering my application for Class MB (and have allowed me 14 days unless I withdraw before)! I have said to them that I expected it to be a condition of Prior Approval and await their reply.

  52. Brilliant blog, can I ask again about curtilage. Do we have to make provisions for parking in the small amount allowed?

  53. The wording in Part 3 refers to “a building and any land within its curtilage”. I take this to mean the pre-existing curtilage of the building before its conversion. The change of use applies to that building and to the area of land (if any) that formed its curtilage. The change of use cannot extend to land outside that curtilage. So, in my view, parking provision for the residential use, if desired, would have to be made within that space. If additional space (outside the defined curtilage of the building in its pre-existing use as an agricultural building) is required for parking, a planning application would have to be made for that additional change of use.

    Defining the curtilage of an individual agricultural building may not be easy in practice. I rather doubt whether De-CLoG’s draftsman thought about that when framing the amendment order to the GPDO. I think some common-sense assumptions will have to be made in particular cases, without taking too legalistic an approach to this issue.

  54. When answering the previous query, I forgot that paragraph O of Part 3 now gives “curtilage” a special meaning for the purposes of Classes M, MA and MB. It is defined as : -

    “(i) the piece of land, whether enclosed or unenclosed, immediately beside or around the agricultural building, closely associated with and serving the purposes of the agricultural building, or
    (ii) an area of land immediately beside or around the agricultural building no larger than the land area occupied by the agricultural building,
    whichever is the lesser.”

    Which is very similar to what I had assumed, but at least our enquirer now knows precisely what counts, and what does not.

  55. Para O - this is precisely the point I have been trying to make in my comments of 3rd April and 14th May. i.e. in practice with most sites it is not going to be possible to fit in those areas of land required for the unit to function as a residential unit such as:

    i) Access drive/road/track
    ii) Parking and turning areas
    iii) Reasonable sized gardens

    These parts of the unit need to be included in the change of use otherwise the unit as a whole will not be completely lawful as residential use. i.e. it won’t be lawful to use an existing agric access track to access such barn conversions unless the track is included in the curtilage for CoU.

    The maximum curtilage area that can be included as Permitted Development surrounding the barn(s) is therefore limited to 450sqm i.e. if the total existing total floor space was 450sqm and a single storey agricultural building. 450sqm isn’t too bad to fit in the curtilage ancillary parts if applied to just one dwelling but if for example the total existing floor space of 450sqm was spread over an existing 2 storey barn (i.e. barn land area/footprint of 225sqm) then the max curtilage drops to 225sqm and if you went for three units that equates to an average of 75sqm curtilage per unit was is simply not enough.

    Most sites will not be abutting a public highway so either an existing agric track will need CoU or a new track installed and CoU applied to it. If the track is 3m wide by say 50m long that’s 150sqm of your curtilage measurement used up for example.

    Furthermore the order only permits Change of Use, it does not permit any works engineering operations or building works within the curtilage, other than those “reasonably necessary to convert the building” and the building operations listed do not include works to create access roads or parking areas or any boundary treatments such a fences and walls.

    Unless once the CoU has been implemented standard Part 1 residential Permitted Development rights can be applied? i.e. garden sheds and fences etc could be installed at a later date as long as they are within the curtilage – I’m not sure if Class MB removes these rights? If the rights aren’t removed then surely after the CoU has occurred the barn/dwelling could also be extended?



  56. Apologies Martin, I don't usually post comments on blogs, but your article seems to be the only one online at the moment that is making sense.

    I wonder if you, or any of your readers could assist in a query I have on the change of use of a barn to residential dwelling and in particular the Prior Notification Procedure.

    As I read the Statutory Instrument, Class MB consists of two parts, the first being the change of use, the second being the building operations relating to that change of use.

    Under the conditions (Paragraph MB.2) the requirement for Prior Approval is again split into two parts, (1) for the change of use and (2) for the building operations.

    This led me to believe that an applicant could submit an application for prior approval of the proposed change of use of an agricultural building to a dwellinghouse, thus establishing the principle of the change of use. With a second application for prior approval for the building operations following if the LPA have considered prior approval for the change of use is not required. However, all Local
    Planning Authorities I have spoken with and the Planning Portal themselves only have an application form for "Prior Approval of Proposed Change of Use of Agricultural Building to a Dwellinghouse
    (Use Class C3), and for Associated Operational Development", not allowing for two separate applications.

    This has been a matter of some debate in our office, however the legislation isn't clear and I am therefore seeking any opinions on the matter.



  57. Thank you for your previous reply, very helpful. just one more question it states " Development under Class MB is also excluded if the building in question is a Listed Building.". if the barn is not mentioned on the listing of the farm house, with a 40ft driveway/ parking in between does that make the barn listed and not available under MB, or just part of a listing in a curtilage?

  58. We have the first determination on a Change of Use under Class MB within our LPA.
    The decision is to Refuse on the basis of prior use of the building not being solely agricultural.
    Since the LPA state there was evidence of the barn previously being used as stabling it is likely the correct decision in this case, however within the LPA's comments it is also mentioned that logs were stored in the barn.
    It would seem, with our LPA at least, a very strict interpretation of agricultural use will be applied.
    I wonder how, say, storage of building items may be considered, if they are related to building works within the agricultural unit. Or how about workshop tools used to fix implements or tractors? Are they industrial or agricultural?
    Regards, IR.

  59. The answer to Louise’s question of 6/6/14 is to be found in another post in this blog - Barns near listed farmhouses (Friday, 15 March 2013)

  60. In answer to Mat Driscoll (13/6/14), the two prior approval applications (for change of use and for building works respectively) are certainly separate applications, and must be individually considered. I haven’t had time to double-check, but I can see no reason in principle why they should be submitted simultaneously. So what Matt Driscoll proposes may well be a feasible approach to take.

  61. Dear Martin, thank you for your helpful blog. I wondered whether you could clarify if: an 'agricultural unit' relates to each individual building on a farm or the whole farm. For example, potentially could each building within a farm be converted (as long as it was under the 450sqm threshold and no more than three dwellings) or can you only (through the change of use) create a total of three dwellings within one farm (regardless of how many buildings this involves)? Many thanks

  62. I have just had a Prior Approval application for the conversion of a stone barn to 2 dwellings rejected on the sole grounds that the development would result in the external dimensions being increased by virtue of two flues protruding from the roof plane. No mention that the tin roof would be replaced with slate, increasing the height. Where is the line drawn? It would seem that the LPA can draw it wherever they wish. Needless to say, very disappointed in both the LPA's attitude and the outcome.

  63. I have just received prior approval for a Dutch barn in the Mid Devon area ... Seems each council has such varying interpretations on such buildings. The steel structure is open 2 sides and corrugated on the other two yet the council had the foresight to see the buildings potential and permitted development subject to part (b) notification I know I am lucky as the majority of surrounding councils seem to be throwing out any such structure but I hope this gives people confidence to go forward and apply!

  64. Interesting case decision on this link. Confirms my concerns regarding the curtilage restrictions:



  65. Hi Martin and other readers. I wonder if anyone has taken the view that prior approval under Part M (commercial)and Part MB (residential) can be done within the same agricultural unit at the same time? For example, 450sqm of residential and 500sqm of B1 use within the same agricultural unit. Views appreciated.
    Jane Scott

  66. Just thought that you would like to know that NDDC have refused an application under MB(A) - stating that two previous barn conversions (converted unlawfully 30 years previously) add to the cumulative number of dwellings developed within the established agricultural unit. This being despite arguments from us that the two (now open market dwellings) are no longer a part of the 'established agricultural unit' - i.e. they were removed from 'agriculture' when converted.

    I'd be interested in your thoughts on that... seems like sloppy drafting to me!!!

    (Interestingly the LPA decided not to consider the farm-house a 'dwellinghouse' within the same cumulative argument)

    So much for the 2014 provisions enabling the creation of more housing supply and enabling rural businesses to diversify. Ha bloody Ha!

  67. My immediate reaction to the case raised by B Stone is similar to his own. I think the LPA is going out on a limb here. One’s first instinct is to take it to appeal, but the LPA might then dream up some other reasons for opposing this barn conversion. So the result of an appeal would be by no means a foregone conclusion.

    I have pointed out previously that this PD right was never intended to give carte blanche for residential development in the countryside. The new rules give LPAs a wide discretion as to whether or not to approve these conversions. Realistically, the prior approval process should be seen as just another kind of planning application.

  68. With regard to the question raised by Jane Scott (07/07/14), I haven’t got time right now to answer this point myself, but would welcome any comments from readers on the point that Jane has raised.

  69. The decision referred to above on 30 June does not appear as a link, but it can be copied and pasted into your browser (Ctrl + C, then Ctrl + V), and the planning officer’s report will then be displayed. It is a textbook example of a prior approval application being rejected because it does not meet the criteria set out in Class MB. For this purpose, the curtilage is tightly defined by the Order, and in this case the proposed curtilage went outside the statutory parameters. It was also in an area excluded by the Order (in the vicinity of a pipeline from the Wytch Farm oilfield) and involved too much rebuilding.

  70. we have made an enquiry for a barn conversion and been told :

    the location is in the Local Plan (Core Strategy) as being an other village, i.e. it has no settlement boundary, in recognition of the few services and facilities on officer. It is therefore considered to be an unsustainable location. Planning policies restrict new residential development in such locations unless specific criteria are met; namely:

    •Affordable housing scheme - the application is for a market dwelling
    •part of a cluster (policy dm4) - criteria for this are being 150m from a settlement boundary and this site is some considerable distance away
    •Necessary for an agricultural use - there is no existing operational business which would require a dwelling in this instance
    •High quality design and innovation - the design in such instances needs to be of such a high standard it is award winning
    •Only optimum viable use of a heritage asset - the barn, whilst attractive, is not a heritage asset and even if it was, before considering residential, other more appropriate uses, such as business and holiday use, would first need to be considered and assessed via robust marketing and viability information.

    On this basis, I do not consider that the conversion of this barn would represent sustainable development and sit comfortably with our established planning policies or the strategy contained in national planning policy. Therefore, should an application be forthcoming, I do not consider that Officer's would be in a position to offer support.

    to me this just seems to restate the pre April 14 position. Do local authorities have the right to opt out of the The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment and Consequential Provisions) (England) Order 2014 ?

    Any views or assistance much appreciated.


  71. The LPA’s power to decide whether the location or siting of the building makes it otherwise impractical or undesirable for the building to change from agricultural use to residential use clearly gives them a wide discretion over the matters listed in this query. As this correspondent has discovered, there is still a strong likelihood that an LPA could turn down such a conversion on grounds such as these.

  72. In answer to the query of 18/06/14 – I’m afraid it’s the latter. The limit applies to the whole farm. (Salami slicing is not permitted!)

  73. LPA in Norfolk is saying that the site has to currently form part of an established agricultural unit. They won't accept (yet) that it is good enough for the site to have last been used for agriculture as part of an agricultural unit and insist that it still has to be part of an established agricultural
    Our site has changed ownership and is obviously not now an established unit. It was not in use on 20th March 2013, but its last use was agricultural.
    To quote planning officer "We still read it that even if no longer in use (and we’re not arguing that its last use was agricultural) it still has to be part of an established agricultural unit." and "
    We believe the continued reference to an established agricultural unit throughout Class MB shows the Government’s intention for the buildings to be part of such a unit."
    Thoughts from anyone?

  74. What a lot of great info...just looking through a decision on the Dorset case mentioned previously 30/6, and one of the many reasons for refusal was the rebuild aspect. They go on to say that the "amount of proposed
    building operations goes beyond what could be considered reasonable to facilitate a
    ‘conversion’ of the building and that too great a proportion of the resulting building would
    comprise new or replacement external walls, roof, windows and doors,".
    My reading of the MB document says that the installation/replacement of windows, doors, roof and external walls is ok, but building operations OTHER than that are at planners discretion.
    Have I got the wrong end of the stick here - if not, how can LPAs misread the regs and be allowed to get away with it.

  75. Re Mike's comment, we have always found Norfolk LPA to be reasonably "forward thinking" on planning issues. One of our friends has converted several barns to holiday lets and is now being allowed to make these full residential properties. On the other hand a friend of ours has been allowed to turn a "barn" into residential. Yet, the barn has never been used for agriculture and certainly not for the keeping of livestock as outlined in the planning application. There is no consistency and much unfairness about planning, it is no wonder people get very angry. even if they hadn't queried the continual agricultural use, they can then just throw the application out on unsuitability of the site anyway.

  76. In reply to Mike's post on 17/7, is your unit just redundant and sitting empty? Can you do whatever is necessary to re-establish the unit? What actually constitutes an established agricultural unit? Does it have to, for instance, be a viable business with accounts?
    The grazing of horses, I believe, constitutes agricultural use, but it must be purely grazing as a business, so no private use(?) or riding school. Buildings can't be used to stable horses, store tack, etc, but I guess could be uses to store tractors or pasture cutters as they are linked to the grazing.
    This is purely my understanding; someone else may have a different view.

  77. In response - yes this is a redundant and empty building, but it now sits on only just over 0.5ha of pretty poor quality land. It has been sold off from the original small holding. I see no way that you could actually bring it back into an purely agricultural use and make a living out of it. You are correct in that for the term agricultural use’ to be relevant it must be for the purposes of a trade or business – i.e. someone has to be earning a living from agriculture. The original question still remains whether the building has to still be on a working agricultural unit?

  78. We have had a reply from our LPA to an initial enquiry made to see how they would view a Prior Notification Application under the new rules. To give some perspective, we have already been granted full planning to convert an existing barn into residential use, but with an agg tie, which is proving a problem to raising finance. The reply has been as follows:

    Thank you for your preliminary enquiry received on 18 July 2014.

    Unfortunately we are not able to fully assess your previous scheme against the new criteria set out in Class MB of the GPDO as this would equate to the same level of work required to assess fully your application as and when it is submitted. As you can appreciate we are not able to look fully at every scheme prior to it being submitted and make a judgement as to its acceptance against a complex suite of legislation.
    There are however a couple of points that we would draw your attention to which other applications have not been found in accordance with. The first is that any associated curtilage cannot exceed the footprint of the building which you are seeking to convert. Secondly the original footprint and fabric of the building cannot be exceeded in any way including the installation of flues or associated chimneys and thirdly the Local Planning Authority is assessing all schemes against the requirements of sustainable development in terms of their location. It is the latter of these three points which we believe your scheme may struggle against as the location would not be one that would automatically be considered as sustainable given the primary reliance of a motor vehicle to reach facilities and services.
    Of course if you wish to pursue an application you are entitled to do so and we would consider your scheme fully at this stage against all of the criteria set out in the legislation.

    With regards their final point re sustainability, can they refuse on these grounds given they have already granted consent under a previous application?

    Also, I understand the curtilage issue but does this mean that existing tracks leading to the barn cannot be used as someone has posted previously?

    Re the other point around flues etc, I was under the impression that reasonable conversion was permitted. I cannot see how not allowing a flue is reasonable seeing as to heat a dwelling you will have to have some sort of external chimneys or flues perturbing? Unless you go out via an external wall as opposed the roof?

    Great blog by the way!

  79. I am a farmer. I have been growing 70acres of cereals for many years but have stopped after the terrible harvest in 2013. My 300 sqM grain store is now redundant and I am considering applying for Permitted Development to change to residential. I would have thought that the legislation was designed for redundant farm buildings so why are bloggers talking about keeping them in agricultural use? My store was last used in 2013 and thats that!

  80. In reply to Koalaboy 2 21/7, there are instances where planners have come down hard on those buildings that are not used solely for agricultural use. For instance, someone storing logs in some part of their barn, someone keeping riding tack or someone storing redundant furniture are all possible, if just a little picky, reasons for refusal. I think that's one reason why bloggers are talking about (solely for) agricultural use.

  81. Prompted by Mike’s query, I have taken another look at the wording of Class MB.

    The permitted development authorised by Class MB relates to the change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage, but the disqualifications set out in sub-paragraph MB.1(a) relate to thesite, rather than to the building itself.

    If the site was used solely for an agricultural use, as part of an established agricultural unit, on 20 March 2013, the building qualifies (in principle, subject to the other disqualifications in paragraph MB.1) for residential conversion. If the site was last in agricultural use, as part of an established agricultural unit before that date, it still qualifies, but only if the site has not been used for any other purpose since it ceased to be used for agriculture (i.e. the site must either have been in agricultural use, as part of an established agricultural unit, at the qualifying date, or the site must have been entirely disused since ceasing to be used for agriculture before that date).

    It is a moot point as to whether a former agricultural building which was put to some non-agricultural use while the site on which it is located remained in agricultural use at the relevant time, as part of an established agricultural unit, would or would not be disqualified. Arguably, if the building itself was in non-agricultural use, then its site (i.e. the land on which it actually stands) cannot be said to have been in agricultural use. I think one has to construe “site” in this context as being one and the same thing as the“ building and any land within its curtilage”, although it is unfortunate that the drafting is not clearer in this regard.

    So it comes down to this. Was the building located on an established agricultural unit on 20 March 2013? If not, was its site last used solely for agricultural use, as part of an established agricultural unit, before 20 March 2013, following which this site (i.e. the building and its curtilage) has been entirely disused?

  82. Curtilage size constraints do seem to be an issue, if I understand the criteria correctly. For example, if you have a 30 x 10 barn, the total curtilage can only be 300 sqm. That means, if you chose to have an even space all the way around the building, it would only be a whisker over 3m wide. This is barely wide enough to park a car and have reasonable access around it.

  83. I have just had an MB Prior Approval application refused on the grounds of Domestic use of the building. It was in full time agricultural use until the summer/autumn of 2013 when I sold off some equipment and started storing small amounts of other material there, it is still mainly tools and items used in the maintenance of the unit. But unfortunately the planning department did not even give me the opportunity to prove this, any suggestions?

  84. My friend submitted a class MB permitted development application to Horsham District Council on May 6th for conversion of a tractor shed to residential dwelling. They banked his fee and the 56 days elapsed without any queries from the council. Despite requests they have refused to supply a validation certificate some weeks after the 56 days elapsed and are now saying it wasn't in use as an agricultural building on 20 March 2013 although this was never queried within the 56 days. Is my friend entitled to start using the building as residential ? The council are now threatening to take him to court.

  85. In answer to RG, if the site really was used solely for an agricultural use as part of an established agricultural unit on 20th March 2013 then, in the absence of any notification by the LPA as to whether prior approval is given or refused, the development can be begun upon the expiry of 56 days following the date on which the application was received by the local planning authority.

    However, the reference to threatened proceedings suggests to me that there is more to this case than RG has mentioned, and it might in any event be prudent to apply for a Lawful Development Certificate in order to resolve any doubt which might remain, particularly in view of the LPA’s assertion that there was no agricultural use in being on the qualifying date.

    Just getting on with the development is an option, but this would be a rather high risk strategy if it turned out that the LPA was right, or if there were any other reasons why the development would in fact be unlawful.

  86. In answer to Peter X (30/7/14), it entirely depends on whether the site really was used solely for an agricultural use as part of an established agricultural unit on 20th March 2013. What happened after that date is entirely immaterial.

    As with the answer I just gave to RG, the LPA was obliged to give notice as to whether prior approval is given or refused within 56 days following the date on which the application was received by them. If their response did not amount to such a notification, then the development can proceed. Here again, though, it might be prudent to apply for a Lawful Development Certificate to make assurance doubly sure.

  87. Thanks Martin. So in effect the council do not necessarily have to raise an objection as to the validity of the building as an agricultural dwelling on 20 March 2013 , or any part of para MB.1 within the 56 days ?

  88. In answer to RG’s further query, I have always taken the view that if the LPA believes that the qualifying criteria are not met, they should notify the applicant to that effect (although there is no legal obligation on them to do so), and they are not then obliged to determine the prior approval application and to give notice as to whether prior approval is given or refused, because the PD right to carry out the conversion simply does not arise in any event. However, an LPA which does this is taking a risk, because if they are wrong in asserting that the PD right does not arise (due to its not meeting the basic qualifying criteria including, in the case of Class MB, agricultural use on 20 March 2013), the applicant would be entitled to proceed with the development on the expiry of 56 days on no notification being given in respect of the prior approval application, provided of course that it did in fact qualify.

    There are difficulties that arise from the wording of these provisions. It might be argued that a notice which states that the development does not qualify amounts to notice that prior approval is refused, but this is far from clear.

  89. The dispute with the LPA over this issue revolves around the following. My friend received agricultural use planning permission for his tractor shed in 2004. He applied to have a conversion to residential use on the building but was turned down. However in 2012 he began to use the property for a combination of agricultural and residential purposes nevertheless and was served with an enforcement order to quit the premises. This notice was complied with in Jan 2013 and the building reverted to an agricultural building only once again. This was its status on 20 Mar 2013. Despite the fact that the building was legally in agricultural use on this date the LPA are now asking for further supplementary evidence to prove that it was not being used illegally as a residential dwelling as well and as a consequence refusing to admit that a PD right has arisen or to grant a Lawful Development Certificate. Do they have a case ? My friend started to use the building again for residential purposes after the 56 days on his PD application had elapsed. Hence the threat of legal action to evict him once again

  90. Many thanks Martin, to clarify, I rec'd a refusal notification to my Prior Approval Application. I feel aggrieved that I was not given an opportunity to prove the agricultural use. I am about to obtain Sworn Affidavits to the agricultural use from as many people as I can, then put in the appeal. It is just very frustrating that the LPA are so obstructional.

  91. Even though I have a refusal notification, if the reason for refusal is not correct, ie the building was in agricultural use on the 20/3/13 and not domestic use, does that mean I legally could carry on the development and prove the agricultural use as and when the LPA takes legal action, that being the only reason they refused the permitted development. Or would it be even possible to go for a Lawful Development Certificate?

  92. With regard to RG's query, I could find only one submission on the H&D Council portal that could relate, and this was for the conversion of a Tractor Shed so seems to be the one in question.
    The LPA appears to have a strong belief that the Shed was used for Stabling and was therefore not solely used for Agriculture.
    The records on the Portal also show the LPA did respond within 56 days.
    If RG's friend believes otherwise they need to discuss this with their agent.
    Unless the use for Stabling can be disproved it would seem unlikely the LPA position could be successfully challenged.

  93. I was having a browse around the topic of class MB PD on the internet and came across a useful planning guidance note very recently (23 July) adopted by Sedgemoor District Council. The note focusses on the conversion of Agricultural / Rural Buildings, but has some very useful and interesting sections that refer to the recent class MB changes and interpretations of definitions etc. It may be worth a look at for a bit of background info if this is something you're considering.

  94. Re RG’s further note (31.7.14) - as I thought, this is not at all a straightforward situation. It would be impossible to say whether the barn would qualify under Class MB without careful investigation of the facts, but it looks distinctly ‘iffy’.

  95. In response to Peter X's two notes of 31/7/14, see my previous comments about purported refusal of prior approval applications. The safest course in these circumstances, if you think the PD rights have now crystallised, is to make an application for an LDC.

  96. With regards to the "stabling" comment here is Sedgemoors Q & A on the subject which is interesting: B2.10 Is a stable or other equestrian building eligible for change of use PD rights?
    Answer: No – an equestrian use does not fall within the definition of “agriculture” (unless the horses are kept specifically for agricultural purposes).
    N.B. a farm building which was originally built as stables but has subsequently been used for other agricultural purposes (e.g. storage of feed or equipment), and was in such “agricultural use” at the relevant date, would be eligible.
    The Sedgemoor document is very interesting and answers a lot of the questions in this blog. Excellent blog Martin.

  97. In reply to Anonymous, 1/8/14, the planning application reference for the HDC portal to which I am referring to is Dc/14/0939 and does not appear to have been registered on the website. The building concerned has never been used for stabling. It was originally given planning permission for use as a tractor, trailer, dumper store and hayloft.

  98. Thanks to Martin and others for their comments. I would like to add that my friend's application was submitted by a reputable, fully qualified planning consultant, with experience of previous identical cases ; his opinion was the building met the necessary criteria. During the 56 days after the application's submission HDC did come back on two occasions for a dialogue relating to building plan details, but agreed before the 56 day deadline their queries were irrelevant, all required info was in the application already. The question is if HDC did not recognise the building as in agricultural use why they did not make any mention of it until three months after the validation ? Why didn't the planning officer dealing with my friend's planning consultant during the 56 days a) make any site visit b) raise certain queries but never mention anything as to the site's validity ? There is also of course the morality of accepting an £80 fee with an already pre-ordained outcome.

  99. There is a limit to how far I can go in discussing RG’s case. It all boils down to a question of fact. Either the building qualified under the criteria in Class MB or it did not. As I observed before, if the applicant believes that the criteria were met, then an application for an LDC (and, if necessary, an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate under section 195) would be the way to go.

  100. Of the 40+ Class MB applications so far received, our LPA has rejected the vast majority (stating 'planning permission needed'), with the remainder withdrawn or pending. It is understood that the LPA is moving to a position where any non-stone building is going to be rejected. The justification put forward to date is that Paragraph N directs that Prior Notification under Class MB is to be 'treated as a planning application' and non-stone buildings are not suitable for conversion via a planning application.

    This appears to be a (wilful?) misunderstanding of Para N (8): "The local planning authority shall, when determining an application— (b) have regard to the National Planning Policy Framework issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government in March 2012, so far as relevant to the subject
    matter of the prior approval, as if the application were a planning application"

    While local (saved) policies indicate that non-stone buildings are not suitable for conversion, the NPPF holds no such proscribed change of use and para 55 would seem supportive where conversion would lead to an enhancement of the setting. It seems that affected applicants will have to test this interpretation at appeal. Your thoughts, as always, would be much appreciated.

  101. @W, this sounds like my LPA too, I suspect we are both in the same area. Having made an application myself under this legislation and it being deemed "Planning Permission needed" , I am left a little disappointed that what promised to be a "revolution " in the countryside as usual.

  102. I wonder if you could provide an interpretation of a refusal that we have received. The Decision Notice has cited sustainability as the only reason for refusal. Is sustainability/remoteness from community facilities valid as a ground (e) "impractical or undesirable" reason having regard to Para. 55 of the NPPF? Any help appreciated - decision wording posted below.

    The proposed development does not comprise permitted development under parts
    Schedule 2, Part 3, Class MB, of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted
    Development) (Amendment and Consequential Provisions) (England) Order 2014. This is
    because the development does not satisfy condition MB.2(1) Class MB(a)(e) as the site is
    located in a rural location remote from community services and essential support facilities,
    and is inaccessible by a range of transport modes. This would represent an unsustainable
    form of development which makes the location impractical for a change of use to a Class C3
    (dwellinghouse) use of the Schedule to the Use Classes Order.

  103. Further to my previous post, I think many Councils will rely on this as a "catch-all" and so the main question is do you agree this approach of linking undesirable location and unsustainable location is correct and, importantly, is this a stance the Inspectorate are likely to adopt? Once again your thoughts are much appreciated.

  104. Throughout the whole of Wiltshire there seems to be the position taken that any agricultural building which is not within a defined settlement boundary falls foul of the permitted development rights on the basis of it being unsustainable in locational terms. This seems perverse as obviously if a barn was located within a settlement boundary one would not require this permitted development as the building could simply being knocked down and replaced with new housing in accordance with adopted policy. I am advised that there is an appeal outstanding on this very issue in West Wiltshire which may be worth watching. If any bloggers have any examples of a local planning authority which has approved a prior notification for a barn outside of a defined settlement boundary that would be hugely useful if the link could be posted. I have also written to one of the civil servants at the planning Minister's office to ascertain in general terms what is meant by sustainability within prior notification procedures and I will endeavour to post the response here.

  105. @Anon (19.09)
    There have been 2 Class MB CoU Approved so far by Chelmsford City Council. Both are outside the settlement boundary. In fact each are within Green Belt:

    and 14/00656/COUPA

  106. I have been wondering for a while about the purpose of MB1(e) -
    "less than one year before the date development begins—
    (i) an agricultural tenancy over the site has been terminated, and
    (ii) the termination was for the purpose of carrying out development under Class MB,

    unless both the landlord and the tenant have agreed in writing that the site is no
    longer required for agricultural use;"

    If there is an extant tenancy under MB1(d) it seems to logically follow that PD cannot be confirmed. However, under (e), given the reference to "development begins" might it not be possible to condition the start date to the appropriate one year period but in the meantime address any conditions e.g. ecology / highways that the LPA might impose?

    Many Thanks

  107. Lack of time prevents my answering this latest query, but readers are welcome to offer suggestions.

  108. @Anon (22.09)

    MB.1(d) states development is not permitted if the site is occupied under an agricultural tenancy, unless express consent from both landlord and tenant has been obtained.

    If the tenancy has not been terminated prior to the application you would require consent from the tenant.

    Perhaps if the tenancy had been terminated prior then the description of the development could include that it would not commence until the anniversary of that termination and that would allow the LPA to ensure the criteria was met.

    Better for all though would be to obtain the tenant's consent.

  109. I obtained full planning permission for 2 barns to be converted and extended to form 2 dwellings in march 2014 subject to an affordable housing contribution. On finding out about the new pd rules I reapplied without the already passed extension. I was refused prior noitfication on the grounds of sustainability ( being too remote ) and on the fact that there would be 2 extra windows added to the existing openings .( far less change than the already passed double height glazed extension!) The barns have a bus stop 150 meters away served by 3 frequent bus routes. ( better public transport access than most suburban homes!)
    The new pd rights , it would seem are far harder to achieve than full planning! They would appear to have far too many loopholes for negative LPA's to refuse on unreasonable grounds. We are appealing at present.

  110. I obtained full planning permission for 2 barns to be converted and extended to form 2 dwellings in march 2014 subject to an affordable housing contribution. On finding out about the new pd rules I reapplied without the already passed extension. I was refused prior noitfication on the grounds of sustainability ( being too remote ) and on the fact that there would be 2 extra windows added to the existing openings .( far less change than the already passed double height glazed extension!) The barns have a bus stop 150 meters away served by 3 frequent bus routes. ( better public transport access than most suburban homes!)
    The new pd rights , it would seem are far harder to achieve than full planning! They would appear to have far too many loopholes for negative LPA's to refuse on unreasonable grounds. We are appealing at present.

  111. Just seen the first Portal Frame tin clad barn given the go ahead under the new rules.

  112. Portal frame tin clad barn, where? can you post a link to the planning application please?

  113. Ref 14/02027/PDMBS

  114. We currently have three applications under consideration for clients. I'll post anything useful I encounter. For one the GEA is 475sqm but the GIA is 436 sqm the LPA tried to resist as outside the 450 sqm limit but accepted the argument that floor area does indeed mean the area of the floor i.e. excluding external walls. We shall see what else they throw at us.

  115. can anyone shed any light on my refusal ? The LPA said my building hadn't been there for 10 years and refused even though other LPA s are saying that the interpretation is entirely different and if it was in Agricultural use before the cut off date March 2013 it is Permitted Development?

  116. We have approval for a conversion under Class MB for a barn where its curtilage area totals 450sq/m, our previous application where the area was over this by 50sq/m (although just for parking and turning) was refused. It seems different LPA's are interpreting the definition of curtilage differently...

  117. The pressures on my time recently have previously prevented my dealing with the anonymous query of 08/10/14. It seems the LPA may have got in a muddle over this. If the site was used solely for an agricultural use, as part of an established agricultural unit on 20th March 2013, then it does not matter for how long before that date it was used for that purpose, and there is certainly no rule that the use must have continued for 10 years. The planning officer seems to have confused this part of the rule with the requirement that if the site was brought into use after that date then the site must been used for ten years before the date the development begins. So this particular “10-year rule” applies only to ‘new’ agricultural uses (i.e. commencing after 20th March 2013). This looks like an obvious case for an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, but it might also be worth considering whether the LPA has in effect failed to give a valid decision in this case, so that the PD right has now ‘crystallised’ This would require a careful examination of the facts and all the circumstances and so I can make no useful comment as to whether this might be a practical way forward.

  118. Reported in the planning press the decision dismissing an appeal against refusal of Part MB is reference APP/E2734/A/14/2220495

    the main issue being
    whether or not the proposed residential use of
    the building is justified and desirable, having regard to the aims of national
    planning policy which seeks to restrict new housing development in the

    a key paragraph being

    It was apparent on my site visit that the appeal building is located a
    considerable distance away from important local services and facilities such as
    schools, shops, health centres and public transport. Indeed, the submitted
    application form states that the appeal building is a total of 600m away from
    Sharow Lane, Sharow, which is the nearest settlement. These factors, in
    combination with the open rural character of its surroundings, and the long
    agricultural access roads have led me to conclude that the appeal site is
    isolated in open countryside

    Im sure LPA's will add this to the armoury of objections and it makes one wonder as to the point of the legislation

  119. Hi,

    I've just had my class MB application turned down on the fact that although my site is only 619 meters away from the village they have said that due to the fact there is no pavement and its a A road you could not walk to the village from the site. There are 8 dwellings in my hamlet. If this class MB is for the rural community to diversify then how many sites are close enough to walk to a village. Most people living in a rural area choose to because they don't want to be close to town's, Cities or villages. As they choose to live outside the village they usually have a car. Most the applications I have read, the site would need to be accessed by a car. I can't see how this legislation is helping the rural community in diversifying.

  120. And another questionable Class MB appeal decision which begs the question: why do we bother?

  121. Like anonymous above I cannot see the point of this legislation if it is seeking to deliver new housing in the countryside if those locations have to be “ sustainable” in planning terms.

    Just thinking out loud as a way to tackle this issue it is noteworthy that the framework does allow for the conversion of existing buildings as an exception to avoiding isolated dwellings in the countryside and perhaps whilst producing any appeal documentation it is worth majoring on that fact.

    In addition I notice that many local authorities have proactive barn conversion policies in their development plan which although often contain certain criteria do not in my experience contain requirements as to the sustainable location of the barn itself.

    It would be interesting to hear other professionals views on this before starting up statements on behalf of clients for the refusals we have received

  122. Apologies if this is an obvious query or addressed previously.

    If a proposal meets all the criteria under Class MB and the 56 day period has lapsed can the LPA still issue a refusal notice after the 56 days?

    I note one application with my LPA at the moment where ecology issues were raised which would have probably led to a refusal (i.e. lack of sufficient information to assess ecological impact etc) however the 56 day period has long passed without a decision from the LPA. The applicant has now formally withdrawn the application so I guess they can lawfully carry out the development under the 56 day ruling however I think the LPA were minded to refuse had the application not been withdrawn. But i) could the LPA issue a refusal after 56 days and ii) would that refusal actually be valid and iii) would the applicant need to formally remove the refusal (i.e. reapply, appeal, lawful development certificate etc.) or can they just ignore it?


  123. if an LPA gives prior approval class MB and the application clearly states that they have allowed too much curtilage does this invalidate the application ?

  124. Without knowing exactly what happened, it is impossible to comment definitively on the latest query from BP, but the 56-day rule is an absolute one, and if the LPA has not given notice of their determination of the prior approval application by that deadline, then the right to proceed with the development is automatic (provided the development does actually qualify on all other grounds). If the LPA purports to refuse a prior approval application outside the 56-day period, they will be too late and that refusal will be of no effect.

    In principle there is no need to get the purported refusal removed, but an LDC application might be advisable if there is a genuine dispute about the legal position. The position is complicated in the case that BP has raised, because it appears that the applicant was persuaded to withdraw the prior approval application. If it was withdrawn after the expiry of the 56-day period, this raises a very interesting legal issue, which I would certainly not try to answer unless I were to be fully instructed on a professional basis.

  125. With regard to this morning's other query, the extent of the curtilage is a question of judgement. The statutory definition is this -
    “Curtilage” means, for the purposes of Class M, MA or MB only—
    (i) the piece of land, whether enclosed or unenclosed, immediately beside or
    around the agricultural building, closely associated with and serving the
    purposes of the agricultural building, or
    (ii) an area of land immediately beside or around the agricultural building no
    larger than the land area occupied by the agricultural building,
    whichever is the lesser”.

    I don’t understand what my anonymous correspondent means by saying that “the application clearly states that they have allowed too much curtilage”. If the LPA judges that the curtilage shown in the application complies with the statutory definition, then that’s that, unless someone else is sufficiently brave or foolhardy as to challenge the determination of the prior approval application in the High Court, which does seem a little unlikely.

  126. Ok regarding Curtilage I Mean the following . My LPA has been refusing applications on the basis that the applicants have asked for too much eg for a 300sq M building of floorspace you can only have 300sq M of garden / parking etc . Yet a neighbouring LPA has allowed 300sq M of conversion around 800sq M of garden etc . As this is national planning policy someone is claerly wrong and as this is meant to be a permitted development right ie if you meet certain criteria in your application you have the right to convert a building surely these applications are invalid? In any case all the LPAs should apply the same rules ?

  127. I was perhaps being a bit cavalier about the interpretation of the legislation, but it is primarily down to the LPA to do this. If they get it ‘wrong’ in the sense of allowing too much, then judicial review is really the only way that it can be corrected, and this is not a realistic option in most cases.

    If the LPA takes a strict view on the curtilage of the converted building (i.e. correct in relation to the statutory definition), then there really are no grounds for complaint. Those who apply to an LPA that seems to take a more relaxed (and arguably incorrect) view of the amount of curtilage allowed around a converted barn can count themselves lucky.

    For what it’s worth, I think the revised definition of ‘curtilage’ for these purposes which was shoved into the 2014 amendment to the GPDO is far too restrictive, but until or unless ministers can be persuaded to change it – that’s the law.

  128. On the 2nd attempt, I have just received Approval for my Change of Use Prior Notice.

    Of possible interest to a previous poster, it is a portal frame building with corrugated roof and upper sides, above a concrete-block lower walls.

    The Application is with Chelmsford, no. 14/01543/COUPA

    The initial refusal was due to the building being over the prescribed 450m^2 limit and how I had treated the extra. But we got agreement on how I could proceed in a way that would be acceptable to the Council.

    I feel I now need to find myself an Architectural Designer that can breath light and character into a rather featureless 65ft x 80ft cow shed...

    I have to thank Martin for this blog, it's provided the only information I have found available on these Class MB rules, and has really helped!

  129. very helpful site.we are having arguments as to the clarity of when the 1st day of 56 days starts.We had receipt acknowledged at 9.15 am on day of dropping in prior approval forms but the council say day 1 is the day after?? I am so confused!!

  130. another appeal decision dismissing an appeal on grounds of "sustainable location reference APP/Y3940/A/14/2222662

    This in effect in lots of LPA areas provides a more stringent test as part of a PN than most development plan policies relating to the conversion of rural buildings!

    one could ask as to the point of the GPDO change namely how many rural buildings to provide more housing in the countryside lie in sustainable locations !

  131. We submitted a Class MB prior approval application in July. 56 days passed without the LPA contacting us, on the 60th day we received a letter which was back dated to the 56th day but posted on the 59th day stating that "We are of the opinion that permission/consent is required for the above proposal. This is the opinion of an officer and is not binding on the council. the reason for this decision are:1 The wording of condition 2 appended to planning permission MA/02/1805 means that the building cannot be converted to residential use without seeking planning permission from the council. in the circumstances this automatically excludes conversion of the building to a dwelling using the prior approval procedure."
    The original application was for building polytunnels the storage building and car parking area.
    The condition states " The development hereby permitted shall only be used for agriculture as defined in section 336 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended)and shall not be used for retail sales of any goods/products or plants that are not grown on the site.
    Reason: Retail sales would represent inappropriate development in the countryside contrary to policies ENV28and ENV43 of the local plan.
    Can I assume that consent already exists under the 56 day rule and does the letter constitute a legal formal decision


  132. We've got Arun DC saying the 56 days runs from their validation, not receipt. Can I tell them to park their bike?

  133. The wording of paragraph N in Part 3 is such that time runs from the day following the date of receipt of the prior approval application – i.e. the date of actual receipt does not count as one of the 56 days, and it is abundantly clear from the wording of the legislation that the date of registration or purported ‘validation’ is totally irrelevant. Any local planning authority that thinks that time does not begin to run until they have got around to formally accepting the application as a valid application is living in Cloud Cuckoo Land, and so (as Michael Fletcher puts it) they can be told to “park their bike”!

    Under the terms of paragraph N in Part 3, the development may be begun upon the expiry of 56 days following the date on which the application was received by the local planning authority without the authority notifying the applicant as to whether prior approval is given or refused. This is, however, subject to the development qualifying in all respects under Class MB, and it is also subject to the prior approval application complying with the detailed requirements of paragraph N. If either of those two sets of criteria is not met in full, the permitted development right under Class MB does not arise and the development cannot lawfully be carried out.

  134. I'd be very interested in knowing if there is a consensus emerging on what constitutes an isolated location in terms of point e: “whether the location or siting of the building makes it otherwise impractical or undesirable for the building to change from agricultural use to residential use”
    I’ve seen one application declined that is over 600meters from settlement.
    I’ve seen an inspectors report saying another application can not be supported due to it’s isolated position but this application is inconveniently not opening on the Teignbridge DC planning portal, so no idea how far from settlement. Plenty of approved ones that are adjacent / joined to settlement.
    I have a barn that is just 97meters from settlement and public highway. I will need to address the highway impact of the development but the other elements should all be fine.
    But is 100m from settlement isolated and impractical?
    The barn could lend itself to a conversion to a walking and cycling bunkbarn as footpaths and cycle trails are nearby (20 & 30meters away footpaths). Would this be seen as more favourable as it would meet the “Supporting prosperous Rural economy” Chapter 3 of NPPF?
    I’m approaching Durham CC to ask them what their procedure on this is and if they have any emerging clarity on the matter – I’ll post my findings if they send any.
    Thanks Bruce D

  135. I am perplexed. I have put in an application for a building that was used for agricultural storage on 20th March 2013. A year later, a horse was kept in the building for less than a month, and the building has been used for agricultural storage from then to the present. The planning officer dealing with my application says that in her opinion this goes against the conditions. I don't understand how? Surely the 20th March use is the primary concern, if it was used on that day. Would signing an affidavit stating the use on that day help at all?

  136. Today's anonymous query seems to be another example of an LPA getting in a muddle over this ( - see my reply on 13/10/14 to a similar query raised on 8/10/14).

    If the site was used solely for an agricultural use, as part of an established agricultural unit on 20th March 2013, then it does not matter whether it may have been put to some other use since then.

    This may be another case for appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, but it might also be worth considering whether the LPA has in effect failed to give a valid decision in this case within the 56-day period, so that the PD right has now ‘crystallised’. This would require a careful examination of the facts and all the circumstances and so I can make no useful comment as to whether this might be a practical way forward.

  137. Further to the comments of Bruce I have a refusal on the basis that "my" site lies outside of the defined settlement boundary and therefore the site is unsustainable! This is despite a previous PP to convert the building to holiday let which was never implemented.

    It appears that Wiltshire Council are taking due pride in having refused all PN submission so far!

  138. Dear Martin

    For readers of thi forum Ive finally found a positive appeal result to help them with their applications This does throw the door open and appears to contradict other appeals in some ways
    Hope it helps your readers

  139. The appeal decision referred to in the above comment is indeed encouraging. Curiosity tempts me to wonder whether the appellant’s costs application was successful as well. Unfortunately, it seems that too many inspectors are prepared to side with the LPA in these cases, and so this is a welcome exception.

    [By the way, the appeal reference given in the comment above is not a hyper-link, but if you copy and paste the whole reference into your browser it should take you straight to the appeal decision.]

  140. Durham CC failed to clarify anything relating to how they assess isolated locations! But I sadly missed the bit about exclusion within Conservation Areas, so I'll need to make a full application.
    I did find a very useful and informative guidance on this mater from Sedgemoor DC:
    Good luck folks and thanks Bruce

  141. Many thanks for this appeal decision link which at least makes due regard of P55 of the Framework and therefore some "point" in amending the GPDO in this manner

  142. All very interesting and the appeal would be helpful but the Ref didn't throw anything up in searching....any chance of a better Ref number to help the search/viewing?

  143. It worked for me, and I typed it out in full while it was still an un-moderated draft comment. Are you sure you put in the entire reference down to and including “...... pdf” ?

  144. APP/P1045/A/14/2223545

  145. To access the above appeal decision, you will need to go to the Planning Portal website and enter the appeal reference number there.

  146. I have just re submitted my class MB. We were turned down on being only 619 metres away from a school the LPA wouldn't encourage walking along the A road. Since then we have found a footpath that leads to the school. however this is longer but does give another route. I was told a re submission is free however I have been charged £172 by Torridge counci as I've been told class MB'S are exempt from this. Has anyone else had this experience?

  147. Michael Fletcher2 December 2014 at 10:03

    The facts are these:

    GPDO MB Application given on 11.9.14

    Chichester DC issues letter confirming " your application was received on.x., and valid on.y..

    Fee was paid a few days later as CDC will not accept payment until they have applied a case number. This leads to date y

    The SI gives in 4 parts the contents of an application PN. A,B,C,D.. etc

    THEN it says.... and payment of fee, in al line below the descriptive of what comprises a PN application.

    It is not possible to make payment of a fee TOGETHER with an application in any means but by cash. Few LPAs will accept cash.

    LPA's are assuming it runs from validity, not their stated date of receipt.

    However the application was submitted and acknowledged by the LPA and stated as received on x in a letter from them.

    56 days have passed, and some time after that the LPA issues a refusal stating its within 56 days after validity

    We are aware of the case on PNO's but there do not actually say that the payment of fee was essential at the time of receipt, nor does it say that the confirmation of receipt by the LPA is overridden.

    I say that if the LPA says it received on x then it received on x, and the time runs. If not then their word means nothing.

    The LPA is, of course arguing 56 days form their preferred instance, despite their own written statement of receipt.

    It seems that I cannot appeal, or it could be argued one accepts the validity of their refusal letter.

    Accordingly I'm obliged to proceed in breach.

    What are your thoughts


    Michael Fletcher

  148. Michael Fletcher’s question does pose a genuine dilemma, as the application is not complete until the fee is paid, and so time did not begin to run in this case until the latter date.

    Maybe the fee should have been paid at the same time as the application went in (notwithstanding the apparent practice of this LPA). If the correct payment is tendered, the LPA could hardly claim it had not been ‘received’ on that date, even if they did not accept it at that time.

    I am not au fait with banking law, and so am unable to say whether an LPA is obliged to accept a cheque, but (subject this point being clarified) if a cheque is delivered to the council, I think one could reasonably claim that the fee has been paid. If the LPA is going to play silly games, then perhaps a little low cunning is required to ensure that they actually get the payment, even if they then claim to have rejected it. Leaving an envelope addressed to the Planning Department, containing the application and a cheque, and simply asking them to pass it on might be a way of doing it. Posting it is another alternative, but then you won’t know precisely when it was received, and therefore when the 56-day period commences.

  149. Can someone apply for prior approval under two separate applications- for matters a to e and the for the operational development?

    If this is so wouldn't the assessment of the desirability of the conversion be harder for the LPA as it would be without full knowledge of appearance of the scheme. On the basis of inspectors decisions these details have helped to determine 'desirability'.

  150. "the cumulative number of separate dwellinghouses developed within an established agricultural unit exceeds three" seems to be a slack wording as what if the farm has non implemented but nevertheless live planning permissions for conversions. They have not been developed so presumably cannot be counted. Does the original farm house count at all?

  151. I agree with Mike Parkes that the wording in the statutory instrument is unclear. Frankly, we shall just have to wait and see what view is taken by inspectors on appeal and (if anyone feels sufficiently strongly about it to take the point further) any High Court judgment on this issue that may emerge in due course.

  152. In answer to ‘Unknown’ (10 December)- as I read the amendment order, the change of use and the operational development each require separate prior approval. In theory, these might be dealt with piecemeal, but I suspect that applicants will run into difficulties if they attempt to separate the two issues. Planning officers can be expected to demand that the two issues should be considered together, and a refusal of prior approval might well follow in a case where a conversion that clearly requires operational development to make the building suitable for residential use is not accompanied by an appropriate application for prior approval of those works.

  153. Another refusal.
    Reason: too much rebuilding - despite a structural engineer's report concluding "in our view, the building is indeed
    structurally sound for the purposes of a conversion to residential dwellings and a minimal amount of
    rebuilding is required to carry out the proposed plans."
    I thought that one big plus point of these regs was that plenty of rebuilding was allowed anyway!
    A case for an appeal?

  154. Martin if one summits an MB application on line say at 4pm on a friday does the first day of the 56 begin on the next day saturday or the following monday

  155. Provided that the prior approval application is correct and complete (complying with the requirements of paragraph N) and is accompanied by the correct fee, Day 1 is the day after its receipt by the Council which in this case is the Saturday. Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays all count towards the 56 days. Local Planning Authorities need to take this into account when processing these prior approval applications.

  156. Has anyone heard of any more appeals, apart from the one at Land south of Halfway House, Clifton Road, Clifton, Ashbourne, Derbyshire that have gone through in favour of the applicant?

  157. Hi
    Have posted before in relation to an MB application, was refused on the grounds of domestic storage within my agricultural building, was not asked by planning department anything relating to this, so then I appealed this reason and was able to prove the agricultural use on specified dates in 2013. Inspector accepts my proof but dismisses appeal on the grounds of isolation from settlements, are they allowed to bring up new issues that the local planners did not have a problem with? Also I had an issue with timescale we could prove that the planning department had rec'd details the previous day to the day in which they were saying the application had been validated, but it turns out they have a clause in which forms rec'd electronically are not counted until the following day. Now could I use the argument that if they informed me electronically could I use the same argument, if so they then would be out of the 56 day timescale.

  158. Another refusal. We put the application in for a second time. Having been told the it should be free we still had to pay another £172. the first refusal was they said that although we were close enough to walk to the village they didn't want to encourage walking along the A road. We provided a different route of a public footpath which goes to the school. This time they turned it down saying although there is a footpath you could walk there is no lights so is not exceptable even though they have passed one at the other side of the village which is a much further walk to the village and is a single track road with lots of dangerous blind bends and no footpath, verges or street lights. It seems a complete waste of time. We can nearly see the school from the end of our private road. If that's not close enough then I don't know what is!

  159. From our research there have only been three (!) allowed Appeals so far - all the rest have been dismissed. These are in Hart District Council, North Dorset District Council and Cornwall Council. The references for these are 2225012, 2225593, 2223754. I am monitoring around 20 more and will post any allowed appeal reference when (or if) they come through.

  160. Martin,

    If you get prior approval for the barn conversion to residential, do you lose your permitted development rights or would you retain them as you would on a residential house? I understand you lose your PD rights to build an agricultural building for 10 years after approval.

  161. Where a residential conversion of an agricultural building has been carried out as permitted development under Class MB, permitted development under Part 6 is entirely excluded if it would consist of the erection or extension of any agricultural building on an established agricultural unit (as defined in paragraph O of Part 3) within a period of 10 years after the residential conversion takes place. This prohibition applies to the whole of the agricultural unit on which the building which has been converted to a dwelling is situated.

    Furthermore, the permitted development which can normally be carried out under Part 1 of the Second Schedule to the GPDO (relating to development within the curtilage of a dwellinghouse) is entirely excluded where a residential conversion of an agricultural building has been carried out as permitted development under Class MB. The removal of permitted development under Part 1 applies without time limit, but only affects the building which has been converted to a dwelling.

    These restrictions do not amount to an absolute prohibition of the types of development to which they relate, but merely make it necessary to apply for planning permission if it is proposed to carry out any such development.

  162. Cornwall Council has sought to maintain that MB(a) and MB(b) cannot be separated into two applications.

    APP/D0840/A/14/2225410 05 January 2015 directly supports the LPA's contention.

    APP/D0840/A/14/2223754 13 January 2015 directly refutes the LPA's contention.

    The reasoning for 2225410 seems to be less relevant to the issue at hand, focussing more on what level of information is required to satisfy N2(a) and N2(b).

    Your thoughts are welcome.

  163. As Walter notes, there have been recent conflicting appeal decisions on this point (both in Cornwall).

    On balance, it would be advisable when making a prior approval application under Class MB to submit an application for prior approval of any necessary building operations at the same time as the application for prior approval of the change of use (unless the building works to adapt the building will affect only the interior of the building, or will not materially affect its external appearance).

    There is an argument (which was clearly accepted by one of the inspectors) that compliance with the qualifying criteria, restrictions etc. cannot be properly assessed in relation to the Class MB(a) application, if details of the necessary building operations are not supplied at the same time. In practice, this would seem to confirm the advisability of submitting the Class MB(b) application together with the Class MB(a) application.

  164. Hi Thanks for an interesting blog. We have a decision from LPA stating that prior notification of change of use is 'not required'. Your blog covers 'refusal' and 'permitted' with conditions but 'not required'? Can you clarify for me whether the proposed conversion of a barn to C3 dwelling can now go ahead without any appeal? Or does this mean full planning permission is require Do?

  165. The ‘prior approval' application is in fact an application as the whether the LPA’s prior approval will be required. Although it may be unusual in practice, if the LPA issues a notification stating in clear terms that their prior approval will not be required, then the applicant is free to proceed with the development. In fact, paragraph N specifically provides for the situation where “the receipt by the applicant from the local planning authority of a written notice of their determination that such prior approval is not required” (paragraph N(9)(a)).


  167. Pressure of time has prevented my answering Semper40’s query of 11 January. So far as the appeal is concerned, the inspector is looking at the matter entirely afresh, and so he is entitled to find other reasons for refusal. As regards the 56-day rule, I have today published a blog post on that topic, which should answer the query.

  168. Continuing this very useful thread this looks an interesting decision does anyone have further details please

    The conversion of a group of farm buildings in Derbyshire to three dwellings complied with Class MB of Part 3 to Schedule 2 of the GPDO 1995, an inspector has held, also concluding that the scheme had been well designed despite ruling that the site lay in an unsustainable location

  169. I spotted a brief report of this decision the other day, but don’t have the actual appeal reference. It looks to be an interesting decision, but does appear to be somewhat out of line with other appeal decisions under Class MB, which seem to take a fairly consistent anti-development line.

  170. This decision sounds promising. Perhaps they are finally realising that agricultural buildings are not in the middle of towns.
    If anyone has the appeal reference that would be great as I have an appeal in at the moment. We are only 300 metres away from a school and about 600 metres to the centre of the village with all its services. We got turned down on location!

  171. Regarding the 56 day period; Winchester City Council recently missed the date by one day, hence the grant of permission.

    The application reference is 14/01329/PNACOU and the applicant has since obtained a Lawful Development Cert to this effect.

    So its not all bad news!

  172. I am now trawling through a number of queries which somehow got missed when they were first posted. Although it may now be rather too late to be of practical assistance to Roger, the answer to his query of 9 November may of wider interest.

    If the council did not post the notification of their decision until Day 59, then they were definitely out of time, notwithstanding that they may have taken the decision within the 56-day period. However, if the building did not in fact qualify for conversion under Class MB then the 56-day period becomes irrelevant.

    So this scenario raises another point – namely whether the condition does in fact prevent residential conversion. I am very doubtful whether this condition necessarily had that effect. Read as a whole, it seems to be focused on the prohibition of retail sales. I suspect that the key to this question may be found in the stated reason for this condition. It would have to demonstrate some specific planning reason as to why it was necessary to impose this condition and what purpose it was intended to serve. This issue has been discussed elsewhere in the blog, and cases such as Dunoon Developments and several other judicial authorities may well be relevant here. Unfortunately, without a very detailed examination of all the circumstances, it would be impossible to give a definitive answer in the present case. However, the case raises a sufficient element of doubt to justify making an application under section 192 for a Lawful Development Certificate, in order to test this point.

    If it turns out that the condition does not prevent the residential conversion of the building, then the right to carry out the development under Class MB of Part 3 will now be automatic, as the authority failed to give notice of their determination within the 56-day period.

  173. I am currently going through some very old comments which have previously been missed. An answer now would probably be too late to assist the actual enquirer, but may be of wider interest.

    In answer to the two queries from SOPHIE G on 12 September last year, the stated reason for refusal citing sustainability and calling in aid paragraph 55 of the NPPF is fairly common in Class MB cases, and such reasons for refusal have tended to be upheld by Inspectors on appeal. This may not be what ministers intended, but is certainly in accordance with the drafting of this particular provision in the GPDO, which gives the LPA markedly wider discretion to turn down these developments on planning grounds than some of the other classes of development in Part 3.

  174. Do you think they could turn down a development on sustainablilty if it falls within:

    "Rural Residential Conversion Area (HO9) (The site lies within an area where the re-use of an existing good quality building as a dwelling may be permitted)."?

  175. In answer to the anonymous query of 19 February, the “Rural Residential Conversion Area” (Policy HO9) will clearly be a material consideration, although no policy in itself can be determinative as to the issue of sustainability in dealing with a prior approval application; so “it depends”.

  176. Hi martin, I follow your blog on Class MB with interest as I have recently been approached by a client who has been refused consent by Tewkesbury Borough Council on the basis that the sewage treatment plant could not be contained within the permitted residential curtilage. The dwelling is very small (65 sqm) and therefore the limited curtilage area of 65 sqm is much too small for the sewage system so the septic tank and soakaway have to go in the field beyond. In other councils the position and type of sewage system has been dealt with by pre-commencement condition or not even mentioned at all! Is this a valid reason for refusal?

  177. JulieB raises an interesting point. If the septic tank cannot be accommodated within the curtilage (which is very restricted, due to the tight definition of ‘curtilage’ in paragraph O) then it would seem that a separate planning application may be required for the engineering works involved in providing the sewerage facilities off-site.

    It may be acceptable in these circumstances to impose a pre-commencement condition (or, alternatively, a ‘Grampian’ condition) on the prior approval under Class MB to ensure the provision of the necessary sewerage facilities, although I can understand that different LPAs may have different views on this. I cannot predict how a planning inspector might deal with this on appeal, but there is only one way to find out.

  178. I believe new guidance has just been released.

    DCLG have issued guidance today on Permitted Development for the Change of Use of Agricultural buildings to;

    Flexible Use (M)
    Educational Use ( MA) or (C )
    Residential Use (C3)

    Of most interest is the guidance on the Change of Use to Residential.
    Key matters relate to:

    Confirmation that the three dwelling limitation does not include existing properties, unless they were created under PD Rights previously.
    Building Work – The building must be structurally strong enough to take the loading which comes with the external works, and therefore construction of new structural elements is unlikely to be accepted.
    LPAs are to consider the NFFP only where it is relevant to the matter on which Prior Approval is sought e.g. Transport, Highways and Noise etc.
    Sustainability – Permitted Development Rights do not apply a test in relation to sustainability of location. DCLG note this is deliberate as it is recognised many agricultural buildings are outside village settlements and may not be able to rely on public transport.
    LPAs can consider whether location and siting of the building would make it impractical or undesirable to change the use. However they should apply a reasonable definition in making judgement. Impractical could reflect a location and siting that would not be sensible or realistic and undesirable may reflect a position that is deemed harmful or objectionable.

    LPAs should work on the premise that Permitted Development grants permission subject to Prior Approval and the fact that a building may be in a location where planning permission would not normally be granted is not sufficient reason for refusing Prior Approval.
    Consideration of location and siting should not require any tests within the NPPF to be applied. Factors such as whether the property is for a rural worker are unlikely to be relevant.
    The Guidance is concise and not necessarily comprehensive but what it does seek to do is resolve the underlying issues that have been identified over the last nine months.
    There is now opportunity for those that have been refused to reconsider their proposals in light of this guidance

    - See more at:

  179. This new information seems really hopefully.
    How does this stand with appeals that are already in place and have only been turned down on location. Which this new information is saying shouldn't be considered in class MB applications. Should the LPA withdraw from the appeal or does it still have to carry on?

  180. (The comment above, and this reply, both relate to the new post on the re-interpretation of the rules, published this week.)

    I very much suspected that someone would raise this point, not only in relation to pending appeals but in relation to some which have already been decided.

    Clearly, the LPA will be in a very weak position if they took a decision which was at variance with the revised guidance. The appeal will be decided in light of the position now, and not by reference to the LPA’s understanding of the position at the time of their determination of the prior approval application. A graceful withdrawal by the LPA in these circumstances may be the only practicable option.

    As regards appeals that have already been decided, where the allegedly ‘unsustainable’ location of the site was the only substantive reason for refusal, applicants may wish to consider making a fresh application. For various reasons, it is very unlikely that the previous appeal can be re-opened, and so a fresh prior approval application would seem to be the way to go.

  181. Thank you so much for the advice. I have been told though that even if the LPA withdraw the appeal still has to go through, it just means they won't fight it. Seems a waste of time and money to me. I thought if they withdrew then it would mean we won and the permission was granted. I suppose that's just wishful thinking!

  182. Interestingly, I appealed against refusal by my LPA, their reasons for refusal were thrown out and it was the inspector who turned it down on the rural location away from any settlements, which to me was strange as it was not an issue with my LPA. What do you think my position would be on resubmission. I thought there was some sort of caveat relating to not allowing an application again within a couple of years.


  183. In reply to “semper40”, I suggest applying again. This is not a planning application, so the LPA has no power to decline to deal with a fresh prior approval application. This time, the remote rural location should not be an issue, and in light of the inspector’s decision on the first appeal, the other issues should not arise again.

  184. We had mb(a) given last August and after arriving at a suitable design we applied for mb(b) in February but our LPA took it as a and b not just b , with a different planning officer she decided to refuse it so effectively we have lost mb(a)-to say we are frustrated is an understatement. We are planning to fight this and are about to take legal advice from planning experts as we can't see we have much to lose.

  185. We have just had Prior Approval refused on our barn. The reason given by the LA is that as part of the original planning approval, a condition was placed on the barn stating it could only be used for agricultural purposes. The LA agrees this is what it is currently used for, but has stated this condition is a ‘show stopper’ as Prior Approval cannot be used because the barn has this condition. Is this correct? Does this condition mean the barn can never have a change of use?

  186. The answer to Alison’s query (5 April) is “Not necessarily.”

    Take a look at this post of 22 April 2014 (“Uses restricted by condition - some further thoughts”)

    Depending on the wording of the condition, the LPA might possibly be wrong.

  187. Does the driveway, splays and turning areas all have to be included within the curtilage constraints (i.e. no larger than the footprint of the building to be converted to residential?)

  188. In answer to this query, I would suggest not. The provision of a highway access will be permitted development under Part 2, Class B (not Part 3), and so the prior approval application need not [and indeed cannot, by reason of the area involved] include the access or any other minor operations that will be carried out under Part 2 (although it might be helpful if you were to point out to the planners in submitting the prior approval application that you will be relying on permitted development rights under Part 2 so far as the access is concerned).

    The access will clearly come within the provisions of Part 2, Class B, as it is required in connection with development permitted by another Class in Schedule 2 to the GPDO (in this case Class Q of Part 3). No prior approval application is required in respect of permitted development under Part 2.

  189. Thanks for taking the time to reply. It seems to me a very hazy area with this particular legislation. We have just been refused on the basis of the following:

    'By reason of the fact that the proposed driveway, parking, manoeuvring area and visibility splays are outside the building's curtilage area under the provisions of Schedule 2, Part 3, Class Q of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development ) Order 2015 and consequently fall outside the scope of permitted development under this Order.

    Do we have a leg to stand on taking this decision to Appeal and should I call the Planning Officer to discuss the matter?


  190. The driveway and visibility splays may be permitted development under Part 2, Class B (and so do not need to feature in the prior approval application under Part 3), although this depends on several factors which would take too long to explain here but which are covered in my forthcoming book (to be published in October).

    However, Part 2 probably won’t cover parking and manoeuvring areas. I suppose, arguably, you don’t need a formally designated ‘manoeuvring area’ as this would probably be an entirely informal arrangement with the farmer that should have no planning implications. So this just leaves parking. It is not a proper concern of the council as to where you might park (so long as it’s not on the highway), although if land outside the curtilage of the newly created dwelling is used for parking this may constitute a material change of use of that land. So it would be best to see if you can find somewhere within the (admittedly very restricted) curtilage where any regular parking could take place. Occasional parking by visitors outside the curtilage, especially if it is not in any one identifiable place, might not amount to a change of use.

    If it turns out that the access and visibility splays can’t be provided as permitted development under Part 2, a separate planning application will be required for those aspects of the development, but this would not prevent the residential conversion of the building itself (and a small curtilage) being permitted development under Class Q of Part 3, subject to prior approval.

    An appeal may not be the way forward here, as the points mentioned above need to be addressed first. The usual disclaimer applies (as set out on the Introduction page) – these comments are not to be taken as legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.

  191. Hi, I have previously been granted prior approval and subsequently went back in with a full planning application for the demolition of the existing barn to be replaced with a two storey dwelling at a similar height. The reason being that the original building could only structurally support a single storey dwelling. One of our arguments was that the prior approval for a residential dwelling should be a material consideration when assessing a proposed new dwelling.....The LPA were not of the same opinion and I was wondering what your thoughts were please?

    Also wondering if the prior approval once implemented allows me to extend under Part 1 Class A of the GPDO?



  192. Prior approval of permitted development is very unlikely to be accepted as an argument for the grant of planning permission, even for an identical development. So I am afraid I cannot offer any comfort to this enquirer on this point. Permitted development under Part 1 is specifically precluded in the case of dwellings created by change of use under Part 3, Classes M, N, P or Q, so this is a non-starter too.

  193. Hi, very interesting article Martin. Would adding a first floor within an existing single storey agricultural building be classed as structural works and therefore fall outside of the scope of this PD right?

  194. In answer to my anonymous correspondent of 22 October, my own view is that the installation of what is in effect a ‘mezzanine’ floor is not development, because it is exempted by section 55(2)(a) provided it affects only the interior of the building and/or it does not affect the building’s external appearance. However, a restrictive interpretation of the government’s online planning practice guidance (as amended in March 2015) might suggest that if it is carried out in connection with a change of use under Class Q this could be seen as falling outside the scope of the development permitted by that class. I would nevertheless be prepared to argue that extra structural elements of this sort are entirely lawful, so long as they remain purely internal. I have discussed this point at some length in my new book, A Practical Guide to Permitted Changes of Use, but the position is bound to remain uncertain until or unless it is litigated in the High Court.

  195. Hello,
    We would like to change part of our agricultural barn using
    permitted development to class M. We want to use under 150sqm
    so that we do fall into the size which needs to be judged on
    increased traffic etc. Can we convert part of our barn or can the planners insist we include all the building.

  196. I am sorry that there has been a delay in publishing the comment of 16 December, and in my responding to it. I assume the anonymous enquirer is referring to Class R (which was formerly Class M under the 1995 GPDO). Class R permits the change of use of an agricultural building to a flexible use (which can be within Use Class A1, A2, A3, B1, B8, C1 or D2). As I have explained in my book, A Practical Guide to Permitted Changes of Use, the definition of a ‘building’ includes part of a building, so in principle the proposed change of use should be permissible under Class R.

    The floorspace limit in Class R applies to the floor area converted (not to the size of the building as a whole, in contrast to Class P). The absolute limit is 500 sq m, but if the area converted under Class R exceeds 150 sq m then prior approval will be required in respect of various matters, including any noise impacts of the development. In some Class Q cases, noise from the continuing agricultural use of the unconverted part of the building has led to the refusal of prior approval (which has been upheld on appeal). The uses to which the part of the building converted can be put under Class R may not be so noise-sensitive as a residential use, but this might still be an issue where noise from the agricultural use of the rest of the building might impact adversely on the permitted uses under Class R.

  197. Hello, I have been granted permitted development under MB to convert my barn into a dewelling, this was approved in August 2014, we had conditions attached, but there discharged now. Currently the barn has a flat roof but we want to pitch it, I know it says you can replace/install a roof, can I pitch it under the permitted development rights? Also the barn is 2 levels, one end is higher than the other can I take all the barn up to the highest point?
    Thanks Tom Goodall

  198. In answer to Tom Goodall (no relation), Class Q does not allow building operations that would go outside the envelope of the original building, so the answer is ‘No’. Furthermore, PD rights under Part 1 (domestic extensions, including roof extensions) are also excluded where PD has taken place under Class Q.

    So a planning application will be required for any works to change the roof from flat to pitched, assuming this amounts to an enlargement of the roof space. Even if the roof is not to be enlarged, it still can't be PD under Part 1, so unless it was approved under Class Q(b) as part of the prior approval of the residential conversion, it will require its own planning permission.

  199. Hi

    Can anyone confirm whether the max floor space of 450m2 for barn convertion is the original footprint of the barn or the overall once completed? We are looking to buy a barn of 45m2 foot print. can we put a first floor in which would double the interior floor space but would not change the footprint of the existing building

  200. In answer to Ruth (2 March), there are two separate floorspace limits that apply to Class Q. First, the cumulative floorspace changing use under Class Q must not exceed 450 sq m. So in this case you simply look at the actual floor area converted under the old Class MB and/or under Class Q, together with the floor area now to be converted. If the total of these areas exceeds 450 sq m, then residential conversion under Class Q is not permitted. Secondly, the development (together with any previous development under Class MB/Q) must not result in a building or buildings having more than 450 sq m of floor space in residential use.

    The only distinction that I can see between these two rules is that the first one simply refers to existing floorspace actually converted, whereas the second rule could also include any extra floorspace created by (for example) the addition of a mezzanine floor. So if extra floorspace is created in this way, it will count towards the 450 sq m limit.

    If anyone else has a view on this particular rule, I would be pleased to hear from them.