Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Class Q revisited


It always seems to take a little time for the dust to settle after an amendment to the GPDO has been made before people begin to get their heads around the changes and what they really mean.

I have now had the chance to review the changes to Class Q in more detail, and have also read some intriguing comments on the Planning Jungle website which suggest that a significant loophole has been created as regards the cumulative total of development that is now permitted under this class.

First, there is an issue that has been a subject of discussion in this blog recently, as to whether a prior approval application can be made under Class Q which relates only to Class Q(a), while postponing to a subsequent application any prior approval application in respect of necessary building operations. Class Q was reworded in the 2015 GDO as made, compared with the wording of Class MB in the 1995 Order, and in my view this was intended to make it clear that a prior approval application could no longer be made under Class Q(a) alone, except in those cases (if any) where no building operations affecting the external appearance of the pre-existing building would be required in order to carry out its residential conversion [or where such building operations will be dealt with by a separate planning application, if they go outside the permissible limits of Class Q(b)]. It seems, however, that some inspectors were nevertheless persuaded that a prior approval application could be made under Class Q(a) alone, even where a subsequent prior approval application would be required under Class Q(b).

One aspect of the further re-wording of Class Q in the latest amendment order, on which I have not previously commented, is a change to the definition of the permitted development that can be carried out under this Class. This now provides that the development permitted is EITHER (a) a change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage from a use as an agricultural building to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses), OR (b) development comprising BOTH the change of use permitted by paragraph (a), AND building operations reasonably necessary to convert the building to residential use. Thus Class Q(b) is no longer confined to building operations alone, but embraces the change of use as well as necessary building operations.

A prior approval application under Class Q(a) will therefore serve no useful purpose, except in those rare cases where all the necessary conversion works are purely internal [or where more extensive building operations, beyond the scope of Class Q(b), are intended]. If building operations affecting the external appearance of the property will be required under the terms of Class Q(b), the Class Q(b) application will necessarily include consideration of all the matters listed in paragraph Q.2(1) relating to the change of use, and not simply the one item in sub-paragraph (f) (the design or external appearance of the building). It is therefore clear that an application must be made under Class Q(b) [not Class Q(a)] where building operations within the scope of Class Q(b) will be required, and in accordance with paragraph W(2) this prior approval application must in any event be accompanied by a written description of the proposed development, which must include any building or other operations. It is only if no building operations within the scope Class Q(b) will be required, or if the intended building operations are outside the scope of Class Q(b), so as to require a separate planning application for those works, that a prior approval application under Class Q(a) will be appropriate.

Turning to the number and floorspace limits in the newly substituted paragraph Q.1(b), (c) and (d), the cumulative number of separate larger dwellinghouses (i.e. between 100 sq m and 465 sq m each) developed under Class Q must not exceed 3 within a single agricultural unit. However, the cumulative floorspace of the existing building or buildings changing use to a larger dwellinghouse or dwellinghouses under Class Q must not exceed a total of 465 sq m. So you can’t build three 465 sq m dwellings on the same agricultural unit. The average size of the larger dwellinghouses (if the maximum of three were to be converted) could be no more than 155 sq m, but they might comprise perhaps one at 110 sq m, one at 140 sq m and one at 215 sq m, or any other combination not exceeding 465 sq m in total, and not exceeding a total of three in number.

In the case of smaller dwellinghouses (i.e. not exceeding 100 sq m each) the cumulative number of these developed under Class Q must not exceed 5. But it is important to bear in mind that the total of all dwellinghouses converted under Class Q on the same agricultural unit cannot in any event exceed five. Thus the absolute maximum floorspace that can be converted to residential use is going to be 465 + 400 = 865 sq m, comprising no more than 5 dwellings in total, of which no more than three can exceed 100 sq m in size, and none of them can individually exceed 465 sq m. You can cut the cards whatever way you like, but you cannot create more than 865 sq m of residential floorspace in total (including mezzanine floors) and the maximum number of dwellings you can create cannot exceed five in total. In practice, it seems unlikely that there would be just one large dwelling of 465 sq m and four of 100 sq m; a more likely scenario would be three dwellings totalling 465 sq m in aggregate plus 2 x 100 sq m = 665 sq m.

I don’t think there can be much doubt that this was what was intended by the revised legislation, but I have not addressed the intriguing drafting error that has apparently been identified by Planning Jungle. The way that Part 3 works is that each Class first defines what the permitted development consists of, and then goes on (in paragraph Q.1, in the case of Class Q) to define the circumstances in which development is not permitted. So far so good, and my paraphrase above summarises the provisions of that paragraph. However, at the end of Class Q, there is now a new paragraph, Q.3 - “Interpretation of Class Q”. This defines “larger dwellinghouse” as a dwellinghouse developed under Class Q “which has a floor space of more than 100 sq m and no more than 465 sq m.” It follows that a dwellinghouse with a floorspace greater than 465 sq m falls outside the definition of a “larger dwellinghouse” entirely. But the provisions of paragraph Q.1 refer only to “a larger dwellinghouse or dwellinghouses” [as so defined] and do not place any limitation on the floorspace of any dwellings that do not fall into the definition of either “a smaller dwellinghouse” or “a larger dwellinghouse”. There remains an overall limit of five dwellings in total (not limited or defined by reference to their size), but it is argued by Planning Jungle (and I do not disagree with this, even though I am sure it was not intended by the draftsman) that Class Q as now revised appears to permit up to five dwellings of unlimited size on a single agricultural unit, subject (of course) to their being converted from pre-existing agricultural buildings, within the terms of Class Q.

In fairness, it is acknowledged that there is paragraph Q.1(d), which provides that development is not permitted “if the development under Class Q ……… would result in …….. a larger dwellinghouse or larger dwellinghouses having more than 465 square metres of floor space”. However, as pointed out in Planning Jungle, the reference in paragraph Q.1(d) to “a larger dwellinghouse or larger dwellinghouses” brings us back to the difficulty of the definition in paragraph Q.3, which on the face of it clearly confines the definition of “a larger dwellinghouse” to “a dwellinghouse developed under Class Q which has a floor space of ………. no more than 465 square metres”. Watch out for a further amendment order correcting this anomaly in the fairly near future!

© MARTIN H GOODALL

5 comments:

William Ashley said...

William Ashley Asked

Good to read your comments Martin. Without appearing naive to the new guidance, can you please explain a little more for folk like me.

I’ve converted 2 barns into 3 dwellings under Class Q, one at 200m2 and a further two at 120m2 each, totalling 440m2. With more agricultural barns to convert, am I correct in thinking that the new guidance opens this up for a further two dwellings to total 5.

Could I ask that you explain your comments......465m2+400m2=
865m2 and your other scenario of 465m2 aggregate plus two at 100m2= 665m2.

Monks Green Farm
Mangrove Lane
Hertford
Herts
SG13 8QL
www.monksgreenfarm.net

Martin H Goodall LARTPI said...

I am happy to enlarge on this topic, in answer to William Ashley’s question.

We are dealing here with the amendment of the GPDO itself (which comes into force tomorrow - Friday 6 April). The scope of Class Q is enlarged, so that where previous residential conversions of agricultural buildings have reached or come close to the previous floorspace limit of 465 sq m within that agricultural unit, and/or the previous numerical limit of three dwellings, there will now be scope for further residential conversions within the increased limits, taking into account (of course) the amount of floorspace and number of dwellings previously created under Class Q (and/or under Class MB of the 1995 GPDO).

The drafting of the amendment order is not as clear as one would wish [pause here for various deleted expletives], but the way it works is to allow extra dwellings and extra floorspace, but the limits are not straightforward.

Leaving aside the apparent drafting anomaly relating to the definition of a “larger dwellinghouse” in paragraph Q.3, the revised Class Q allows the creation within a single agricultural unit of no more than five dwellings in total (including those previously created under Class Q or under the former Class MB), but of these five dwellings, no more than three can be “larger dwellinghouses” (i.e. a dwelling that has a floor area of more than 100 sq m). Furthermore, the cumulative floorspace of any such larger dwellinghouses created under Class Q and/or Class MB must not exceed a total of 465 sq m. So the absolute maximum size of a “larger dwellinghouse” is 465 sq m, and if you create a dwelling as large as this, no other larger dwellings can be created on this agricultural holding.

You can, however, create a number of “smaller dwellinghouses” on the same agricultural holding (none of which exceeds 100 sq m in floor area), subject to the overall numerical limit of five dwellings of all sizes on this agricultural unit.

So you can ‘mix and match’ house sizes within these various limits. The absolute maximum floorspace that could be created would comprise one larger dwelling of the largest possible size (465 sq m), and four other dwellings of the smaller type (each up to 10 sq m each). Hence we get to the calculation of 465 + (4 x 100) = 865 sq m.

Any other combination of five dwellings will produce a smaller cumulative floorspace. Hence the example I gave of up to three larger dwellings (the maximum permissible), having a cumulative floorspace between them of 465 sq m, plus two other “smaller dwellinghouses” of up to 100 sq m each (to bring the total number of dwellings up to the permissible maximum of five), giving a total cumulative floorspace in that case of 465 + (2 x 100) = 665 sq m.

A mix of two larger dwellings totalling 465 sq m between them, plus three smaller dwellings of 100 sq m each would provide a total floorspace of 765 sq m, and various other combinations would be possible within the new limits. However, the number and size of dwellings previously created under this PD right in Part 3 may in practice be a constraining factor, as they will have to be taken into account in calculating the total number and cumulative floorspace that can be created in total.

I hope this assists in clarifying the new rules.

Martin H Goodall LARTPI said...

The figure first mentioned above (the previous floorspace limit under Class Q) should, of course have read "450 sq m".

Martin H Goodall LARTPI said...

And the mention in one place of "10 sq m" was, of course, a misprint for "100 sq m".

William Ashley said...

Many thanks Martin for clarifying. I’m off now to work on another application for 2 further dwellings.

Monks Green Farm
Mangrove Lane
Hertford
Herts
SG13 8QL
www.monksgreenfarm.net