Conversion of Agricultural Buildings to Residential Dwellings under Part Q - conversion or rebuilding?

A recent case has come before the High Court regarding whether works to 'convert' an agricultural building go further than a conversion and amount to a rebuilding of a building which falls outside of the scope of a Part Q.

The Case (Hibbitt and another & Secretary of State for Communities and  Local Government & Rushcliffe Borough Council - 2016 EWHC 2853) involved a refusal to grant an application under Part Q by the local authority and upon appeal to the Secretary of State.

The case involved the conversion of a Barn; the building was of modern construction, it was 30.5m x 7.96m, with a maximum height of 5m, a largely open building on three sides, and used to house cattle. It comprised a concrete floor slab with 6 steel uprights as the main structural elements for the building and the retention of the roof.

The 'conversion' of the building would have included the provision of an internal floor and the construction of all four walls with window openings and other conversion works to create the dwelling - the works were quite extensive.

It was agreed that the building was an agricultural building and that it was demonstrated that the structure could bear the load of the proposed development; on that basis the applicant suggested  that approval should be granted.

The interesting dimension in this case  was the approach of the Inspector to the nature of the works.  She took the position that due to the physical nature of the works, to enable the structure to function as a dwelling the extent of the works went further than a 'conversion' and amounted to a rebuilding. As a consequence this fell outside the scope of the Permitted Development under Part Q.

The judge analysed the relevant authorities and reached a view that each case had to be determined on the facts. He reached the view that the works proposed to the 'Skeletal Building' went a long way beyond what may be regarded as a conversion. He also drew reference to paragraph 105 of the National Planning Practice Guidance, which provides that 'it is not the intention of the permitted development right to include the construction of new structural elements for a building'.

It is an interesting decision and should provide guidance to those considering projects with a significant amount of 'conversion' works. 


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