Permitted development is the right of an owner to develop his or her land within limits prescribed by the General Permitted Development Order. The point of the order was originally to allow minor development to go ahead without having to go through the planning application process. For example small extensions to houses and simple changes of use i.e. changing a pub to a restaurant or a bank to a shop.
After the financial crash of 2008 the government extended permitted development rights to free up the planning system and this included the right to change agricultural buildings to dwellings. This was originally proposed as a temporary measure. To use these rights an application has to be made to the Local Planning authority to confirm that the development proposed fits within the limits set out in the General Permitted Development Order. This requires an application, a set of drawings and a supporting letter or report. There is a fee (£172.00) but the difference between planning and prior notification is that with prior notification if the building and the development fit the criteria then the council cannot refuse the application.
Converting an enclosed modern shed in the middle of the countryside to up to 3 dwellings is not popular with many councils so in most cases an application is carefully scrutinised to make sure it fits the criteria. If a Class Q prior notification application is approved the applicant has three years to complete the conversion. With a planning permission the applicant has 3 years in which to start the conversion and once started can take as long as it takes to complete it. This 3 year completion rule was brought in by George Osbourne to ‘kick start’ rural housing but what happens if the work is not finished? There is no automatic renewal process.If work has not started a fresh application can be made as long as the building was in agricultural use in 2013 and there has been no intervening use.If work has started and is not finished there is no guidance. If work is nearly finished we expect councils to turn a blind eye. Enforcing against a person or family just before they move into their conversion would in most cases be politically unacceptable and would serve no useful purpose. But if the works are only partly completed, the conversion is half finished and the site is a mess what would happen?
Some councils will take enforcement action to clear up a site and to enforce the rules as a warning to others. The countryside littered with half built projects is not an appealing thought. Others will probably ask for a completion timetable or seek to find an accommodation. New guidance should be issued by the government but with the election this is unlikely for many months and it is not a big issue.
Our advice is to get on with the work if the building is a modern steel structure but if the works are half completed and the council does seek to take action we can help. We can negotiate on your behalf and we can look to appeal against any enforcement action that is taken. If the buildings are traditional stone or brick we can look at getting a planning permission or a retrospective permission. At this time we strongly recommend that if the buildings are traditional to go for planning rather than Class Q. A planning application can be refused as a matter of principle and extra reports are needed such as a structural survey and a wildlife survey but there is a freedom to re-build (in part) and extend (limited) and no time limit to complete. In addition if you are looking to sell on a planning permission has greater currency and certainty. If you are looking to convert a rural building please call us. We provide a free half hour consultation and can help you make the right decision.
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