Can I convert my barns under ClassQ?

Architects Jess Wells explains...

Mr Clifford from Wimborne asks…

"Can I convert my redundant barn into houses?"

Jessamy Wells resident Architect explains...


Generally new houses are not granted permission in open countryside. Occasionally redundant buildings can be converted into houses if a satisfactory planning case and design can be put forward. However, changes to planning laws now allow for agricultural buildings to be converted into a different use using permitted development rights .i.e. without the need for planning approval. This is to encourage an increase in housing in rural locations and to help with the housing demand using existing buildings. The process still requires the submission of an application to the local planning authority for prior approval before development commences.


In order to qualify for prior approval the agricultural building must meet a number of criteria. It must have been used for agricultural purposes on or before March 2013. They can be converted into a maximum of 3 dwellings and the combined internal floor space cannot exceed 450sqm. The building must have a sufficiently substantial structure to support the works required to change its use. New lintels for windows and doors are allowed to give enough daylight and access into the building, but if the works are too substantial then it may be viewed as not being a conversion and may be refused. We would generally recommend submitting a structural report with the prior approval application. 

If the barn is located on protected land, for example an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) or in a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Conservation Area or within the curtilage of a listed building then a planning application will be needed and it is unlikely to gain approval.


If your barn complies with these guidelines and you wish to take this further, I suggest you contact an RIBA Architect so that you can discuss your ideas and begin initial sketch schemes. These drawings will be used to communicate your proposal to the local authority as well as any other consultant you may require, including a structural engineer.


Clearly there are a number of variables and each barn brings its own collection of unique circumstances so it is best to contact an expert if only for an initial chat, just to help you determine what is possible for your particular barn.