Last Updated on October 19, 2022

Based in the heart of the Suffolk countryside, we see the conversion of agricultural buildings to commercial buildings across the county, year after year. Thanks to our location and network of contacts within the area and beyond, we have many years’ experience of walking clients through conversions such as these, resulting in smooth transitions and high quality outcomes.

If you own a piece of agricultural land that is ripe for commercial development, you will need to familiarise yourself with Class R Permitted Development Rights. This order defines the conditions of an agricultural building and land within its curtilage to be converted for flexible commercial use.

Agricultural building conversion for commercial use – use classes

If you are planning to convert a building from agricultural use to commercial use, the business or businesses occupying the building and its land must come under one, or a mix, of the following use classes:

  • Class B8 – storage or distribution
  • Class C1 – hotels
  • Class E – commercial, business and services (including, but not limited to, shops, banks and building societies, restaurants and cafes, estate and employment agencies, and offices)
  • Sui generis – uses in a class of their own, such as theatres, funfairs, nightclubs and more. When a building falls under two use classes, it becomes classed as sui generis. For an exhaustive list of uses under each use class, including sui generis, click through to the Planning Portal.

Once deemed consent under Class R has been received, a building can change to another identified use, usually without obstruction from the planning authority. For example, an office building may be converted into a restaurant.

Meeting the criteria for Class R Permitted Development Rights

Converting agricultural buildings for commercial use can be extremely lucrative. For example, if you are a farmer looking to diversify, a disused building on your land could generate far more income after conversion than it would if it were left unutilised.

However, in addition to the proposed building use adhering to a use class as above, there are other criteria that must be met. These are as follows:

  • The building must have been solely in agricultural use on the 3rd July 2012, or when last in use if before this date.
  • If brought into use after 3rd July 2012, it must have been used in this way for a minimum of 10 years.
  • The total cumulative floor area of the existing building(s) within the planning unit must not exceed 500 square metres.
  • The building(s) must not be:
    • a listed building (or within the curtilage of a listed building)
    • a scheduled monument
    • located within or form part of a safety hazard area
    • located within or form part of an explosives storage area

Other important points regarding Class R

Unlike Class Q, Class R rights apply in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and National Parks. However, context is important; the location of the building can be the cause of the refusal of development rights, especially if in close proximity to farming activity. In addition, if the development of a building or buildings exceeding 150 metres squared impacts transport and highways or noise levels, or if there is a risk of flooding or contamination, approval may not be given.

Keep a record of dates of communication – if the planning authority takes more than 56 days to give approval, you can issue a default notice and commence work on the site.

Note that changes to the external appearance of the building(s) are likely to require additional planning permission.

Why you need an architect when converting an agricultural building under Class R

Agricultural buildings are purpose built for housing animals, or storing produce or equipment, and will likely require significant work to become fit for commercial purposes. As such there are many elements to consider when converting a building under Class R, and these may be difficult to navigate without the expertise of an architect.

With our experience and knowledge, we will be with you every step of the way, from applying for Class R rights, all the way through to putting together a top quality construction team to execute your project. If you are considering a project of this kind, get in touch with our friendly team on 01284 760421.

Take a look below at a significant agricultural-to-commercial conversion that we have worked on.

Office barn conversion

We were appointed to undertake the conversion of two redundant farm buildings to form lettable office accommodation. The main barn is a grade II listed timber frame barn, while the smaller cart lodge was curtilage listed. To convert the two buildings required considerable renovation works, with both buildings requiring extensive repairs. 

Read about the barn conversion.

Read about the cart lodge office conversion.