Class MB permitted development rights

Schedule 2, Part 3, Class MB of the Town and Country (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (as amended) introduced in April 2014 permitted development rights to convert redundant agricultural buildings to residential use.

The introduction of the new ‘rights’ initiated grand announcements from politicians and much debate in the planning world.  Contrary to most previous permitted development rights the new legislation included an element of judgement from the planning authority.

Paragraph MB.2. allows the local authority to have prior approval over matters of transport, highways and noise impacts of the development, or contamination and flooding risks on the site.

Paragraph MB.2.(1)(e) requires the determination of whether “the location or siting of the building makes it otherwise impractical or undesirable for the building to change from agricultural use to a use falling within Class 3 (dwelling houses). Furthermore paragraph N of Part 3 stipulates that regard must be had to the National Planning Policy Framework.

Interpretation of Class MB rights

Development has previously either qualified for permitted development or not due to various caveats or exceptions. The new agricultural to residential permitted development rights can only be applied if the development does not fall within one of the exclusions AND the planning authority determine it is acceptable in accordance with the NPPF.

First appeal decision for Class MB rights

The degree of weight that could be attached to the caveats of Class MB and the policies of the national planning policy framework has led to disparity between Local Authorities in the application of the new rules.  The very first s78 Appeal for refusal to grant planning permission under Schedule 2, Part 3, Class MB has now been published.  This appeal case provides the Planning Inspectorate’s application of the agricultural to residential permitted development rights.

Planning Inspectorates Interpretion of agricultural to residential permitted development

The inspectors report reinforces that it each application and appeal must be determined on its own merits.  The appeal does not therefore constitute a precedent but does provide guidance on the interpretation of the new rules.

The appeal building is reported to sit in an elevated position in open countryside and 600m away from the nearest settlement.  In the absence of any special circumstances to justify a new isolated dwelling the inspector determined the harm to the rural character of the area was not outweighed by the benefits of the proposal. The inspector recognised the condition of the building would be improved and would contribute to housing supply.  However he also stated that the curtilage, enclosing fences or hedges, hardstanding and access track would cause significant harm to the character and appearance of the surrounding area.  The inspector concluded that the appeal should fail as the development would not accord with all the relevant provisos contained in paragraphs MB.2 and Part N of Part 3 of the GPDO.

The Inspector and others must interpret the legislation as drafted and unfortunately not in accordance with the spirit of some of the political announcements which have undoubtedly raised false hope in many applicants.  It is true that in some circumstances Class MB permitted development makes agricultural to residential conversion easier than previously. This must however  be tempered with caution and an appreciation of the rules before


More appeals are likely to be reported in the coming months that will address some of the other caveats and exceptions of Class MB rights and I hope to post on these time permitting.