10 September 2021

A guide to Class Q barn conversions

The permitted development right known as Class Q was introduced to England’s planning policy in 2014. It allows for ‘prior approval’ to convert agricultural buildings to change their use, such as converting a barn into a residential home.

If the building meets the criteria of the policy, Class Q can be used in place of the full planning application process, which means that it may offer a more straightforward route for those looking to build a home in the countryside or in a conservation area.

Here’s an overview of Class Q and what it means for your barn conversion.

Class Q restrictions

There are several important restrictions that are taken into consideration when determining whether a building is eligible under Class Q.

The following is a simplified overview of these restrictions to give you an idea of what to expect.

Agricultural use

The building must have been used for agricultural purposes on March 20th 2013, or proof must be given that it was in use prior to this date, but not since. If the building was built or brought into use after this date, it must have been in agricultural use for 10 years.

An agricultural tenancy of the site cannot have been terminated within 1 year of the prior approval application, and for the purpose of Class Q, unless there is prior agreement between landlord and tenant that the site is no longer required for agricultural use.

Dwelling size

You can build up to three larger dwellings (over 100 sqm each), or up to five smaller dwellings (up to 100 sqm each).

However, the total floorspace of the larger building(s) cannot exceed 465 sqm. The maximum floorspace you can create is therefore 865 sqm, by building one large dwelling and four small dwellings, each at the largest permitted size.

Permitted works

Partial demolition may be permitted, although buildings cannot be extended in any way. Internal conversion is permitted and may include the addition of an independent first-floor mezzanine.

Structural works designed to allow the building to function as a house are permitted, such as installing or replacing windows, doors, roofs or exterior walls. However, the building must be structurally capable of functioning as a residence without structural additions or reinforcements. The replacement or installation of services such as electricity, gas, water and drainage are also permitted.

How to apply for Class Q

If your barn meets the criteria, you’ll need to submit a prior approval application before going ahead with any conversion work. There are two application options under Class Q.

The first option pertains to changing the use of the building from agricultural use to residential use as a dwellinghouse. The second option includes the development as well as any building operations necessary to convert the building into a Class C3 dwellinghouse. Generally speaking, you should use the second option for your application, unless you’re planning to only convert the interior of the barn without any external renovations.

You should receive a decision on your application within 56 days, which is roughly in line with the typical wait for planning permission.

Need help with a Class Q conversion?

If you’re planning a Class Q barn conversion and you’d like some support from an experienced architect, get in touch with Design Haus.

Whether you’re unsure about the eligibility of your property, you need help with the application process, or you’re looking for a complete architectural design service, we’re here to help.

3 September 2021

What are the architectural restrictions of a conservation area?

If you’re planning a new-build architectural project or extension to an existing building within a conservation area, you will find that you are subject to certain restrictions.

Let’s take a look at conservation areas and their restrictions.

What is a conservation area?

A conservation area is one that has been deemed to be of significant historic or architectural importance, and is therefore subject to certain restrictions to protect the integrity of the area.

Around 10,000 conservation areas have been designated in England since the initiative was first put in place in 1967. They are usually designated by the local planning authority and aim to preserve the distinctive character of a city, town, village or country estate.

Conservation areas are outlined in Part II of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, and should protect areas of “special architectural or historic interest the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance”.

Planning permission

As with any large-scale building or extension project, homeowners must submit a planning application to the local authority. Along with the standard restrictions, the proposal will also be subject to additional scrutiny regarding its suitability for the protected area.

As well as governing the style or architecture of the buildings themselves, the protection offered by conservation areas also extends to the layout of streets and roads, and the impact on trees and views. This means that homeowners and architects will have to consider many more aspects than in a non-protected area.

Architectural restrictions in conservation areas

As the aim of a conservation area is to ensure that new developments preserve or enhance the individuality of the location, there are certain restrictions that must be adhered to.

Minor changes

Minor developments that might otherwise not require planning permission, such as an extension, dormer loft conversion or recladding of the building exterior, may not be permitted.

Even small changes such as the addition of a satellite dish or the colour of the front door could be controlled by the local authority in a conservation area. As the aim is to protect the unique character of an area, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to what is and isn’t allowed.


It’s a criminal offence to demolish a building without proper planning permission in a conservation area. You must get permission beforehand if your project requires removing some or all of the existing structure.

It’s not outside the realm of possibility for local councils to permit demolition in a conservation area, but they will usually try to keep the existing buildings as much as possible.


If you’re planning to cut down, lop or trim any trees in the area as part of your project, you must give the local council six weeks’ notice before undertaking any work.

During this time, the council’s planning department will take into account the impact of the trees on the local area, and whether they are an integral part of its character. Should any tree be deemed deserving of protection, the council can create a tree preservation order (TPO) to prevent cutting down or modification.

Contemporary architecture

As Section 69 of the 1990 Planning Act specifies that developments must “preserve or enhance” the area, this doesn’t necessarily mean that contemporary designs are a no-no.

Where a more modern approach could be seen to enhance the area, you’ve got a good case for approval. However, areas with a strong architectural identity are much less likely to accept an application that is not in keeping with the existing buildings.

For the best chance of obtaining planning permission, it’s worth speaking to the local authority and using their input to inform your design decisions. You might even be able to combine both modern and traditional architectural elements to achieve the best of both worlds.

Work with an experienced architect

Working with an architect who is experienced in working to the restrictions of conservation areas is a great way to improve the chances of having your application approved.

James Brindley, Head Architect at Design Haus, has worked on many planning applications and architectural projects in conservation areas, giving you the confidence that each design decision will be made with the success of the application in mind.

To discuss a project in a conservation area, please get in touch and James will be happy to help.

3 July 2021

How do you build a Paragraph 79 house?

If you’ve considered self building a house in the countryside, you might be put off by the strict planning permission requirements that can prevent your dream from becoming a reality.

However, a clause known as Paragraph 79 might be the answer to getting permission granted even on a heritage site. Read on to find out more.

What is Paragraph 79?

Paragraph 79 is an exemption clause in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Also known as the country house exemption clause, Paragraph 79 allows certain exceptional designs to be approved where their location would normally cause planning permission to be denied. It is often a factor when applying to build isolated houses on green belts or within Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, where the construction of buildings is often incongruous with the surroundings.

The reason for this exemption is to allow for continual innovation and development within architecture. In particular, it helps to promote finding newer and better ways to make homes that are sustainable and environmentally friendly.

What criteria must a design meet?

In order to be approved, a proposal must meet some stringent criteria. These include specifications that the design must:

  • be of exceptional quality

  • be truly outstanding or innovative, reflecting the highest standards in architecture

  • help to raise standards of design more generally in rural areas

  • significantly enhance its immediate setting

  • be sensitive to the defining characteristics of the local area

You can’t expect to meet these criteria without thinking outside the box. As such, pursuing a Paragraph 79 house isn’t for the easily intimidated. It’s also important to note that you might not be able to build the home of your dreams exactly as you imagined it; you’ll need to be open minded and ready to roll with the punches.

How do I apply for Paragraph 79 exemption?

Getting approval isn’t an easy process, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll be granted an exemption. In fact, it’s actually extremely rare, with only about 6 granted per year.

Even using a previously approved project as inspiration isn’t a fool-proof tactic, as one of the stipulations is outstanding innovation. Copying an existing design will therefore make it much less likely to be accepted.

Paragraph 79 architects

If you'd like to discuss your potential Paragraph 79 project with us at Design Haus Architecture, please get in touch

25 June 2021

Minimalist architecture: When less is more

Minimalism is much more than just an art movement; it’s an entire design philosophy, and one that works perfectly when it comes to architecture.

Minimalist architecture doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, it’s often quite beautiful, with sleek lines, open spaces and lots of light. It’s a great place to draw inspiration from if you’re looking to create a space that’s both practical and aesthetically pleasing.

Here’s why less is more when it comes to minimalist architecture.

Form as function

Minimalist design embraces making the most out of small spaces, or minimising interruptions to the sleek, simple form by integrating functional elements into the structure itself.

This means that a minimalist building won’t have much in the way of decorative architecture, as this only serves the purpose of looking pretty. Instead, you’ll find carefully hidden pipes, underfloor heating and practical design. There’s no clutter and no waste; just efficient spaces designed to work well.

Subtle beauty

With sleek, continuous lines and a focus on simplicity, minimalist buildings feel open, uncluttered and calm.

This style of architecture embraces simple colour palettes, often comprising grey, white and neutral tones. This offers a clean, modern effect that stands alone in its understatement, while also allowing for a pop of colour or a statement piece without overpowering the décor if desired.

Simple materials

A key part of minimalism is paring everything down to the essentials. One way in which this is achieved in architectural design is by using a limited selection of materials.

Concrete, stone and pale-coloured wood are just some of the elements that you can expect to find in minimalist design, and you’ll usually find a lot of them. Sticking to a handful of materials makes the building as a whole feel like a unified space, while also keeping costs down.

Open spaces

Minimalist architecture places a lot of importance on fluid, open spaces. This gives the building room to breathe and creates an atmosphere that is both chic and subdued.

Making the most of natural daylight allows the space to feel bright and inviting without relying on artificial lighting. Floor-to-ceiling windows, mezzanines and open-plan living spaces bring in more light and help to make small buildings feel more spacious.

Seamless transitions

Uniformity of the various spaces within a building is one of the hallmarks of minimalist architectural design.

This means that moving from one room to another is a seamless and fluid experience, bringing a sense of consistency and order. Instead of having several small rooms boxed up with four walls and a door, each creating their own zone or theme, every space in a minimalist building contributes to the overall atmosphere.

Intelligent, beautiful architectural design

Working with Design Haus means that you’ll benefit from years of experience in both architectural and interior design. The flow, transition and usability of spaces is key to the Design Haus philosophy, creating spaces that look great while being practical in the long term.

To discuss your project, get in touch with Architect and Director James Brindley.

9 October 2020

Why value engineering is an important part of architectural design

Architectural projects of all sizes can be complex and costly endeavours, and finding an architect that is able to minimise costs without compromising on the integrity and usability of the final design is essential.

Value engineering is a systematic approach that aims to reduce the cost of a project without compromising on quality, and I’d like to explore this concept in more detail.

What is value engineering?

Value engineering was first developed by General Electric in 1947 when post-war shortages of raw materials and labour led to a need for manufacturing efficiency, reduced costs, and improved products.

Simply put, value engineering is the process of making a product cheaper through design. It’s a methodology that’s used in all sorts of different industries, allowing a designer to identify problems and eliminate unnecessary expenditure while remaining true to the scope of the project.

Value engineering is most effective when implemented from the project’s inception, allowing for the greatest number of informed decisions throughout the process. The earlier value engineering comes into play, the easier it is to make savings without affecting completion dates or incurring additional costs that outweigh any proposed savings.

Value engineering in architectural design

In architecture, value engineering means creating the most cost-effective solution to fulfill a building’s functional and aesthetic requirements.

Deciding which is the best-value approach is a collaborative process involving the client, architect, contractors, manufacturers and suppliers. By working together, project teams can identify and overcome design issues, explore alternative solutions, and assess a variety of pricing options.

This allows all parties to better understand the project needs and the consequences of each design decision. By basing their choices on the functionality provided by a particular solution, an architect can minimise unnecessary expenditure and produce a higher value-to-cost ratio for the client.

Design Haus’ dedication to value engineering

I believe that value engineering is an extremely important part of the design process, and I ensure that it is built into every project I work on. Your architect is the person that should help to facilitate the project and deliver what you want, instead of saying no or pushing you to go over budget.

As the lead architect, I know how passionate my clients are about their projects, and I understand that there’s nothing more infuriating than dealing with unnecessary stress and unexpected costs. Client relationships are at the heart of everything I do, and it’s my job to help you to achieve what you’re looking for.

I respect the cost of the work and the money being spent on your project, and I treat each design as though it was my own. I work with your contractors to ensure that the design can be achieved within budget, establishing a plan of action that gives you the best value without compromising on quality.

Work with Design Haus

If you’d like to work with an architect that cares about the investment you’re putting into your project, take a look at my design-led architectural service, or get in touch with Design Haus today.


Design Haus Architecture
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West Bridgford 
Nottingham NG2 6DN




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