Major Changes To Use Classes In England

The UK Government has announced major changes to the planning system to enable more development to be undertaken, and ultimately aid in the economic recovery process following the COVID-19 crisis.

From 1st September 2020, changes to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (“the Use Classes Order”) will come into force that will enable many types of commercial premises to be repurposed without the need for a planning application and will allow for a quicker, and more streamlined response to ever changing business and local community needs.

The Use Classes Order puts uses of land and buildings into various categories called use classes. Planning permission is required if there is a material change of use of any buildings or land, which generally encompasses changes of use between use classes (unless such material changes of use are “permitted development” pursuant to a development order). However, a change of use within the same use class does not constitute development and therefore does not require planning permission.

The recent changes announced by the UK Government will significantly amend the Use Class Order by replacing existing use classes A1 (shops), A2 (financial and professional services), A3 (restaurants and cafes) and B1 (business) with a new Class E (commercial, business and service). The effect of that will mean, subject to some exemptions, premises such as shops, restaurants, professional services, indoor sports centres, nurseries and offices will be able to change use within the new use class without having to obtain planning permission to do so. This is likely to be very welcomed news for the commercial property sector across England.

The changes will also introduce new classes F1 (learning and non-residential institutions), and F2 (local community), which will replace class D1 (non-residential institutions) and D2 (assembly and leisure). Certain types of uses (e.g. public houses, cinemas and concert halls) will also be considered sui generis which are uses that cannot be changed to any other use without express planning permission.

Please be aware that these changes apply in England only, and do not change the regime as it applies to Wales.

Please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team below to discuss how these changes may affect any of your existing premises, or any proposed planning applications.

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