Use Classes Order Changes
In response to trends in the commercial market and the high street, official changes were made to Use Class legislation on 21 July, which will come into effect on 1 September 2020. The changes will create flexibility between use types and more agility in planning permissions.
From 1 September, the Use Classes will undergo substantial changes, removing Class A, B1 and D in their entirety and introducing new Use Classes.
They will be permanent, will not form part of the Permitted Development Rights (PDR) changes and are not impacted by local authority Local Plan zonings (including Article 4 zonings which exclude the ability to implement PDR). They will apply for all types of property with the only potential exemptions set out below.
- Class A (retail, food and drink, etc.), Class D (leisure) and Class B1 have been removed in their entirety.
- Class E has been created effectively by way of replacement of some of the A, B & D uses, now to be called ‘Commercial, Business and Service’. This class now includes a wide range of uses including retail, cafes and restaurants, financial services, professional services, indoor sport, recreation and fitness, medical or health services, creches and nurseries as well as offices.
- Sui Generis now incorporates drinking establishments and hot food takeaways (as per Use Classes A4 and A5 currently), along with some establishments which formerly fell under Use Class D2, such as cinemas, live music venues, concert, bingo and dance halls.
- Class F1 has been introduced for learning and non-residential institutions (formerly within Class D1) and Class F2 has been added to protect ‘local shops’, which are defined as ‘shops’ below 280 sq. m and located within 1,000m from any other retail unit within Class E.
- The residential (C classes), General industrial (B2) and Storage and distribution (B8) Use Classes remain unchanged (except for a new cross-reference in B2 to the new ‘commercial’ class).
The new changes allow flexibility for a mix of uses to reflect changing retail and business models. Buildings may now be used in a number of uses concurrently or for different uses at different times of the day.
So, in summary, it will now be permissible to occupy a building in another use, or mixtures of uses, that fall within each of the new Use Class E, sui generis, F1 & F2 categories without the need for planning permission. So for example, generally speaking (see Exceptions below), a retail unit (previously A1) could now be used in office, medical, gym or nursery use (all now within Class E) without planning permission.
There are, however, several potential restrictions, limitations and possible opportunities which need to be carefully considered.
Existing planning conditions and legal agreements attached to planning permissions may still impose limitations on use for existing buildings and therefore planning permission could still be required to use properties for alternative uses. Typically this might include planning conditions, for example, on larger or recently consented mixed use development – and so due diligence relating to the checking of planning history will be important. And note that planning permission would still be required for any external alterations required to implement any use within Class E – for example, if a restaurant requires extraction; or air conditioning plant needs installing at roof level. However, for the vast majority of properties, this will greatly benefit property owners in helping to attract a broader range of potential tenants.
From 1 September 2020 and until 31 July 2021 there will be a transitional period covering both the changes above and changes of use that are currently allowed without planning permission under the General Permitted Development Order which follow the current Use Classes Order classifications. So for example, during this transition period, you will still be able to secure change of use from Class B8 to Class B1 (under 500 sq.m) or Class A4 to Class A1 without need for planning permission.
Strettons are well suited to advise on how these changes will impact your commercial property, so please contact our team to learn more - firstname.lastname@example.org