PUBLISHED: 28/09/20

The Government recently announced further planning reforms with significant changes to the Use Classes Order. The Use Classes Order was introduced in 1987 and has been amended a number of times since. However, this time round we have seen a complete overhaul of the previous regulations. One of the main focusses is to create vibrant, mixed-use town centres by giving businesses greater flexibility to adapt and respond more quickly to changing demands and the needs of local communities.

From 1st September 2020 there will be the following new Use Classes within The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 (2020 No. 757):

  • Class E (Commercial, Business and Service)
  • Class F.1 (Learning and Non-residential institutions)
  • Class F.2 (Local community)
  • The residential (C classes), General industrial (B2) and Storage and distribution (B8) Use Classes remain predominantly unchanged.

Class E (Commercial Business and Service)

The introduction of Use Class E is the most radical change to the Use Classes Order. It will incorporate the previous shops (A1), financial and professional services (A2), restaurants and cafes (A3), offices, research & development and light industrial (B1) Use Classes as well as nurseries and health centres which formed part of the (D1) Use Class and gymnasiums which were formerly (D2) use. Changes to another use or mix of uses within this class will not require planning permission.

The Explanatory Memorandumstates:

“This new class allows for a mix of uses to reflect changing retail and business models. It, therefore, recognises that a building may be in a number of uses concurrently or that a building may be used for different uses at different times of the day. Changes to another use, or mix of uses, within this class do not require planning permission. Bringing these uses together and allowing movement between them will give businesses greater freedom to adapt to changing circumstances and to respond more quickly to the needs of their communities”.

It is no secret that the high street retail sector has been struggling for some time due to the disruption from e-commerce, amongst other factors, and more recently the Coronavirus pandemic. As a result of this new Use Class, we will likely see a much more varied use of our high streets and town centres as current vacant units and future units become available to a wider array of businesses. For instance, it will be much easier, to convert an office or shop into a dental practice or a light industrial building or office into a day nursery.

Class F.1 (Learning and Non-residential institutions) and F.2 (Local community)

These two Use Classes have been created to ensure that uses that are important to local communities are protected through the planning system. Changes of use within each of these classes will not require planning permission.

The F.1 Use Class incorporates former (D1) uses which are regularly in wider public use such as schools, libraries, places of worship and museums.

Class F.2 is for local community uses and is the most varied in terms of the building characteristics which fall under this Use Class. A new introduction to the Use Classes Order within Class F.2 is essential shops that would have previously fallen under (A1) use. To qualify as an essential shop it must meet the following criteria:

Trade as a shop mostly selling essential dry goods and food to visiting members of the public
Not have an area greater than 280m2
Be situated at least 1km from a similar shop

Other uses that fall within F.2 Use Class include former recreational (D2) uses – swimming pools, skating rinks and areas for outdoor sport not involving motorised vehicles and firearms. There will likely be less frequent repositioning within this Use Class due to the disparity in uses and characteristics between these properties, especially compared to Class E uses.

Sui Generis

Former (A4) Drinking establishments and (A5) Hot food takeaways have been removed and will now be considered sui generis as well as cinemas, concert halls, dance halls and bingo halls which were (D2) use. This means that changes to and from these uses will be subject to full local consideration through the planning application process.

These changes will be welcomed by both landlords and many businesses due to greater flexibility to reposition properties, particularly within the new E Class, and the ability to adapt to changing market conditions. This will play an important role in the economic recovery of our town centres following the Coronavirus pandemic, as mentioned in the Explanatory Memorandum.

Perhaps we will see more businesses utilising a mix of former uses concurrently? Or will landlords start introducing more restrictive user clauses in their leases?

Speak to a member of our Development Team if you have any enquiries surrounding this topic.