On 1 September 2020 changes were made to the classification scheme for the different uses of properties (Use Classes). The intention behind this was to allow for increased flexibility for developers and allow for commercial units in town centres and high streets to be given a new lease of life.

What are Use Classes?

Land and buildings are put into categories known as ‘Use Classes’, under the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended). ‘Change of use’ can occur, both within the same, and from one use class to another.

What are the changes?

The changes to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 have been made under the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 and are significant in their impact.

Use Classes A, B1 and D1 which previously applied to retail, office, leisure and non-residential institutions have been removed and replaced by Use Classes E and F. The new Use Class E covers a broad range of permitted uses including retail, hospitality, gyms, childcare and medical centres along with offices, whereas Use Class F permits properties to be used for learning and non-residential uses, such as a libraries or public worship, along with uses for the local community such as outdoor sports facilities or halls and meeting places. Cinemas, concert halls, pubs, wine bars and takeaways will all become a ‘sui generis’ (of its own kind) use under the new regulations, with no permitted changes.

From 1 September 2020 any building which previously fell within Use Class A1, A2, A3 or B1 will be automatically treated as being re-classified as Use Class E.

What do the changes mean?

These changes will mean that the use of commercial premises can fluctuate much more quickly and simply than previously allowed. Whereas last year an individual looking to open a café in a former hairdressing salon would have had to applied for planning consent to the change of use, that same premises will now fall within Use Class E and no change of use will be required.

The changes will also allow for the same building to have a variety of businesses being carried out within it without requiring a mixed-use planning permission. It is hoped that these changes and the new flexibility will make it easier for town centre and high street premises to be re-let however it may lead to a reduction in the traditional retail uses of town centre premises.

Our team advise on a wide range of commercial property matters, including Use Classes and would be happy to advise on your options. Contact a member of our commercial property team today for a no obligation discussion on 0845 287 0939 or submit your enquiry online.