In September 2020, the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force as part of the Government’s commitment to “radically reform” the planning system.
Background to the change
Section 57(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (TCPA 1990) provides that planning permission must be obtained to carry out any development on land. Development includes, among other things, change of use.
However, changes of use within the same Use Class is not considered ‘development’ that requires planning permission.
The amendments to the Use Classes Order
The 2020 Regulations revoke Use Classes A (shops, cafes, and takeaways) and D (split into D1 non-residential institutions and D2 assembly and leisure). They are replaced with new classes E (commercial, business and service), F.1 (learning and non-residential institutions) and F.2 (local community).
Therefore, the below existing uses will be replaced by the new ‘Class E’:
- A1 (Retail)
- A2 (Financial & Professional)
- A3 (Café & Restaurant)
- B1 (Business)
- D1 (Clinics, Health Centres & Creches)
- D2 (Leisure)
The new Class E means that buildings used for any of the above purposes will not need planning permission for a change of use, provided it remains within Use Class E. For example, a Health Centre may now be changed to a Retail Shop without the need for planning permission (unless alterations are also being carried out which require planning permission).
The Explanatory Memorandum to the 2020 Regulations states:
“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”.
This change is intended to provide for greater flexibility, and also allow one building to be mixed-use.
Certain uses have been excluded from Class E. Drinking Establishments (A4), Hot Food Takeaways (A5) and Cinemas and Bingo Halls (D2) will become ‘Sui Generis’ (meaning in a class by itself). Therefore, any change of use regarding these types of premises will require full planning permission to be sought and obtained.
What will be the effect of the changes to the user classes?
For developers, landlords, and business owners, it is hoped that the changes to the user classes will bring much-needed flexibility in a post-Covid commercial environment.
The ability to convert the use of vacant shops and offices into premises for sectors in high demand (i.e. cafes and restaurants) will, it is hoped, help regenerate many of England’s high streets.
Furthermore, a single building that can have several uses or have various uses at different times of the day will enable local authorities and industry groups to encourage small, independent businesses to embrace the risk of taking on a physical space.
Please note – this article does not constitute legal advice.