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What are the consequences of the shake up of the planning Use Class system?

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England Regulations) 2020 were laid before Parliament and come into force on 1 September 2020. They apply in England only.

The changes include the revocation of the following Use Classes;

  • A1 – shops
  • A2 – financial and professional services
  • A3 – restaurants and cafes
  • A4 – drinking establishments
  • A5 – hot food takeaways
  • B1 – business. Also revoked are the sub parts of B1;
    • B1(a) – offices
    • B1(b) – research and development of products and processes
    • B1(c ) – industrial process
  • D1 – non residential institutions
  • D2 – assembly and leisure

The changes include the amendment of the following Use Class;

  • B2 (industry)

The changes include the introduction of the following Use Classes;

  • E – commercial, business and service
  • F.1 – learning and non-residential institutions
  • F.2 – Local community

There are no changes to the following Use Classes;

  • C1 – hotels, boarding and guest houses
  • C2 – residential institutions
  • C3 – dwellinghouses
  • C4 – small HMO

From 1 September 2020;

  • Small retail shops (not more than 280 sq metres net sales area) selling essential goods including food and at least 1 kilometre from another shop will cease being an A1 use and will become a F.2 (local community) use;
  • Other A1 shops will become an E (commercial, business and service) use;
  • A2 uses will become an E (commercial, business and service) use;
  • A3 uses will become an E (commercial, business and service) use;
  • A4 uses will not be in a Use Class, they will be sui generis, ie not in any use class;
  • A5 uses will not be in a Use Class, they will be sui generis, ie not in any use class;
  • B1 uses (included B1(a), B1 (b) and B1 (c) will become an E (commercial, business and service) use;
  • B2 uses will either be B2 uses or will be Class E uses.
  • Clinics, health centres, creches, day nurseries and day centres (previously D1 uses) will become an E (commercial, business and service) use;
  • Schools, non residential education and training centres, museums, public libraries, public halls, exhibition halls, places of worship, law courts (previously D1 uses) will become an F.1 ( learning and non-residential institutions) use;
  • Cinemas, concert halls, live music performance venues, bingo halls and dance halls (previously D2 uses) and will be sui generis, ie not in any use class;
  • Gyms, indoor sport, recreation or fitness not involving motorised vehicles or firearms principally to visiting members of the public (previously D2 uses) will become an E (commercial, business and service) use;
  • Hall or meeting place for the principal use of the local community (previously D2 uses) will become an F.2 (local community) use;
  • Indoor or outdoor swimming baths, skating rinks, outdoor sports or recreation grounds (not involving motorised vehicles or firearms) (previously D2 uses) will become an F.2 (local community) use.

Changes of use within a Use Class do not constitute development. That being the case, provided the Order is applicable, its operation not having been restricted by planning condition, Agreement or Article 4 (1) Direction for example, planning permission would not be required, development as defined not happening.  If legally binding confirmation is required that planning permission is not required this can only be obtained by way of a successful application for a Certificate of Lawfulness. In the absence of such, there is some risk.

It remains the case that planning permission may be required for operational works to buildings. It also remains the case that other consents and permissions may be necessary for example licenses. Furthermore amendments to leases may be required if the property is rented.

The Regulations additionally include transitional arrangements because of permitted development rights for changes of use in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order amongst others.  To respond to this Regulations introduce a ‘material period’ which is defined as meaning the period beginning 1 September 2020 and ending 31 July 2021. It is expected during the material period the Orders giving permitted development rights for changes for use which do constitute development will be amended / updated to reflect the new use classes.

Click here to view the Regulations.

The above is based on our understanding of the new Regulations at the time of issue and in advance of planning practice guidance being issued.