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Use Classes | Change of Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order

Planning | News

Last week the government announced significant changes to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order, which could radically alter the appearance of towns and cities across the country.

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 proposes the amalgamation of a number of existing use classes into new wider use classes.

Our handy one-page guide outlines the changes to the use classes order in England.

This is significant because, in accordance with the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, planning permission is only required for a “material change of use” and as such, changes of use which fall within the same overarching use class will be permitted without the need for an express grant of planning permission.

What this will mean is that local planning authorities will not be able to control the changing nature of commercial buildings, with owners and occupiers having far greater flexibility in what they choose to do with their units.

Read our blog on how redundant commercial buildings can be repurposed into new homes without planning permission.

The broader categories will also potentially allow for greater subdivision of premises, with different users occupying the same space all operating under the umbrella of an overarching use class.

What are the changes?

The changes, which come in to force on 1 September 2020, will create two new uses classes:

  • Class E – commercial, business and service; and
  • Class F
    • Class F.1 (learning and non-residential institutions); and
    • Class F.2 (local community).

It also moves some uses that were previously covered by the use classes order (and which benefitted from certain permitted changes) into the list of uses which cannot be included in a specified class.

Class E will comprise the previous shops (A1), financial and professional services (A2), restaurants and cafes (A3) and offices (B1), together with uses such as gyms, nurseries and health centres (D1 and D2).

The new Learning and non-residential institutions class (F1) will include former D1 uses, which are more likely to involve buildings in wider public use such as school, libraries and art galleries.

Local community uses (Class F2) will include former D2 uses, which provide for group activities of a physical nature such as swimming pools, skating rinks and areas for outdoor sports.  It also includes smaller shops serving local communities.

Residential uses (Class C), general industrial (B2) and storage and distribution (B8) remain unchanged

The previous separate categories for drinking establishments (A4) and hot food takeaways (A5) are removed, and those uses will thereafter be classified as sui generis.  The same will also apply to cinemas, concert, dance and bingo halls (which were previously within class D2).

Transitional arrangements

As of 1 September, there will be some transitional arrangements in place to allow for the use of historic permitted changes, however, these will only be in place until 31 July 2021.  The same is true of relevant Article 4 directions.

Take action now

Our handy one-page guide sets out the planned changes to the use of classes from 1 September 2020. If you are looking at taking on, or converting, a building you should double check the new regulations, as it may be that the new proposals make it easier (or in some cases harder) to change the existing use.  Equally, when considering letting properties, landlords will want to have regard to the types of uses they are willing to accept in their buildings.

Contact us

For advice and support on how these changes may affect your developments, or any other legal planning query, contact Paul Wakefield in our planning team.

Published: 31st July 2020
Area: Neighbourhood planning

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