Changes to Use Classes in England: Class E Commercial, Business and Service
All buildings in England fall within one of the ‘Use Classes’ defined within Article 3 of the Town and County Planning(Use Classes) Order 1987. These classes help to define and determine the use of a building, and are particularly relevant for the purposes of potential changes in use of the building in question.
They include business classifications such as shops, businesses, professional services, restaurants, entertainment, banks and more.
In July 2020, the Government introduced the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes)(Amendment) Regulations 2020, which subsequently took effect from 1 September 2020. These changes were introduced with the aim of providing greater flexibility for changes in use of commercial properties without the need to seek planning permission.
What are the changes to the Use Classes?
Effective as of 1 September 2020, ‘Class E’ is introduced and has replaced a number of previous use classes, including the following:
- Class A1 (Shops)
- Class A2 (Financial and Professional Services)
- Class A3 (Restaurants and Cafés)
- Class B1 (Business).
Class E has also incorporated some elements of the previous Class D1 (namely clinics, health centres, crèches and nurseries) and Class D2 (namely Gyms and Indoor Sports Venues).
Additionally, the amendment creates two new classes, namely Class F1 and F2, which deal with the remaining elements of theformer Classes D1 and D2, namely learning and non-residential institutions, and local community buildings, respectively.
The final change introduced by the 2020 Amendment is the creation of unique or ‘sui generis’ classes of use, namely pubs/clubs/bars (A4), takeaways (A5), and cinemas/theatres (D2). Changes of use will not be permitted for these new ‘sui generis’ classes without planning permission.
What does the new Class E mean in practice?
Under the previous system, land or buildings which fell within one of the Classes A1, A2, A3, B1, or the relevant usages within Class D1 and D2 (as outlined above) would require planning permission to change the use of the land or buildings from one of those classes to another.
For example, a retail shop (Formerly Class A1) would require planning permission to change the use of the building to a restaurant (Formerly Class A3).
Following the Government’s reform, the process has now been significantly streamlined, and any land or buildings falling within the new Class E do not require planning permission for change of use, provided that both the existing and proposed usage falls within Class E.
For example, an office building (Formerly Class B1, now Class E) which is developed into a gym (Formerly Class D2, now Class E), would no longer require planning permission, as both usages fall within the new Class E.
What will be the impact of the other changes in practice?
The introduction of Classes F1 and F2, in essence, replace the previous classes of D1 and D2, save for the elements of both D1 and D2 which have now been incorporated into Class E (as detailed above).
As a consequence, elements of the former classes D1 and D2 which are now no longer within the same class will now require planning permission, which it would not have previously required.
For example, a health centre (Formerly Class D1, now Class E) which is developed into an education centre (Formerly Class D1, now Class F1), would not have required planning permission for change of use under the old system, however planning permission will now be required for a change of use taking effect after 1 September 2020.
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