Use Classes Reform

Use Classes Reform

This article was published on: 17th August 2020

Following the Government’s pledge to reform the planning system, proposals have been made to amend the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 to provide for a more diverse and flexible use of commercial premises, particularly in town centres and on high streets. The objective is to allow businesses the flexibility to adapt and diversify to meet changing demands.

The changes will come into effect on 1 September 2020. For any building or use subject to permitted development rights, this entitlement will continue until 31 August 2020. From then, transitional provisions will exist until 31 July 2021, when revised permitted development rights will be introduced.

 

 

The new regulations intend to simplify the Use Class systems by creating a new Class E which will replace classes A1 (Shops), A2 (Financial and Professional Services), A3 (Cafes and Restaurants) and B1 (A – Offices, B – Research and Development Buildings, C – Industrial Processes). Parts of Classes D1 (Clinics, Health Centres, Creches, Day Nurseries and Day Centres) and D2 (Gymnasiums and Indoor Recreations) will also be removed in favour of Class E.

Any land or buildings utilised for Class E will not need to obtain planning permission for changes falling within that same Class. The Government has indicated that this will reflect changing retail and business models as it permits a business to respond and adapt quickly to changing circumstances and demands without the need to obtain planning permission.

The regulations have also created two further new classes – Class F1 (Learning and Non-Residential Institutions) and Class F2 (Local Community).  Class F1 incorporates part of the uses from Class D1, namely non-residential institutions which are more likely to involve buildings in wider public use. Examples of this are schools, museums, art galleries and libraries. Class F2 encompasses some of the uses from D2, specifically those group activities of a physical nature – such as outdoor sports areas or swimming pools.  Class F2 also incorporates small, local shops which sell essential goods, including food, to members of the public. For shops to fall under Class F2, they must not cover more than 280sq metres or be within 1km of another shop/facility of the same kind.

The regulations will also expand the number of uses classed as “Sui Generis”. Classes A4 (Drinking Establishments), A5 (Hot Food Takeaway) and part of D2 (Cinemas, Dance, Concert and Bingo Halls) will all come under the “Sui Generis” category. “Sui Generis” uses generally cannot change without planning permission. There is nothing to prevent such applications being made, however the Government’s intentions in creating this were to protect local pubs and other community facilities and prevent an influx of hot food takeaways.

Classes B2 (General Industrial), B8 (Storage and Distribution) and C (Residential) will all remain unchanged.

The broad change to Class E should, in theory, benefit landlords with vacant premises impacted by COVID-19, as it enables them and their tenants to change the use of their premises more easily. It also aims to help struggling high streets to recover. However, there is a risk of monopolising the diversity of the high street as landowners/occupiers may only look for the most profitable uses – such as “day to night” venues.

There is no doubt that the changes to the Use Classes will need to bring about a modernisation to local planning authorities’ policies on planning permission, or they will risk falling behind.

Commercial landlords, business owners and tenants considering utilising the ability to change use without planning permission under the altered Use Classes should still seek legal or specialist planning advice before attempting to do so in order to avoid any possible risk of action from planning authorities.

Author: Rebecca Parker, Paralegal

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