England - Use Classes Order Changes

07 Oct

In September 2020 changes were undertaken to the Use Classes Order.  Previously different land use attracted different classification under the Use Class Order which forms part of the Planning Permission granted for a particular building.  In the past Class A1 was for shops, A2 for financial institutions, A3 food and drink and A4 was drinking establishment thereby making a distinction between restaurants and pubs within the hospitality industry.

A new Class E has been established which incorporates retail cafes and restaurants, financial and professional services, indoor sport, recreational fitness, medical or health service facilities, crèche, day nursery or day centre and office research/development and light industry.

This seems to be a very wide selection of uses of premises but it is to be noted that it does not incorporate A4.

Planning consultants Walsingham Planning in their Autumn Newsletter confirmed this is not a change to permitted development rights but a fundamental change to what constitutes development and thereby requires Planning Permission. It is their view that from the 1st September changing between any of these Class E types of operation will no longer constitute a development and therefore no Planning Permission will be required.

Clearly old restrictive covenants, lease restrictions, and the old planning history may still impact and therefore changes should not be undertaken without undertaking checks on the historic position.  However the existence of the new Class E will provide a significant opportunity going forward particularly in relation to the change from light industry or a shop into a restaurant.

A new Class F.1 and Class F.2 have also been established which roughly replace Class D1 (non residential institutions) and D2 (assembly and leisure) however there appears to be subtle nuances in relation to what constitutes items within these classes for those considering establishing a small shop be that a local convenience store, traditional off licence or more contemporary beer bottle shop, the existence of a category known as “small isolated shop” may be beneficial.  This is a small property (floor area of 280 square metres or less) and with no similar facility within 1 kilometre.

What about pubs?  Well these will now fall into the sui generis categorisation along with takeaways and there is no ability to switch from a sui generis use to any other without Planning Permission.  Significant questions therefore arise in relation to what a pub can do without Planning Permissions.  Walsingham Planning indicate in their Autumn Newsletter that a traditional pub wanting to start providing an enhanced food offer would now need Planning Permission to do so – both Walsingham and ourselves are sure this could not have been the Government’s intention particularly in view of all the relaxations we have seen during the pandemic on what pubs can and cannot do.

Classes B2, B8 and Class C remain as before.

We are grateful to Walsingham Planning for providing this update on the Use Class Order.

Law correct at the date of publication.
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