Use Classes Order – shake up for ‘town centre’ uses

Legislation Update
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The Government laid new laws in Parliament today (21 July) to ‘extend homes upwards and revitalise town centres’.  Whilst it is the introduction of new permitted development rights to demolish and rebuild unused buildings as homes and allow homeowners to add new floors to their homes that have made today’s headlines, it is the changes to the Planning Use Classes Order that are perhaps the most radical amendments.

Coming into force on 1st September 2020, the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 (2020 No. 757) will significantly shake up the Use Classes Order.  In short, the regulations seek to ‘amend and simplify’ the system of use classes in England by creating a new broad Class E. ‘Commercial, Business and Service’ use class which incorporates:

– Retail (previously A1)
– Restaurant (previously A3)
– Financial and professional services (previously A2)
– Offices (previously B1)

Along with other uses previously in Class D1 & D2 and other uses which are ‘suitable for a town centre area’ including:

-Indoors sport, recreation and fitness facilities
– Medical and health facilities
– Creches and day nurseries
– Research and development facilities
– Light industrial uses

The Explanatory Memorandum states that:

This new class allows for a mix of uses to reflect changing retail and business models. It therefore, recognises that a building may be in a number of uses concurrently or that a building may be used for different uses at different times of the day. Changes to another use, or mix of uses, within this class do not require planning permission. Bringing these uses together and allowing movement between them will give businesses greater freedom to adapt to changing circumstances and to respond more quickly to the needs of their communities’.

A series of more protected ‘community uses’ have been moved into a new Class F. ‘Local Community and Learning’ use class. Class F.1 includes schools, galleries, museums, halls, libraries and places of worship. Class F.2 includes essential isolated shops, community halls, outdoor sports facilities and swimming pools/skating rinks.

The residential (C classes), General industrial (B2) and Storage and distribution (B8) use classes remain unchanged (except for a new cross reference in B2 to the new ‘commercial’ class).

The former A4 Drinking establishments and A5 Hot food takeaway use classes have been removed and will be considered ‘Sui Generis’ uses as will cinemas, concert, dance and bingo halls which fell within the former D2 use class. This will mean that changes to and from these uses will be subject to full local consideration through the planning application process.

Importantly, the new regulations include transitional provisions.  Paragraph 7.10 of the Explanatory Memorandum explains that:

‘There are a number of permitted development rights which grant general planning permission allowing changes of use between the former use classes without the need to submit a planning application. These regulations provide transitional provisions which retain the effect of the permitted development right based on the classes that were in place prior to these regulations coming into force. A building or use will continue to be subject to any permitted development rights that it was entitled to on or before 31 August 2020. These transitional provisions will remain in place until 31 July 2021 when new, revised permitted development rights will be introduced. These savings provisions also apply to relevant Article 4 Directions’.

Unfortunately, there are no current plans to consolidate the Use Classes legislation so these new regulations will sit alongside the various other amendments made to the 1987 Order.

The potential implications of these changes will take some time to understand and could be far reaching. They will come as good news for many businesses and landowners by providing greater flexibility for buildings to be repurposed and adapt to changing market trends. Should you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact a member of the Firstplan team.

See our summary of the new Class E. use class here:

Firstplan Summary of Class E – July 2020[1]