So, you thought you knew your A B C?

July 24, 2020
Claire Saffer

Legal Counsel

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The government published draft legislation this week which proposes the first major overhaul in 30 years to the Use Classes Order, due to take effect from 1 September 2020.  A number of the familiar use classes will disappear altogether, and new, more flexible uses will be introduced in order to bolster Britain’s challenged high street and allow business to adapt as demand requires without needing planning permission for a change of use.  The changes also recognise that the needs of local communities require more flexibility than the planning system currently allows.

The proposal is to abolish:

  • the existing Class A and Class D uses altogether;
  • retain only B2 (industrial) and B8 (storage/distribution) from the B uses; and
  • retain the C uses for hotels, residential institutions, single dwellinghouses and small HMOs.

Class E

A new Class E for “Commercial, business and service uses” will be the new home for previous:

  • A1 (retail over 280m2);
  • A2 (financial and professional services);
  • A3 (café and restaurants, but not takeaways);
  • B1 (offices/R&D/certain industrial uses); and ;
  • D1 (clinics/health centres/nurseries.

A4 (pubs/bars), A5 (takeaways) and certain D2 uses – cinemas, live music venues, dance and bingo halls – are no longer to have any specified class i.e. they will become sui generis uses, as the government feels that changes to or from these uses can give rise to important local considerations which need to be given full consideration through the planning application process.

Class E will cover the following uses, all designed to be used principally by visiting members of the public:

  • Sale of retail goods, excluding hot food;
  • Sale of food and drink mainly for consumption off the premises;
  • Financial and professional services and other services suitable for a commercial business or service location;
  • Offices, research and development and industrial processes which can be carried out in a residential area without adverse impact on amenity;
  • Indoor sport/recreation/fitness (excluding motorised vehicles and firearms);
  • Medical and health services (excluding home consulting rooms); and
  • Creche/day nurseries/day centres

Whilst new Class E will make it easier for vacant shop premises to be re-occupied for alternative uses, the range of uses within Class E does mean that traditional town centre retail will be under even greater threat than previously.  Local authorities will also need to re-consider their town centre policies as the emphasis shifts from retail first to supply and demand.

Class F.1

A new Class F.1 for “‘Learning and non-residential institutions” incorporates buildings from D1 which are in wider public use such as educational establishments, galleries, museums, public library, places of worship and courts.  This change is likely to be the most restrictive, as uses formerly within D1 such as creches, nurseries and day centres have moved to Class E rather than Class F.1.  The range of permitted changes of uses with Class F.1 is now narrower than it was within Class D1.

Class F.2

A new Class F.2 will be the home for “Local Community” uses, which will include :

  • shops under 280m2 selling mainly (though not exclusively) dry goods and food which are at least 1km away from commercial retail units;
  • community halls; and
  • group activities of a more physical nature that are currently D2 uses, such as swimming pools, outdoor sports and recreation facilities.

The placing of smaller-scale shops in Class F.2. rather than Class E is a step-change which recognises the function of smaller units in serving immediate local needs, whether in a rural community or a large residential development, and draws the planning emphasis for these units away from pure land use considerations.

Need to know – dates

There is a transitional period between 1 September 2020 and 31 July 2021 which will apply to any Article 4 Directions and planning applications made before 1 September 2020; and any prior approval applications made after 1 September 2020, where reference to use classes will be construed as reference to the previous use class.  New, revised permitted development rights will be introduced after 31 July 2021.