Lawrence Stephens

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Further reforms to the Use Class Order used in planning laws which include 3 new Use Classes

July 2020

The government has this week announced further changes to planning laws, this time revamping the current Use Classes order. Currently planning permission is required where there is a change of use of a property and under existing legislation change of use within certain designated classes did not require planning permission.

The government has made a number of significant amendments to the existing regime of Use Classes and these regulations will come into effect from 1 September 2020. The Use Classes have been fully revamped – three new classes have been created in place of those that we are all currently familiar with which are as follows:

1) Use Class E – This covers commercial, business and service uses and replaces what would previously fall under use classes A1, A2, A3, B1, D1 and D2, save for those uses which fall into the below two categories;

2) Use Class F.1 – This will cover all learning and non-residential institutions;

3) Use Class F.2 – This will cover anything for local community use, including a shop which is smaller than 280 square meters selling mostly essential goods.

In addition to the above, there are a range of uses that the government has decided has a community value and should be protected from unrestricted conversion by not being included in the aforementioned categories. They are now designated as ‘sui generis’ (or a class of their own) and include cinemas and bingo halls (currently Use Class D2), pubs (currently Use Class A4) and hot food takeaways (currently Use Class A5). Properties being used within these classes will not be able to be used for any other purpose unless an express planning consent is granted.

Please see the table below generated by Nicholas Kyriacou of Micommercial, one of our partner agents which is a visual guide to the changes and makes it easy to identify and review the various categories each use will fall into following 1 September 2020:

It will certainly be interesting to see the effect that this greater flexibility has on our high streets, in particular what changes which will result from the increased range of powers given to Landlords which will assist in letting units that are potentially vacant following the damaging COVID-19 crisis. Given that certain Local Councils may wish to preserve or maintain a variety of business on high streets, we may now see a rise in Article 4 directions issued by local planning authorities – such directions restrict the scope and ambit of permitted development rights in respect of a certain area and are a useful tool to shape the character of a certain business district or zone.

Further changes that have been hinted by government officials in recent weeks, including proposals that will see commercial buildings converted to residential use without planning. Though the residential use classes were not mentioned or referred to in the government’s latest changes, many are anticipating such reforms in the coming months.

If you require any further information about how this announcement might affect you, please get in touch.