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All change for Use Classes

Pandemic notwithstanding, the pace of legislative activity in the property sphere shows no sign of abating.  This time the focus is on planning.

The latest entrant on the scene is the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020, SI 2020/757.

These regulations will come into force on 1 September 2020.

They will have a very far-reaching impact for both owners and occupiers of properties and their neighbours alike.

The main points are:

  • Classes A1 (shops), A2 (financial and professional services) and A3 (restaurants and cafes) are to be abolished.
  • Class B1 (offices, research, and light industrial) is also on the way out.
  • All these uses are to be amalgamated in a new Class E (commercial, business and service).
  • Class E will also include town centre friendly uses such as indoor gyms, nurseries, and health centres (previously in Classes D1 & D2).
  • Classes A4 (drinking establishments) & A5 (hot food takeaway) are removed.  These uses will now be sui generis – i.e. not in any use class.  The same goes for cinemas, concert, dance and bingo halls (previously in Class D2).
  • Classes B2 (general industrial) and B8 (storage or distribution) survive.
  • Class C (residential etc.) is also unchanged.
  • New Class F1 (learning and non-residential institutions) – e.g. schools, libraries, art galleries – includes many uses from the former Class D1.
  • New Class F2 (local community) – e.g. swimming pools, skating rinks, areas for outdoor sports – includes many uses from the former Class D2 (except cinemas etc – as above).
  • Class F2 also includes shops servicing the essential needs of local communities (those mostly for the sale of a range of essential dry goods and food where there is no commercial class retail unit within 1000 m).

The new, very broad Class E means that there will be unfettered freedom (in planning law) to change use between shops, restaurants and cafes, offices, light industrial, gyms, nurseries and health centres – without any need for planning permission.

This gives undoubted flexibility but at the expense of local oversight and control.

Conversely, the new regime is less flexible, and imposes greater regulation, in relation to pubs, wine bars, takeaways, music halls and cinemas, enabling these to be policed more tightly than before.

Finally, Class F2 comprises a new category dedicated to protecting local community uses.

The consequences of these radical changes remain to be seen but there is no denying that (for better or worse) the new use classes are set to be a game-changer.

Given the expansive new freedoms and the significant removal of planning control in relation to many types of use, it is to be anticipated that in the future the spotlight will focus on existing planning limitations (e.g. planning conditions) and, in particular, on non-planning restrictions such as freehold and leasehold user covenants.



22 July 2020



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