Use Classes Amendment to the Town and Country Planning (England) Regulations 2020

— 14 Sep 2020, 15:52:14 by Philip Manning

shutterstock 153462650

From 1st September 2020, significant changes to the Town & Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 came into effect in the hope of reviving our high streets, which have been struggling for some time, not least due to the growth in online retail.

Most property uses are designated as being within a particular Use Class, for example retail shops are in Use Class A1 or A2.

Until this latest amendment, traditional businesses found on the high street such as shops, restaurants, estate agents and pubs were all incorporated into Class A and subdivided into Use Classes A1 – A5. Uses that don’t rely on visiting members of the public, such as industrial, offices and warehousing were in a separate Class B and subdivided into B1, B2 and B8. Class C covered uses involving residential accommodation like houses and flats, hotels, hospitals and prisons. Again, this Class was subdivided to provide more precision. The final Class D covered a wide range of uses but basically ones involving attracting consumers of those uses eg. health centres, schools, cinemas, gyms and swimming pools. These uses were subdivided into Use Classes D1 and D2.

Uses which the Government, for various reasons, want to exclude from the mainstream Classes above are known as sui generis, Latin for ‘of its own kind’ or unique. Examples are petrol filling stations, launderettes, car showrooms and nightclubs. These uses, being sui generis, will require planning consent for any change of use. The Government are seeking, not only to arrest the structural decline of the traditional high street by widening the number of uses eligible for that type of location without needing planning consent, but also speeding up the often unacceptably slow timescale in securing planning decisions on applications for a change of use.

Classes A, B1 and D have now been deleted in their entirety and the uses therein reassigned to new Classes: E (commercial, business and service), F1 (learning and non-residential institutions), F2 (local community) or designated sui generis.

Traditional high street shops and restaurants are now in Use Class E and whereas traditional high street uses such as pubs and hot food takeaway shops are now sui generis, they have been replaced by some interesting ‘bed fellows’ such as offices, light industrial, day nurseries and gyms. Remember that planning permission is not required for a change of use within any particular Use Class. It is hoped that this widening of uses permitted in traditional high streets will encourage a greater range of businesses to occupy vacant shops and maintain them as vibrant locations, attractive to businesses and consumers alike.

In Brighton & Hove we have, for some time now, seen planning permission granted for gyms on our high streets and, whilst I can see that day nurseries and doctors’ surgeries might attract more customers to nearby coffee shops and be helpful for those working in nearby offices, one wonders whether busy high streets are the best place for small children and those in need of medical treatment? The inclusion of light industrial in the new Use Class E, along with offices which were also in Use Class B1, are difficult to imagine on the high street but who knows? Of course, this change also enables retailers, including supermarkets, to consider out-of-town industrial premises as possible sites with better vehicular access than the town centre.

Use class F1 replaces the old D1 except that it is now smaller, as non-residential institutions like day nurseries and GP surgeries have been moved into Use Class E.

Use Class F2 seeks to protect local community uses but is still fairly wide, embracing local shops selling essential goods and at least one kilometre from another such shop, community halls, swimming pools and skating rinks. Local village shops selling essential goods were previously vulnerable to a change of use to another shop, restaurant or other use under permitted development rights, whereas placing these specific shops in the local community Use Class F2, makes them less liable to a change of use, as changing to a swimming pool or skating rink is unlikely. However, village shops, like any other business, whatever they’re selling, need to be viable to survive, and simply placing them in a more protected Use Class, does not guarantee this.

Recent blog posts

Browse by category