The property use class guide has had a facelift recently. From 1st September 2020 (with a transition period until 31st July 2021) the old Use Classes Order has been replaced with a neater condensed version. The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 aim is to make it easier for business premises to change a use, for example, transforming a restaurant into a retail shop.

Use Classes are applied to properties by the local planning authority to designate how a building may be used.  Issues may arise for example when a busines owner wishes to change the use of the premises (e.g. from B1(a) (offices) to A1 (retail shop). There are some class changes that are allowed without planning permission under permitted development rights however each council has the ability to prohibit these rights by using Article 4 directions (which continue to stay in force with the new reforms).

The new rules form a new Class E – Commercial, Business and Service, which encompasses the previous classes A1-3, B1-2 and parts of D1 and D2 thus covering a multitude of businesses. This will make it much easier for businesses to swap industry without the overhead of acquiring planning permission for changing the use of the premises. Other planning consents may still be required, for example for building work. Please note, compliance with Building Regulations is still compulsory.

The reforms also focus on educational and community values and have introduced Class F1 – Learning and Non-Residential Institutions and F2 – Community Use. Class F1 includes businesses such as museums, art galleries, libraries etc; whereas F2 covers small shops selling essential goods (at least 1km from another similar busines), community halls, public sporting areas.

Moreover, the Sui-Generis category has expanded to include A4, A5 and some D2 businesses such as pubs, bars, hot-food takeaways, cinemas, concert halls, live-music halls and bingo halls. Sui-Generis includes those uses which are not included in a Class and require planning permission for any change of use.

Some finer details regarding what businesses fall into which categories still require some clarity such as what constitutes a hairdressers rather than a beauty salon? However overall, the reforms will ease pressure on businesses especially during these uncertain times, in particular High Street businesses will be able to more easily adapt to market changes.

Property developers, and those looking to sell their commercial properties, are likely to attract a wider array of buyers as the use of the premises will be less restricted. Commercial landlords will also benefit as they can now expand their range of tenants. However, if, as a Landlord, you do not wish for your tenants to have the flexibility to change the use of the premises, specific clauses can be incorporated into the Lease to prevent this.

In short, the reforms have not changed the Use of a premises, however the range of classes has changed thereby allowing more permitted changes without the need to obtain planning. Classes A, B and D have been revoked, Class remains unaffected and Classes E and F have been introduced. If a use does not fall within a Class it will be Sui Generis and thus require planning permission. Local Authorities will still have the power however to enforce Article 4 restrictions to require planning permission.

If you would like to discuss any of these issues in greater detail, please call John Szepietowski at Audley Chaucer 10372 303444.


Use Previous Class Use Class from 1 September 2020
Shop ≤ 280 sqm mostly selling essential goods, including food and at least 1km from another similar shop A1 F.2
Shop A1 E
Financial and professional services (not medical) A2 E
Café or restaurant A3 E
Pub or drinking establishment A4 Sui generis
Takeaway A5 Sui generis
Office other than a use within Class A2 B1a E
Research and development of products or processes B1b E
For any industrial process (which can be carried out in any residential area without causing detriment to the amenity of the area) B1c E
Industrial B2 B2*
Storage or distribution B8 B8
Hotels, boarding and guest houses C1 C1
Residential institutions C2 C2
Secure residential institutions C2a C2a
Dwelling houses C3 C3
Use of a dwellinghouse by 3-6 residents as a ‘house in multiple
C4 C4
Clinics, health centres, creches, day nurseries, day centre D1 E
Schools, non-residential education and training centres, museums,
public libraries, public halls, exhibition halls, places of worship, law courts
D1 F.1
Cinemas, concert halls, bingo halls and dance halls D2 Sui generis
Gymnasiums, indoor recreations not involving motorised vehicles
or firearms
D2 E
Hall or meeting place for the principal use of the local community D2 F.2
Indoor or outdoor swimming baths, skating rinks and outdoor sports or recreations not involving motorised vehicles or firearms D2 F.2


Larissa Bourgi


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