Mark Howard
Posted on 19 Aug 2020

General Permitted Development Order: September changes to the Use Class Order

There have been some major changes to Planning legislation over the past month. This article focuses on the changes to the 1987 Use Classes Order introduced by the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020 No.757) ("The 2020 Regulations"), which were made on 20 July and will take effect on 1 September 2020, subject to saving provisions, officially termed "the material period" between 1 September 2020 and 31 July 2021.

I discuss the updates in detail below, but in summary, the main changes to the Use Classes Order are:

  • The introduction of three new Use Classes (E, F.1 and F.2) contained in a new Schedule 2. These aim to provide greater freedom for development in towns and cities enabling a change of use (within the same use class) without requiring explicit planning permission;
  • The revocation of Use Classes A and D. Although, as set out below, many of the provisions in these "old" Use Classes can still be found within the new Use Classes; and
  • The extension of the miscellaneous Use Class of Sui Generis.

 The new Use Classes

  1. Part A: Class E - Commercial, business and service

Use Class E subsumes aspects of three "old" Use Classes into one single grouping. The crucial point being that changes of use within the same Use Class, are not "development". By creating a wider Use Class, far more flexibility is afforded for property owners who will be able change the use of a building to another use within the same Class E, without obtaining explicit planning permission. For example: from 1st September, a shop could now become an office under these rules, whilst previously, these uses were in two different classes. Despite the Government stating that the intention is to enable town centres to adapt to changing public need and use, there is no specific location restriction in the legislation.

Class E permits "use or part use for all or any of the following purposes":

  • Sale or display of retail goods (formerly in use class A1);
  • Provision of financial, professional and "any other service which is appropriate to provide in a commercial, business or service locality" (formerly A2);
  • Sale of food and drink (formerly A3);
  • Provision of office, research or industrial process use (as long as the amenity of the locality is not affected by noise, vibration, smell, fumes, smoke, dust, etc) (formerly B1(a),(b) and (c));
  • Provision of medical or health services (formerly D1(a));
  • Provision of crèche, day centre or nursery (formerly D1(b)); and
  • Provision of indoor sport, recreation or fitness, excluding the use of motor vehicles or firearms (formerly D2(e))

The addition of the "or part" wording for use class E introduces the concept that either the whole or only a part of a building or planning unit can be changed to an alternative use within class E, without planning permission.

  1. Part B: Class F.1 – Learning and non-residential institutions

Class F.1 incorporates the remaining parts of "old" class D1 which are not included within Class E. Class F.1 will permit any change of use within this class, not including residential use:

  • For provision of education;
  • For display of art work (not for sale or hire);
  • As a museum, public library or reading room;
  • As a public hall or exhibition hall;
  • For, or in connection with, public worship or religious instruction; or
  • As a law court.
  1. Part B: Class F.2 – Local community

This new class incorporates some existing uses in Use Class D and is designed to permit changes to use in the same Use Class, of existing local community facilities. Class F.2 permits any use as:

  • A shop mostly selling essential goods, including food, to visiting members of the public in circumstances where:
  1. the shop’s premises cover an area not more than 280 metres square; and
  2.  there is no other such facility within 1000 metre radius of the shop’s location.
  • A hall or meeting place for the principal use of the local community;
  • An area or place for outdoor sport or recreation, not involving motorised vehicles or firearms; and
  • an indoor or outdoor swimming pool or skating rink.

Sui Generis

Sui Generis meaning "of its own kind, in a class by itself" incorporates buildings which do not fit within other use classes. Sui Generis establishments usually require planning permission to change their use. Currently, this includes (amongst others) theatres, scrap yards, launderettes, casinos and taxi companies. This list has now been extended to also include: pubs, wine bars, hot food takeaways, live music venues, cinemas, concert halls, bingo and dance halls.

The implications of the changes introduced by the 2020 Regulations are potentially far-reaching. If you are in the process of submitting a planning application, awaiting a decision or require specific advice on changing the function or use of a building, please contact the planning team.