August 6, 2020

Planning reform 2020: simplifying use classes

Whilst news outlets widely reported on Government plans to help ‘extend homes upwards and revitalise town centres’, by broadening the permitted developments rights to demolish and rebuild unused buildings, and add a new floor (or even two) to people’s homes, it is perhaps the lesser reported planning changes which are more radical. 

The new regulations (or the “Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020”, if you prefer the catchier title), come into force on 1 September 2020. They create new use planning use classes, namely Class E (“commercial, business and services” uses); Class F1 (“learning and non-residential institutions” uses); and Class F2 (“local community” uses); and reclassify a number of uses.

In short, the regulations seek to ‘simplify’ the system of use classes in England by creating a new broad Class E. The ‘Commercial, Business and Service’ use class will incorporate:

– Retail (previously A1)
– Restaurant (previously A3)
– Financial and professional services (previously A2)
– Offices (previously B1)

The new Class E also includes uses including gyms, nurseries and health centres (previously in use classes D1 and D2) as well as other uses deemed suitable for a town centre area.

Why is this interesting? Well, movements between uses within the same use class do not require planning permission because such change does not constitute “development”.

This does not just affect commercial property landlords and tenants. It also potentially massively affects those with residential property interests near commercial properties as well. For example, you may have bought an apartment over a nice quiet office or shop, however under the new regulations, it is feasible that (without planning approval being required) the business could change to a restaurant. For some home owners or tenants this will be convenient, for others, not so much.  

Depending on your outlook, perhaps fortunately, the former A4 Drinking establishments and A5 Hot food takeaway use classes have been removed, and will now be considered unique uses, as will cinemas, concert, dance and bingo halls which previously fell within the former D2 use class. This means that changes to and from these uses will be subject to full local consideration through the planning application process. Don’t worry, if you own an apartment, you won’t suddenly wake up to a nightclub or takeaway next door or downstairs – at least without it having gone through a full planning process.

If you have commercial property interests and would like to know how this may affect your properties, the expert commercial property solicitors at Scott Bailey LLP can help. Please get in touch to learn more.