The Government has published legislation to bring sweeping changes to the Use Classes Order says commercial property agent Prop-Search, in a move designed to allow greater flexibility between all uses and ultimately a more agile planning framework to reflect the evolving demands in how property is utilised, without having to obtain planning permission.
From 1 September 2020 existing buildings that are already used for Class A1 (retail), A2 (financial & professional services), A3 (restaurants & cafes), B1 (business) and certain D1 (non-residential institutions) and D2 (assembly & leisure) uses such as gyms, nurseries and health centres, will fall within a new single Class E (commercial, business & service). And unless the permissions they operate under have specific controls, will be able to change to other uses within that new class without the need for planning permission.
Samantha Jones, an Associate Director at Prop-Search, said: “The changes to the use classes are certainly the most radical to the planning system in recent times. The Government has said it wants the use classes system to better reflect the diversity of uses on high streets and in town centres, to give businesses the flexibility to adapt and diversify to meet changing demands.”
“Despite this stated focus, however, the effect of the changes to create a new commercial, business and service use class is not limited to these locations. This means that the reforms will affect and deliver flexibility for any buildings within the relevant uses wherever they are in England.”
Two further use classes will also be introduced: F1 (learning and non-residential institutions) includes schools, museums, libraries, exhibition spaces, places of worship and law courts and F2 (local community uses) includes small shops (not more than 280 sq m selling mostly essential goods), community halls or meeting places, swimming pools, skating rinks and outdoor sports facilities (not involving motorised vehicles or firearms). Changes within the new Use Class F1 and F2 will not need planning permission but changes between them will unless further revisions are made to authorise this.
Local Planning Authorities will, however, continue to exercise their influence over pubs, takeaways, cinemas, concert venues and night clubs. These premises will now join the list of sui generis uses (‘in a class of their own’) which cannot be changed without express planning permission.