Town and Country Planning – Changes to the Use Classes Order in England

These changes have been made with the aim of supporting the high street revival and allow greater flexibility to change uses within town centres, without the need for express planning permission.   This is part of the government’s “Project Speed”.

The regulations introduce three new use classes:

Class E (Commercial, Business and Service) – including retail, restaurant, office, indoor sports and any other services which it is appropriate to provide in a commercial or business locality.

Class F1 (Learning and Non-Residential Institutions) – including non-residential educational uses and use as a museum, art gallery, library, public hall or law court.

Class F2 (Local Community) – including use as a shop of no more than 280 square metres, mostly selling essential goods, including food and at least one kilometer from another similar shop, and use as a community hall, area for outdoor sport, swimming pool or skating rink.

Parts A and D to the original use classes order have been entirely deleted, with use classes A1 (Shops), A2 (Financial and Professional Services), A3 (Restaurants and cafes), parts of D1 (Non-Residential Institutions) and D2 (Assembly and Leisure) all now included within Use Class E.  This now means that changes of use within this class will not constitute development at all.

These changes are not linked to location and, thus, will apply not only to high streets but also to other commercial centres, including Business Parks.  Thus, non-office type activities, including retail, could now set up in Business Park locations, potentially competing with the traditional town centre.  This may be seen as running contrary to current national and local planning policies designed to protect town centres.

These changes may affect current and new leases, particularly where the use of the property is limited by reference to a class defined in the Use Classes Order.  In particular, landlords should seriously consider in granting a new lease whether they would be happy for tenants to take advantage of the new flexibility afforded by use class E, or whether they would wish to define the use in the lease more specifically.

Occupiers and landlords should be aware of the new changes, which grant far more flexibility in certain areas