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Opportunities for change – How landlords and tenants can repurpose their premises under the new Use Classes Order
The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 came into effect on 01 September 2020 and amends the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (‘Use Classes Order’). The changes will provide greater flexibility in allowing both tenants and landlords to repurpose the way their premises are used in order to meet changing demands in business habits.
What is the Use Classes Order?
The Use Classes Order divides the different uses of premises into several categories. Its significance is that any change of use within the same use class does not require planning permission. Importantly however the building operations that can accompany a change of use may require planning permission.
Any use that falls outside of the use class categories is referred to as ‘sui generis’. Generally, this means they are in a class of their own and planning permission is required to change their use. Examples of sui generis uses under the new Use Classes Order includes; pubs, cinemas, music venues, takeaways and dance halls.
Purposefully, the government does not want premises classed as sui generis to change use without local consideration as they are considered ‘community assets’. An example is to ensure that local pubs can be protected or to prevent the proliferation of hot food takeaways.
What are the changes?
As can be seen from the comparison table, the Regulations have reduced the categories of uses. Original classes ‘A’ and ‘D’ have been deleted with new classes ‘E’, ‘F1’ and ‘F2’ being introduced.
Old Use Classes Order
New Use Classes Order
From 01 September 2020
B2 General industrial
A2 Professional and Financial Services
B8 Storage or distribution
A3 Restaurants and Cafes
A4 Drinking Establishments
C2 Residential institutions
A5 Hot Food Takeaways
C2A Secure residential institutions
AA Drinking Establishment with expanded food provision
C3 Dwelling houses
C4 Houses in multiple occupation
B2 General Industrial
E Commercial, Business and Service
B8 Storage and Distribution
F1 Learning and non-residential institutions
F2 Local community
C2 Residential Institutions
C3 Dwelling houses
C4 Small Houses in Multiple Occupation
D1 Non-residential Institutions
D2 Assembly and Leisure
Class ‘E’ amalgamates the previous use classes ‘A1’, ‘A2’, ‘A3’, ‘B1’ and parts of ‘D1’ and ‘D2’ into one class meaning you no longer need planning permission to change between them. Class ‘E’ will incorporate uses like retail, restaurants, financial/professional services, indoor sports, medical/health services and nursery uses along with ‘any other services which it is appropriate to provide in a commercial, business or service locality’.
Class ‘F1’ includes non-residential uses for the provision of education and art, museums, public libraries, exhibition halls and law courts. Class ‘F2’ includes shops selling mostly essential goods of no more than 280 sqm and at least 1km from another similar shop. Also included are community halls, outdoor sports areas, swimming pools and skating rinks.
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens if I have already submitted an application to change the use of my premises?
Applications submitted prior to 01 September 2020 that refer to the previous use classes order will continue to be decided under them. You may find that if planning permission is granted that there are more onerous planning conditions restricting use if the council is not comfortable with the latest changes to the rules by the government.
I am the owner of a bingo hall. Given the decline in people going out to play bingo lately, I’d like to change the use of my premises to a wine bar to attract the younger crowd. Do I need to apply for planning permission?
Unfortunately, yes. Under the new Use Classes Order, bingo halls and wine bars are considered ‘sui generis’ and any change between them will require planning permission.
I am the landlord of premises used as a high end retail store in the West End. I have heard my tenant wishes to close the shop and open a nursery instead. I have other properties in the area, such as pubs and high end drinking establishments. A nursery does not fit in with the image of the area. Can I stop them?
Landlords should check the permitted user clauses in their leases. If you want to restrict the type of activities your tenant can carry out, you will need to do so by description rather than by reference to the Use Classes Order alone.
For example, if you want your tenant to only operate a high end retail store, you could stipulate the permitted use as, ‘a high end retail store within Class E of the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987, as amended by the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Order 2020’.
I currently run a hairdressers on my local high street. The terms of my lease states I can use the premises as anything within Class A1 of the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987. Does this change in light of the new Use Classes Order?
Yes. From 1 September 2020, where the premises are being used for a purpose falling within one of the previous use classes, they will now be treated as falling within the new corresponding class. In your case, this is Class E.
You may find this gives you greater flexibility as, depending on the wording of your lease, you can change the use of your premises to anything within Class E without the need for planning permission.
Our firm assists and advises a number of commercial tenants and landlords in a wide variety of transactions. Should you be concerned about the effect the latest changes to the Use Classes Order may have on you, please do not hesitate to contact:
Solicitor and Partner
Head of Commercial Property - Retail and Leisure
Solicitor and Partner
Head of Property Development, Planning and Construction
Author: Davina Puran