GOVERNMENT INTRODUCES NEW CLASS E USE FOR COMMERCIAL BUSINESS AND SERVICE DEVELOPMENT
The 1st September 2020 saw the introduction of new planning legislation which sees major changes to the system of use classes, particularly those that relate to town centre uses targeted at helping the Government achieve its policy objective to rejuvenate, and safeguard the viability and vitality of our High Streets.
Three new use classes have been introduced which will allow greater flexibility to move between a wider range of commercial uses within that class without the need for planning permission for that change of use.
These new use classes are – Class E, F1 and F2 – and from 1st September 2020 (subject to certain transitional provisions), existing Use Classes A, B1 and D have been revoked.
The new use Class E will be introduced covering the following existing use classes (being uses which can be carried out in any residential area without detriment to the amenity of that area by reason of noise, vibration, smell, fumes, smoke, soot, ash, dust or grit):
• Class A1 - shops;
• Class A2 - financial and professional services;
• Class A3 - restaurants and cafes; and
• Class B1 – business (offices, R&D and light industrial)
Class E also includes the following uses that were previously parts of D1 and D2, so long as they are provided principally to visiting members of the public:
• indoor sports, recreation and fitness;
• medical or health services;
• a creche, day nursery or day centre.
This means that from 1st September 2020 onwards, if a building or other land is being used in a way which falls within the above classes then it will be treated as though it is being used for a purpose specified in the new Class E. Change of use to another use within Class E will be allowed without the need for planning permission.
If the building is not being used or occupied for the use permitted under an existing planning permission, it will need to be brought into that use before it can then change to another use within Class E.
There are also new classes F1 and F2. Class F1 is for learning and non-residential institutions. Class F2 is a new concept for a use class: local community use. This includes small isolated shops selling essential goods, a hall or meeting place; areas for outdoor sport or recreation; and an indoor or outdoor swimming pool or skating rink.
Cinemas, music venues, pubs, wine-bars, bingo halls and takeaways will become sui generis uses with no changes of use allowed without planning consent.
The residential (C classes), general industrial (B2) and storage and distribution (B8) use classes remain unchanged, except for a new cross reference in the B2 class to the new Class E ‘commercial’ use class.
The table below provides a brief summary of how uses will be reclassified from 1st September 2020:
Use class until 31 August 2020
Use class from 1 September 2020
Financial & Professional Services
Food & Drink (mainly on the premises)
Business (office, research and development and light industrial process)
Non-residential institutions (medical or health services, crèches, day nurseries and centres)
Assembly and Leisure (indoor sport, recreation or fitness, gyms)
Non-residential institutions (education, art gallery, museum, public library, public exhibition hall, places of worship, law courts)
Shop no larger that 280sqm (selling mostly essential goods and at least 1km from another similar shop); community hall, outdoor sport/recreation area, indoor or outdoor swimming pool, skating rink
Public House, wine bar, drinking establishment
Hot Food Takeaway
Cinema, Concert Hall, Bingo Hall, Dance Hall, Live music venue
These changes will enable owners of properties in a range of commercial uses to change that use without the need for planning consent – bringing welcome simplification and flexibility. For property owners who have or may plan to diversify, then the ability to shift between Use Classes more easily will be welcome as rural areas adapt to changing forces both as part of adjusting to the impacts of coronavirus, and in response to wider evolving trends.
There is, for example, speculation that demand for flexible workspace in rural areas will increase as less people travel to the office daily. Rural leisure and tourism businesses have seen a welcome boost as they have been allowed to reopen as curbed international travel and pent up demand for time outdoors in countryside locations has resulted in a surge of visitors to the countryside seeking places to eat, shop and spend their leisure time.
It is still important to consider the market demand for any proposed changes of use and ensure proposed uses will support viable enterprises in the countryside. With these administrative hurdles removed, rural areas can benefit from this enhanced flexibility and maximise opportunities as demands for products and services change.