As a prelude to its Planning Policy Paper later this Summer within which the Prime Minister has promised the biggest review of the English Planning System for 70 years, the Government has undertaken the biggest shake-up of the Use Classes Order for a generation.
In a single swoop, it has cut through the inherent restrictions created by a multitude of town centre use classes, and lumped most of them together in one broad based, flexible use class.
So that means Parts A and D of the Schedule to the Use Classes Order 1987 are to be revoked. From 1st September use classes A1 (Shops), A2 (Financial and professional services), Class A3 (Restaurants and cafes), and Class B1 (Business) are to be treated as falling within the new Class E (Commercial, business, and services).
Use Class E comprises the following uses (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):
- the display or retail sale of goods, other than hot food, principally to visiting members of the public,
- the sale of food and drink principally to visiting members of the public where consumption of that food and drink is mostly undertaken on the premises,
- the provision of the following kinds of services principally to visiting members of the public
- financial services,
- professional services (other than health or medical services), or
- any other services which it is appropriate to provide in a commercial, business or service locality,
- indoor sport, recreation or fitness, not involving motorised vehicles or firearms, principally to visiting members of the public,
- the provision of medical or health services, principally to visiting members of the public, except the use of premises attached to the residence of the consultant or practitioner,
- a creche, day nursery or day centre, not including a residential use, principally to visiting members of the public,
- an office to carry out any operational or administrative functions,
- research and development of products or processes, or
- any industrial process.
- Drinking establishments, takeaways (the old use classes A4 and A5) are now added to the list of sui generis uses along with cinemas and live performance venues. A change of use involving those uses still requires planning permission.
- There is a new Class F1 use class applies to residential and non-residential institutions; and
- A new Class F2 use class applies to community uses.
Targeted at helping the Government achieve its policy objective to rejuvenate, and safeguard the viability and vitality of our town centres and long suffering High Streets, the new Class E use class undoubtedly means that in many cases there will be greater flexibility to move between a wide range of commercial uses within that class without the need for planning permission for that change of use.
But note the new Class E is not a green light to complete flexibility and deregulation of commercial uses.
Due diligence will be required to ascertain whether reliance can be placed on the new use class, and in particular, the following points are of note:
- New leases may contain user restrictions which limit the flexibility to move between sub-classes within Use Class E, or which impose floorspace limitations on uses within the class. User restrictions in existing leases may mean the benefit of the new Class E simply cannot be enjoyed by the tenant.
- Local authorities will often still be able to exert an element of planning control even if there is no obvious real estate impediment to changing between uses within the new E class:
- there may still be a specific requirement to get planning permission or building regulation approval to achieve any necessary built development interventions required to deliver a desired change of use in a particular building.
- Planning conditions or obligations in historic consents may also prove a barrier in many cases – limiting the ability to change between uses.
- Some local authorities may seek to limit reliance on the Use Class E through Article 4 directions which remove reliance on permitted development rights in certain areas.
So before looking to exercise new Use Class E rights, it will be essential to undertake careful property and planning due diligence to ensure you can achieve your use aspirations.
If you have any queries arising in relation to your ability to make use of the new Use Class E, get in touch with one of our Planning and Infrastructure Consenting Team.