The government has recently laid before parliament The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 (the “Regulations”), which aim to simplify and overhaul the existing Use Classes Order 1987. The same give businesses more flexibility to adapt in the current challenging economic times.

Generally, planning permission is not required to move between uses within the same Use Class.

The Regulations therefore introduce a new wider Use Class E: “Commercial, Business and Service”. Use Class E effectively amalgamates the following uses:

  • Use Class A1 – shops;
  • Use Class A2 – financial and professional services;
  • Use Class A3 – restaurants and cafes;
  • Use Class B1 – business; and
  • Gyms, nurseries, and health centres are also included (previously in Use Classes D1 and D2).

From 1 September 2020, business owners will be free to diversify and move within this new Use Class E without obtaining prior planning permission.

Of course, business owners should still be mindful of any restrictions on change of use in extant planning permissions, leases, and/or restrictive covenants, which could hinder their ability to change Use Class quite so easily.

The Regulations also introduce a new Use Class F1 (learning and non-residential institutions) and Use Class F2 (local community); the same incorporate uses from the former D1 and D2 use classes respectively.

Several uses, which by their very nature give rise to local considerations, have however, been removed from the Use Classes Order and are now “sui generis” uses, meaning that planning permission will be required for movement into or from these uses. Such uses include drinking establishments (previously A4), cinemas (previously D2) and hot-food takeaways (previously A5).

The Regulations are a much-needed attempt by the Government to assist the ailing high street and stimulate development by giving businesses the opportunity to be as flexible as possible with the use of their property. This is even more important as town centres seek to recover from the impact of Covid-19.

Business owners may now wish to review any current live or pending planning applications for change of use, as these may well fall within Use Class E and an application may no longer be required. Landlords and tenants should also review their leases to understand the impact that these changes may have upon their leasing arrangements. Ellisons Solicitors can assist you with such reviews and would be pleased to advise you on your options.

Should you wish to discuss anything covered in this post, please contact Joanna McKenna or any member of the Commercial Property team.