Partner Karen Jones, head of Blandy & Blandy’s planning & environmental law team, explains the changes to the Use Classes Order that will come into effect from September 1, 2020.

An amendment to the Use Classes Order 1987 (UCO) was made on July 31 this year and takes effect from September 1.

The changes revoke existing use classes A and D, replacing them with recast, wider use class E, F1 and F2, while recasting elements of the old use classes as ‘sui generis’ uses.

There are consequential amendments to the former UCO, some classes of which have been deleted.

The order operates to put uses of land and buildings into broad categories set out in the schedule to the order.

While the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land is development requiring planning permission for the purposes of section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, section 55 (f) provides that a change of use to another use with the defined ‘use class’ does not amount to development, and therefore does not require planning permission.

This applies where the former use and the new use are both within the same use class.

The new order creates three new use classes – E, F1 and F2. The objective is to create greater flexibility for changes within the use class.

New use class E (commercial business and service uses) combines former B1 (business) A1 (shops) A2 (financial and professional services) A3 (restaurants and cafes) and some uses previously within D1 (creches, clinics etc) and D2 (gyms and indoor recreation).

New use class F1 is directed to learning and non-residential institution uses and includes educational, art display, public worship or religious instruction, public library and law court.

It incorporates uses from the former D1 (non-residential institutions) use class which are more likely to involve buildings which are regularly in wider public use such as schools, libraries and art galleries.

New use class F2 is directed to community uses and includes local small shops and village halls. The new F2 use class groups together those uses from the former D2 (assembly and leisure) use class which provide for group activities of a more physical nature – swimming pools, skating rinks and areas for outdoor sports.

It also includes the use of buildings where this is principally by the local community and small, local and isolated shops where they are at least one kilometre from another shop, considered to service the essential needs of local communities.

Classes in the C group are not altered nor in practical terms are use classes B2 and B8 although class B1 (business) is omitted from use class B and class B2 (general industrial) is amended, and now comprises use for the carrying out of an industrial process other than one falling within the uses described in class E(g) (ie not included use as an office to carry out any operational or administrative functions, the research and development of products or processes, and any industrial process).

As a change of use within a use class is deemed by the 1990 Planning Act not to be development and no planning permission is required for the change it would appear that in the future it will be possible to change from an office to a shop and vice-versa without any planning permission. Similarly, a court could be used as a church!

Not all uses are within a use class. Those uses are known as ‘sui generis’ which means in a use of their own category. Some uses previously within the ambit of the UCO are now to be sui generis notably: pubs takeaways and theatre/cinema venues.

Several former A and D uses have been moved into the order and will now be considered sui generis uses. Consequently, these uses are in a class of their own, so that a change of use to and from these uses will require planning permission. The new sui generis uses are:

  • Use as a public house, wine bar or drinking establishment (the former A4 (drinking establishment) use)
  • Use as a drinking establishment with expanded food provision
  • Use as a hot food takeaway for the sale of hot food where consumption of that food is mostly undertaken off the premises – the former A5 (hot food takeaway)
  • Use as a venue for live music performance
  • Use as a cinema, a concert hall, a bingo hall and as a dance hall – which all fell into the former D2 (assembly and leisure) use class

Currently, some changes between use classes are permitted by the General Permitted Development Order 2015.

No doubt some changes will continue to be permitted so we will need to keep an eye on the detail and the implications of that for certain property. Clearly, there will be implications for landlords and tenants alike.

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