Changes to the Use Classes Order

  • Posted

By Emma Gannaway



Changes to the Use Classes Order

At the end of June the government announced project “build build build” with plans to “radically reform” the current planning system. Designed to encourage more residential development, regenerate vacant buildings and revitalise struggling town centres, the government has brought in measures which will allow the construction of additional storeys on buildings, the redevelopment of freestanding blocks of flats and for certain commercial buildings to be converted to residential premises. Importantly, there are also changes to the Town and County Planning (Use Classes Order) 1987, which will be the first significant overhaul of this legislation in almost thirty years.


What are the changes?

The major change is the creation of a broad Class E which will incorporate retail (A1), cafés and restaurants (A3), financial and professional services (A2), offices (B1) as well as other uses which were previously in Class D1 and D2, including medical facilities, crèches, research and development facilities and light industrial uses. Changes of use within Class E will not constitute development and it is hoped that this will help high streets adapt quickly to consumer demands for services in the area.

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 also introduce two other new use classes:

  • Class F.1 (learning and non-residential institutions) which will include non-residential educational uses, and use as a museum, art gallery, library, public hall, religious institution or law court; and
  • Class F.2 (local community) which will include use as a shop of no more than 280 sqm mostly selling essential goods, including food and at least 1km from another similar shop, and use as a community hall, area for outdoor sport, swimming pool or skating rink.

Many uses now fall within sui generis uses, these being pubs and drinking establishments (A4), hot food takeaway (A5), live music venues, concert halls, cinemas and bingo halls (D2).

It is not clear at the moment what will happen with mixed use premises, for example a restaurant offering takeaways. As any change of use from a sui generis use requires planning consent (even to another sui generis use), the hope will be that a restaurant offering takeaways would still be considered as part of Class E as otherwise they will not benefit from this new flexibility.

The residential (C), general industrial (B2) and storage and distribution (B8) use classes have not materially changed.

Full details of the revised Use Classes are set out in the table below.


When will the changes take effect?

The changes will take effect from 1 September 2020 in England. From that date, where a building or land is used for a use falling within one of the original use classes, it will be regarded as being used for the corresponding new use class. For example, a building used as offices within Class B1(a) will be deemed to fall within the new Class E. Any new planning applications made after this date will also be determined by reference to the new use classes.

There are transitional provisions in relation to permitted development rights so to some extent the previous Use Classes will remain relevant. These provisions will remain in place until 31 July 2021 when revised permitted development rights will be introduced.



This will be a welcome announcement for landlords keen to let out their commercial premises, and tenants willing to occupy those premises, but for the expense and delay of obtaining planning consent for change of use.

With the use classes being much more flexible, commercial landlords will want to consider whether they are happy for their tenants to enjoy the flexibility of the new regime, or whether they restrict the use within the lease. For example, if a landlord only wanted the premises to be used as offices, it would be wise to confirm this in the lease. If simply left as ‘use within Class E’ the tenant would be able to use the premises as a clinic, nursery or gymnasium with no need for planning consent and no requirement to seek the landlord’s consent.



31 AUGUST 2020



Shop not more than 280 sqm mostly selling essential goods, including food and at least 1km from another similar shop A1 F.2
Shop A1 E
Financial and professional services (not medical) A2 E
Café or restaurant A3 E
Pub or drinking establishment A4 Sui Generis
Take away A5 Sui Generis
Office other than a use within Class A2 B1(a) E
Research and development of products or processes B1(b) E
For any industrial process (which can be carried out in any residential area without causing detriment to the amenity of the area) B1(c) E
Industrial B2 B2 or E depending on whether use falls within Class E(g)
Storage or distribution B8 B8
Hotels, boarding and guest house C1 C1
Residential institutions C2 C2
Secure residential institutions C2(a) C2(a)
Dwelling houses C3 C3
Use of a dwelling house by 3-6 residents as a ‘house in multiple occupation’ C4 C4
Clinics, health centres, crèches, day nurseries, day centre D1 E
Schools, non-residential education and training centres, museums, public libraries, public halls, exhibition halls, places of worship, law courts D1 F.1
Cinemas, concert halls, bingo halls and dance halls D2 Sui Generis
Gymnasiums, indoor recreations not involving motorised vehicles or firearms D2 E
Hall or meeting place for the principal use of the local community D2 F.2
Indoor or outdoor swimming baths, skating rinks and outdoor sports or recreations not involving motorised vehicles or firearms D2 F.2