Planning Use Classes – Is this the dawn of a new era?

Property / 29 July 2020

Not another article on planning I hear you groan already. Yes, granted, it is a topic which usually sends me to sleep faster than a cup of cocoa but the latest update might bring some cheer. Planning permission is normally needed if there is a material change of use of any buildings or land. Planning permission is however not required for a change of use within the same use class as it does not constitute development. For many years now, businesses have groaned that the use classes are too rigid and do not allow the flexibility so desperately required for how a building or premises are used to reflect changes in consumer and business demands and the more modern use of buildings.

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/757) (2020 Regulations) have been made and come into force on 1 September 2020.

These new Regulations amend the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (SI 1987/764) by revoking Parts A and D of the Schedule in relation to England and introducing new use classes Class E (Commercial, business and service), Class F.1 (Learning and non-residential institutions) and Class F2 (Local community); and confirm more uses as sui generis (in a class of their own).

The introduction of Class E covers a wide range of uses such as retail, food, financial services, gyms, healthcare, nurseries, offices and light industrial use. A change of use within the same use class does not constitute development and therefore does not require planning permission, so more mixed use and/or faster and more flexible changes of use should be possible in the future.

Under the Regulations, the new Class E is intended to allow more mixed use generally and more flexible uses in different parts of a building.

The current Use Classes Order sets out four main categories of use class. These are A classes (covering retail, food and drink), B classes (covering places of work), C classes (covering places of residence) and D classes (covering institutions and leisure uses).

The detail for what falls within certain new classes under the new Regulations are as follows:

Sui Generis
A4 (drinking establishments) and A5 (hot food takeaway) use classes will fall into the sui generis category.

New sui generis uses
The following uses are confirmed as being sui generis (in a class of their own) and generally will require planning permission for change of use:

  • A public house, wine bar or drinking establishment (currently Class A4).
  • A drinking establishment with expanded food provision (currently mixed use of Class A4 with Class A3).
  • A hot food takeaway for the sale of hot food where consumption of that food is mostly undertaken off the premises (currently Class A5).
  • A venue for live music performance.
  • A cinema (currently Class D2).
  • A concert hall (currently Class D2).
  • A bingo hall (currently Class D2).
  • A dance hall (currently Class D2).

Anything staying the same?

Some things remain the same. The residential (Class C), general industrial (Class B1) and storage and distribution (Class B8) use classes remain largely the same.

Transitional provisions mean that buildings or uses will continue to be subject to any existing permitted development rights in force on or before 31 August 2020. These provisions will remain in place until 31 July 2021 when revised permitted development rights will be introduced.

For the period 1 September 2020 to 31 July 2021, any references to the uses or use classes specified in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Order) 2015 (SI 2015/596) (GPDO 2015) or in prior approval applications or article 4 directions are to be read as references to the uses classes which were specified in the UCO 1987 on 31 August 2020 (previous use classes).

Further government guidance is due to follow.

In the meantime if you have any queries relating to a proposed use, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


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This update is for general purposes and guidance only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. You should seek legal advice before relying on its content. This update relates to the prevailing circumstances at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments. If you have general queries about our updates, please email:

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