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Radical planning changes to come into Force

From 1st September 2020 radical reforms will be made to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (“the Use Classes Order”).  The changes will be the biggest of their kind since the Use Classes Order was introduced over 30 years ago, and form  part of a range of measures introduced by the Government to cut planning ‘red tape’ and  allow greater flexibility of land-use to adapt to the changing needs of our high streets and communities.

The Use Classes Order groups uses of land and building into various categories (‘Use Classes’).  A change of use within the same use class does not constitute development and therefore does not require planning permission.  The Use Classes Order currently separates for example Shops into ‘A1’ and Restaurants and Cafes into class ‘A3’.  As such planning permission would not be required to change from one type of shop to another (e.g. a cookware shop to a fashion retailer) but permission would, generally, be required to convert a shop to a restaurant.

Under the new proposals a new use ‘Class E’ is proposed (Commercial, Business and Service) which will effectively group together a number of the former Use Classes to form a much larger Use Class encompassing  – retail, restaurants, professional services, indoor sports centres, gyms nurseries and offices.  This will mean that any businesses falling within this class will be able to change freely to another use within use Class E without the need for planning permission.  The change is significant not only due to the large number of businesses falling within this use class, but also because of the flexibility it will create, to allow (for example), vacant high street shops to be brought back into use.

Two further use classes are also proposed ‘F1 (learning and non-residential institutions) which includes (but is not limited to) museums, libraries and law courts and F2 (local community). As with Class E, Class F2 covers a wide range of uses including indoor/outdoor pools, skating rinks and halls/meeting place for the principal use of the local community.  The common feature of Class F2 is that all of the buildings/land have a ‘community focus’ and similarly, it will allow for a change of the facilities within this class to adapt to community/local need.

Under the new proposals a new use ‘Class E’ is proposed (Commercial, Business and Service) which will effectively group together a number of the former Use Classes to form a much larger Use Class encompassing  – retail, restaurants, professional services, indoor sports centres, gyms nurseries and offices.

There is no doubt that these measures will contribute to the regeneration and reinvention of our high streets and will allow for such change to happen quickly and in a way that adapts to our ever-changing circumstances.  However, there is concern that the changes to the Use Classes Order together with other changes to permitted development rights could damage the nature and character of our high streets, as local town planners relinquish control over the variety and nature of businesses that occupy them.  Post September, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for our high streets.

Lichfields have produced a handy guide to show how the use  of classes will change on 1 September 2020 which can be accessed at the following link: Guide to changes to the use classes order in England July 2020

For more information please contact our Real Estate Team

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This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

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