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Simplifying the planning process with the Use Classes Order reform

Alongside the new Permitted Development Rights, the Minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government has also recently announced changes to the Use Class system to help support the economy and, more particularly, the high street in its recovery from the Covid-19 outbreak and allow units to adapt more easily to other uses. Both have been introduced as an example of the government’s attempt to simplify the planning process and get the development industry moving again.

So, what are the use changes?

Simply put, there will be two new use classes created, these are as follows:

Class E: Commercial, business and services
It will comprise the previous shops (A1), financial and professional services (A2), restaurants and cafes (A3) and offices (B1), together with uses such as gyms, nurseries and health centres (D1 and D2).

Class F:

  • F.1 (Learning and non-residential institutions)
    Class F1 will include some of the former D1 uses not included in class E, such as buildings in wider public use school, libraries and art galleries etc
  • F.2 (Local Community)
    Class F2 will include some of the former D2 uses not included in class E, which provide for group activities of a physical nature such as swimming pools, skating rinks and areas for outdoor sports.  It also includes smaller shops serving local communities.

The previous separate categories for drinking establishments (A4) and hot food takeaways (A5) are removed, and those uses will thereafter be classified as sui generis.  The same will also apply to cinemas, concert, dance and bingo halls (which were previously within class D2).

It is also worth noting that residential uses (Class C), general industrial (B2) and storage and distribution (B8) remain unchanged.

The new Use Class Order came into effect on 1st September 2020 but use classes prior to this date will remain relevant for certain change of use permitted development rights until 31st July 2021.

This ‘shake up’ of the Use Class Order by the Government could significantly alter the appearance and the way we utilise our towns and cities across the country, read more about the future of the high street here.

The main purpose of this ‘simplified’ Use Class Order intends to make it easier to change use without the need for a planning application, therefore removing local authorities control over changing the nature of commercial buildings whilst giving owners/occupiers greater flexibility in their use. Changes of use within the same class will not constitute development at all. This creates opportunities to change the use within these use classes without the need for a planning application.

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