The Big Government Use Class Shakeup

17th August 2020

At the start of July the Government announced some big changes as part of their 'Build, Build, Build’ initiative. But not content with just one big announcement, later in July they announced more changes to planning rules – this time specifically around changing the Use Class orders.

This is one of the biggest shakeups to the Use Class order since it was introduced in 1986.

The Government is hoping these changes will help to reshape the high street. With a third of the high street being retail shops, and the retail sector taking a hit, it’s their attempt to simplify changes.

buildings

What are the changes?

  • A brand new Class E

There’s a new Class E, which will contain:

Description

Legacy Use Class

Shops*

A1

Professional and financial services

A2

Restaurants and cafés

A3

Offices excluding A2

B1a

Research and development

B1b

Light industry

B1c

Clinics, health centres, creches, day nurseries, day centre

D1**

Gyms and indoor recreations (that don’t involve motors or firearms)

D2**

*Shops which are deemed essential to the community won’t come under Class E. So shops that which are less than 280 m2 selling essential goods and food, and where there are no other shops for 1km around, will not be Class E.

**Not everything in D1 and D2 will be in this new Class E. 

Anything in this new Class E can be converted to one another without planning permission.

That means the accountancy office that’s sitting empty as the company has gone full remote-work can now be converted into a restaurant by the landlord with minimal fuss (theoretically).

useclass4

 

  • Two new Class F’s

Class F.1 will be for non-residential institutions and places of learning (some of which used to come under D1).

Description

Legacy Use Class

Schools, non-residential education and training centres

D1

Museums, public libraries, public halls, exhibition halls

D1

Places of worship, law courts

D1

It’s easy to remember that everything that used to be under D1 will now be F.1, except when they’re to do with health or day care.

Class F.2 will be for buildings in use by the local community (this is why some shops will come under class F.2).

Description

Legacy Use Class

Town halls or local community meeting place

D2

Indoor or outdoor swimming pool

D2

Skating rinks, outdoor sports or recreation (not involving motors or firearms)

D2

Shops less than 280m2 selling essential goods with no neighbouring shops for 1km

A1

 

  • Some will no longer have a class

With the new rules, there are some buildings that may be noisy, or are key to the high street, which the government isn’t too keen on being included in this shakeup, e.g. dance halls.

These buildings will now be sui generis and will require planning permission if you want to do any conversions.

 

Description

Legacy Use Class

Pub or drinking establishment

A4

Takeaway

A5

Cinemas, concert halls, bingo halls and dance halls

D2

 

After 31st July 2021, whether an eating establishment is A3 or A5 will become key. If it’s A3 it can be easily converted under the new Class E treadmill. If it’s A5, then it will need planning permission.

 

  • Other Things to Note

Until 31st July 2021 you can use the legacy use class and the new use classes, depending on your purposes.

So if you still want to convert a shop (A1) to resi (C3) you still can under permitted development.  However, from 1 September 2020, you can also convert it into a café under the new Class E, also without planning permission.  

While the purpose of this shake-up is to help the high street change faster, and to override local planning departments, these new laws don’t override any local planning restrictions or covenants on the buildings. And it doesn’t stop local authorities using section 106 orders to prevent conversions.

This will be something to watch in the future. Will local authorities section 106 their entire high street? And, if so, how will the Government respond?

useclass1

 

But it’s potentially a huge opportunity

A quick glance through LandInsight data shows that in England and Wales the following number of buildings could be converted under the new Class E:

Description

Legacy Use Class

No of buildings

Shops*

A1

586,000

Professional and financial services

A2

43,000

Restaurants and cafés

A3

70,000

Offices excluding A2

B1a

436,000

Light industry

B1c

217,000

Clinics, health centres, creches, day nurseries, day centre

D1

30,000+

Gyms and indoor recreations (that don’t involve motors or firearms)

D2

173,000

*This count includes shops which would be classed as F.2.

We'll be doing a proper deep dive on this data in the near future, working out exactly how many buildings will be affected by these changes. But this is a good finger-in-the-air estimate on the size of the opportunity. 

 

Getting ready for the biggest planning shakeup in a generation

These are some pretty big changes, that offer developers a lot of scope to do some impressive work. If you’re able to get ahead of the competition and buy up perfect sites now before others can, there could be some big projects in your future.

Of course, knowing where there are and who owns them is the key. That’s why we’re working flat out to get all these new classes into LandInsight ready for the change over.

That gives you the information you need to seize the opportunity.



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Grace is the Head of LandEnhance, where she leads the charge in making life easier for planners. And having been a town planner herself for many years, it's something she cares deeply about – after all, she's now making the kind of tech she could only dream of before.