Planning ahead (Part 2) – brief overview of the changes to Use Classes

Date published




The world is changing and so are our surroundings.

The government has announced significant reforms to the planning regime and, in particular, to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) (1987 Order) and the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 which was referred to in Part 1 of our article.

From 1 September 2020, subject to a transitional period to 31 July 2021, new Classes E, F.1 and F.2 are being introduced under a new Schedule 2 of The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020 No.757) (the Regulations) to allow a greater degree of flexibility for landowners and occupiers to diversify the use of their properties. Such transformations will be welcomed in a climate where the high street, town centres and retail parks need a boost as planning permission will not now be needed for some use changes. Parts A and D of the Schedule to the 1987 Order, which lists Use Classes A and Use Classes D, are to be revoked.

The amendments

Use Class E - general commercial, business and service

Classes A1 (shops/retail), A2 (financial and professional services), A3, (restaurants and cafes) , B1 (business – offices, research and development and light industrial) and certain D1 and D2 uses (including indoor sport, recreation and fitness facilities, medical and health facilities, crèches, day centres or day nurseries) will be absorbed within the new Class E, being a general commercial, business and service use class.

Class E will allow a much wider spread of uses within it compared to the traditional separate use classes it now encompasses granting retailers, businesses and the service industry more adaptability at a time where change is imperative to survive.

Use Class F.1- learning and non-residential institutions

This new class will include the provision of education (schools), museums, galleries (otherwise than for sale or hire), public libraries or public reading rooms, public halls or exhibition halls, places of worship and law courts, which were previously Class D1 uses.

Class F.2 - local community use

F.2 Class is specifically for use as a shop for selling essential goods, including food to visiting members of the public where the shop premises covers no more than 280 metres square and there is no other such facility within a 1km radius of the shop’s location, and use as a community hall, area for outdoor sport or recreation, swimming pool or skating rink, previously being Class D2 uses.

What classes are unchanged?

Classes B2 (general industrial), B8 (storage and distribution) and C (residential), use classes are not amended by the Regulations and therefore continue to exist.

Sui generis

Those remaining Use Classes within Parts A and D of the 1987 Order have now become sui generis uses (i.e. a unique class of their own) which means that no changes of use to and from these uses is permitted without planning consent. These include pub/drinking establishments (A4), hot food takeaways (A5), live music venues (D2) cinemas (D2(a)), concert halls (D2(b)) and bingo halls (D2(c)).

Please click here to view an overview of the Use Class changes.


Changes to the Use Classes has not been made for over 30 years. When the 1987 Order was introduced our high streets, town centres and retail parks were a concentration of retail bricks and mortar and the internet was still in its infancy. These spaces have had to endure revamps to meet changes our society demands as it’s not all about the shopping experience anymore, it’s the social activity and interaction that has driven a demand for mixed uses, including leisure facilities, and the onset of click and collects for not only goods but now food.

Whilst the amendments to the Use Classes is encouraged to meet the evolving landscape and to allow adaptability, when entering into any new development or lease or buying land, the permitted uses should be carefully considered. For landowners and buyers, consideration should be given as to whether a change in a particular use can occur without planning. For occupiers, use within a new class under the Regulations, say Class E, may be more attractive as this will allow a greater degree of flexibility compared to a specific use, say café/restaurant. However, this could be detrimental to a tenant on an open market rent review and equally adverse to the owner as it means having no control of the future uses. In an unprecedented time when businesses are suffering, a willingness to accommodate may take precedence if only for the short to medium term. The recent COVID-19 Code of Practice for Commercial Property Relationships is already encouraging transparency, collaboration and a unified approach between parties and this theme will no doubt be core in the adoption of the Regulations.

Related item: Planning ahead (Part 1) – An overview of the changes to permitted development rights

Read other items in Commercial Brief - September 2020