Last week the Government published the legislative changes to the Use Classes order as part of its comprehensive review of high street planning policy.  The aim of these changes is to provide greater flexibility to change the use of town centre properties, without having to obtain planning permission. This is part of the Government’s plan to support what the Secretary of State Robert Jenrick MP has described as the “recovery and reimagination of our high streets and towns” following the recent pandemic.

From 1 September 2020 the existing Classes A, B1 and D which currently cover uses such as shops, professional services, cafes/restaurants, indoor sports and fitness and business use will be replaced with a new Class E.  Currently planning permission would be required to change an office within Class B1 to a retail shop use within Class A1 but from 1 September such a change will now comprise permitted development as both uses fall within the new Class E.  It is hoped that this new flexibility will allow the owners of vacant high street properties to respond to recent changes in the leisure and retail sectors and to future changes.

Whilst the Government has given greater flexibility to change the use of town centre premises it has also included some additional restrictions within the new rules which are intended to protect against the loss of learning and community facilities.  From 1 September 2020 a number of uses will now fall into a new Class F which comprises the following:

  • Class F1  – which covers learning and non-residential institutions such as schools, museums and exhibition halls; and
  • Class F2  – which will cover local community uses including shops selling essential goods where the shop has a floor area of not more than 280 square metres and there is no other such facility within 1,000 metres of the shop’s location and places for outdoor sport and recreation.

Finally the new rules will also add a number of uses to the existing list of “sui generis” uses which means that planning permission will be required for any change of use.  The new list includes uses such as pubs, hot food takeaways, live music venues and cinemas and this appears to be just as much about protecting community assets as it is about providing councils with additional control over uses which have traditionally been considered “bad neighbours”.

If you would like any more information in relation to the above please contact one of the Property Team.


Please note that this blog is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content of this blog.

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