As many will already be aware from media coverage, the 1987 planning Use Classes Order is undergoing significant changes as a result of new regulations introduced by the government in July as part of its efforts to help boost the economy generally in the midst of the current recession.
The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 will take effect on 1 September 2020 and will make changes of use easier for businesses without having to obtain formal planning permission.
Three new Use Classes are being introduced: Class E will cover commercial and business services (including offices, retail, cafes/restaurants, clinics, nurseries and gyms); Class F.1 will include schools, museums and training centres; and Class F.2 will cover uses that might best be described as “local community” uses, for example small shops mostly selling essential goods, halls/meeting places and outdoor sport/swimming pools.
Changes of use within Class E will no longer constitute “development” and so won’t require planning permission from the local planning authority. The need for other consents, for example under licensing laws or from a landlord of a lease which restricts what premises can be used for, is unaffected. This relaxing could potentially lead to significant changes to the nature of particular areas, such as high streets, for example making it relatively easy to change use from an office to a retail use, or vice versa.
The rules have not relaxed for all uses. Some new “sui generis” (i.e. in classes of their own) uses have been created: pubs/bars, takeaways and cinemas/live music venues have changed to be sui generis, with the result that changes of use to those uses will require planning permission.
Developments following these changes will be watched with much interest by the property industry. Needless to say, everyone is hopeful that they will serve their intended purpose to encourage and assist business activity and progress at a very challenging time.
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