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Hot Topic Highlight – Use Class Changes 2020

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

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What is today's blog about?

In this week’s blog, we take a look at the amendments to the planning use classes effective 1 September 2020.

Essential reading for most candidates sitting their RICS APC this Autumn, particularly if you have any involvement with planning, development, landlord & tenant and agency work.

It is also excellent CPD if you are a Chartered Surveyor looking to stay informed of changes to the market and key legislation.

What are the use classes?

Considering first principles, the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) categorises land and building uses into various use classes.

A change of use might be pursued for various reasons, e.g. new letting, either within the same use class or between different use classes. In some situations, this may require either a planning application or prior approval (under permitted development rights – more on this in another blog).

Building regulations compliance is a completely separate issue, which may need to also be considered.

This is where non-planning or building surveying professionals should consult a specialist to ensure clients are provided with the highest standard of service.

What changes have been made?

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020 No.757) makes major changes to the 1987 Order.

Primarily, it introduces three new use classes:

  • Class E - Commercial, business and service – essentially incorporating former use classes A1, A2, A3 and B1

  • Class F1 - Learning and non-residential institutions

  • Class F2 - Local community

You can download a PDF showing all of the changes here.

When do the changes apply from?

1 September 2020.

As of this date, the new use classes will apply to existing buildings, e.g. a retail shop will fall in Class E rather than Class A1. All new planning applications, including variations and reserved matters approvals, will be considered in light of the new use classes.

Any existing applications, i.e. submitted before 1 September 2020, will be determined in line with the former use classes.

There are a number of transitional arrangements in place until 31 July 2021, e.g. certain change of use permitted development rights. This is another area in which specialist advice should be sought.

Why were the changes made?

The changes to the use classes form part of wider reform by Government (Project Speed) in response to Covid-19, including changes to permitted development rights.

The aim of the changes is primarily to support the revival of the high street through flexibility of use without the need for planning consent.

What are the likely impacts of the changes?

The changes will have wide-ranging effects, including:

  • Increased flexibility in the use of town centre space

  • Introducing non-office uses, including retail, to traditional out of town business parks – which runs contrary to current national and local planning policies

  • Restricting change of use for new Sui generis uses; takeaways, pubs and drinking establishments

Consideration will also need to be given to lease user clauses, which do not necessarily accord to the planning use. When agreeing new or renewal leases, the user clause may need to be restricted further than simply being Class E, for example, to ensure sufficient control is retained over use.

How do I deal with this in my RICS APC?

Most of your experience is likely to be dated prior to September 2020, so you will need to know about the former use classes, if relevant to your examples.

However, you will also need to have theoretical (and working) knowledge of the new use classes to show that you are able to advise clients diligently and are aware of the new legislation.

How can we help?

Stay tuned for our next blog post to help build a better you.

N.b. Nothing in this article constitutes legal, professional or financial advice.


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