In order to help businesses on the road to recovery from the effect of the worldwide pandemic, the Government issued new regulations in relation to change of use to take effect on 1 September 2020.
These were intended to be a game changer but to a large extent, have not received a huge amount of publicity. These are supposed to bring in the greatest changes to planning for existing premises for decades.
Use Classes Orders, which have been in place for decades and amended from time to time, put individual uses into various classes. In general, no planning consent was permitted for a change of use within the same use class. As such, no change of use would be required for a sandwich bar becoming a shop or internet café as they all used to fall within Class A1.
So what has changed so far as the Leisure and Hospitality sector is concerned? Well, highlighting some of the Use Classes for example:
Shops including sandwich bars and internet cafes
Was Class A1 – Now Class F2
The new Class F2 includes some former D1 (non-residential institutions) and D2 (assembly and leisure) uses but also includes shops serving essential needs of local communities (being essentially dry goods and food to the public and the shop area is no larger than 280 square metres).
Café or restaurant
Was Class A3 – Now Class E
Class E is very wide ranging but includes retail, food, restaurants, gyms, offices and light industrial. This may give a lot of flexibility in the future but perhaps will not help an ailing high street to retain its retail presence?
Pub and other drinking establishments including wine bars (but not nightclubs)
Was Class A4 – Now Sui generis
It is strange in today’s times that we are falling back on Latin terminology, but translated this means ‘in a class of its own’. Essentially this means that it is no longer possible to change a pub to a restaurant or café with Class A3, or a use within Class AA (being a drinking establishment with expanded food provision).
It will now be necessary to obtain planning consent in this respect. However this raises the question of whether this defeats the intention behind the Town and Planning (Use Classes) Orders as surely these governmental changes should have given more flexibility, rather than less ability to change from use to use?
Hot food takeaways (for consumption off the premises)
Was Class A5 – Now Sui generis
Whereas it was previously possible to change Class A5 to Class A1 (shops), A2 (professional and financial services) or Class A3 (restaurants and cafés), this is no longer the case.
Again, surely these uses may be preferable as an alternative without planning consent? Why should planning consent be needed for a change of use from a takeaway to a shop?
Hotels, boarding and guest houses
Was Class C1 – Now Class C1
There was no change in use class for hotels, boarding and guest houses, which begs the question: was this not a great opportunity to give hotels more flexibility to change its use? It might have been beneficial for a guest house to be able to change to a clinic, health centre or crèche without consent.
Art galleries (other than those for sale or hire), museums, libraries, halls, clinics, health centres, training centres etc.
Was Class D1 – Now Class E
Again, although wide ranging, this does not help the dying out high streets.
Assembly and Leisure including cinemas, concert halls, bingo halls, and dance halls (but excluding gymnasiums and night clubs) gymnasiums (not night clubs).
Was Class D2 – Now Sui Generis
Class D2 has now been separated so that planning consent may be required for a change of use in the event of a change from cinemas, concert halls, bingo and dance halls.
Was Class D2 – Now Class E
If the use is for example a gymnasium or indoor recreation area (excluding motorised vehicles or firearms), again it will be considered Class E (the new commercial business and service class).
Of course, any changes to provide more flexibility for businesses are to be welcomed, especially in the tough trading conditions that we find ourselves in at the moment. The intention to support our high streets and town centres is admirable, together with the purported support and protection to local amenities such as theatres and pubs – but surely there should be a more liberal approach and we should let market forces determine what the use of building should be depending on the demand from the public rather than civil servants in Westminster.
The new system is also unfavourable towards tenants, who will no doubt need to get consent from their landlord under their lease of the premises before making any changes of use, and the new regulations do not assist in this respect.
If you need any help with Use Classes Orders, please contact Chantelle Adadevoh on [email protected]
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.