Planning Policy: All change for use class order: The introduction of the new class E

By Alex Calamassi, Commercial Property Solicitor, Real Estate

Recently introduced under the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations and in force from 1 September 2020, the introduction of the new Class E (applicable in England only) is a significant step forward in the government’s commitment to simplify the planning process. The key aim of this is:

  1. To give freedom to operators to encourage the creation of more interesting mixed use town centres and high street, and
  2. Targeted at helping the government rejuvenate and safeguard the viability and vitality of town centres and the high Vital at this time after town centres and high streets have suffered so much during the pandemic.

This represents the biggest shake-up of the Uses Classes Order in a generation.

The following activities are covered by the new use class E:

  • Shops (previously A1)
  • Professional and financial (previously A2) Restaurants and cafes (previously A3)
  • Business (office, research, development and light industrial all previously B1)
  • Medical or health services, creches, day nurseries and day centres (previously part of D1)
  • Indoor sport, redecoration, fitness and gym uses (previously part D2).

The effect of this new Class E is to enable operators to use their premises both for mixed uses, i.e. multiple uses at the same time; or for different uses at different times of the day (provided each of these different uses fall within the new Class E) without the need of formal planning consent.

This freedom though will still be subject to any restrictions that there may be in leases, title to the property, etc. It is important to note that this new Class E will not apply where premises are not covered by an existing use now reclassified to Class E until they have been brought into the new class by way of planning consent and therefore occupiers of such premises will still need to comply with the planning regime in all other respects until that time (e.g. planning consent and building regulations approval for alterations).

Also introduced is the new Class F1 (learning and non- residential institutions) and F2 (local community). The main changes arising as a result of these are:

  • Schools, non-residential, educational, training centres, art galleries, museums, libraries, public and exhibition halls, places of worship and law courts (all previously within Class D1) are now F1;
  • Shops (provided not more than 280 square metres selling mostly essential goods and at least 1km apart from another shop) previously A1 is now F1;
  • Halls or meeting places for community use previously part of D2) are now F2; and,
  • Uses which provide group activities of a physical nature, swimming pools, skating rinks and outdoor sport which were previously part of D2 are now F2.

The following use classes have been removed:

  • Class A4 (drinking establishments)
  • Class A3 (hot food takeaway), and
  • Class D2 uses of cinema, concert, dance and bingo halls.

These now fall within the ‘sui generis’ class and any changes to or from these uses will require formal planning consent.

Where premises are in two classes it will now be re-classed as sui generis with the exception of a building which has combined business (previously B1) use and B2 use (general industrial not usually allowed in a residential area) provided the space allowed to the B2 use has not substantially increased.

For more information, please contact Alex Calamassi, Commercial Property Solicitor in the Real Estate team at Rooks Rider.

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