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New planning laws, and what they mean for you – Part 1

New Planning lawsOn the 21st July the government published The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes)  (Amendment)  (England) Regulations 2020, and this amendment to our planning laws comes into effect on 1st September 2020.

Apart from noting that the government has an inordinate fondness for parentheses in the titles of its regulations, we thought you would like to know what is changing and what it means for you.

First, there are a few terms we need to explain.

We will begin with Use Classes, which is in the title of the regulations. These group together similar types of uses into a single use class.

There are currently four main Use Classes, each with subdivisions, and the main ones are:

- Use Class A - shops, retail, professional services, food & drink, pubs and takeaways
- Use Class B - offices, businesses, storage and distribution
- Use Class C - hotels, hostels and houses
- Use Class D - public services, medical, education, museums, libraries, cinemas, concert halls

The subdivisions just allow Use Classes to get really specific, so for example:

- Use Class A1 includes shops, retail outlets, hairdressers and post offices; while
- Use Class A4 is drinking establishments such as pubs and bars.

The interesting thing is that you can change the use of the property without needing planning consent as long as it remains in the same use class. For example, Use Class A1 includes shops and hairdressers and so if you have a shop, you can decide to use it as a hairdressers without having to apply for planning permission, but you cannot make it a business office because that would be a different Use Class. You can also make certain specific changes between use classes but these are the exception rather than the rule.

The second thing to explain is Sui Generis, which just means 'on its own'.Premises that are Sui Generis aren't grouped with anything else, they are in their own Use Class of one. Example premises include theatres, houses in multiple occupation, scrap yards, petrol filling stations, nightclubs, launderettes and casinos, so quite a wide range of very specific premises. If a particular use of a property is Sui Generis, it's not in a Use Class where its use can be changed to something else. Any change will always need planning permission.

So what have the new regulations done?

From 1st September 2020 three new Use Classes (E, F1 and F2) have been introduced, which combine several of the previous Use Classes into one.

Use Class E (Commercial, Business and Service) brings together:

- Class A1 - shops and retail outlets
- Class A2 - financial and professional services
- Class A3 - food and drink (i.e. restaurants)
- Class B1 - business (offices, research & development and industrial processes which won't disturb a residential area)
- Parts of Class D1 - medical or health services, and crèches or day centres
- Parts of Class D2 - leisure

Use Class F1 (Learning and non-Residential Institutions) is made up of some of what was Use Class D1, namely:
- Education, such as schools, colleges
- galleries
- museum
- public libraries
- public hall or exhibition hall
- churches and places of worship

Finally Use Class F2 (Local Community Uses) includes:
- shops smaller than 280 m² and without another shop within 1,000m,
- a hall or meeting place for the principal use of the local community (was previously in Use Class D1),
- outdoor sport or recreation locations (previously Use Class D2(e)) and
- swimming pools or skating rinks (previously Use Class D2(e))

There are quite a few additions to the Sui Generis list, including public houses, wine bars, pubs that serve food, hot food takeaways, live music places, cinemas, bingo halls and dance halls. These all will usually need specific planning permission to change their use but there are limited exceptions.

If you are adversely affected by these changes and you preferred the previous Use Classes, then you have a grace period until 31st July 2021 where you can choose to use those instead. Beware, though; if you prefer to rely on the new Use Classes then you must wait until 1st September, any applications for planning permission before then must refer to the existing Use Classes.

We have summarised all the changes in a table below.

Why has the government done this?

The main goal of the new use Class E seems to be the regeneration of town and city centres, where retail uses are going out of business and empty units abound, by allowing the owners (i.e. the landlords) of vacant shops more flexibility in who the premises might be rented to, which will make it easier to fill them.

Some will welcome these changes, while others will be less happy. If you are a landlord or the owner of your premises, and they now fall into the new classes, then changing to a different use has just become much easier. If you own a cinema and want to change it to a bingo hall then you now require planning permission.

Interestingly, the new regulations mean that if you want to use your building for multiple purposes - perhaps a creche during the day and an internet café during the evening - then that is much easier. Or you might have multiple uses in the same premises all within one of the new Use Classes.

Local Planning Authorities like to ensure that there is a balance between uses in different areas and to balance the kind of shops and premises on the high street. Merging Use Classes could make that job harder. Let us hope that the changes produce positive results.

There is a lot more detail to this regulation, this is simply a layman's summary; please don't take legal advice from a blog. If you think you are affected by any of these changes and you need advice or help, please call contact us.

Detailed Table of Changes
Unchanged from previous regulations

New Use Class Description Old Use Class

Class E

Commercial, Business and Service


  • Shops
  • Supermarkets
  • Post Office
  • Travel Agency
  • Sandwich bars
  • Hairdressers / Barbers
  • Funeral Directors / Undertakers
  • Retail Warehouse (e.g. Argos)
  • Domestic Hire Shops
  • Dry Cleaners
  • Location to receive items for cleaning or repair
  • Internet café


  • Banks and Building Societies
  • Estate Agents or Employment Agencies
  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Offices
  • Research and development of products and processes
  • Light industrial appropriate in a residential area
  • Doctors, clinics & health centres, acupuncture clinic etc. (except where linked to the residence of the practitioner)
  • Cr√®che, day nursery or day centre
  • Gymnasiums
  • Indoor sports and recreation (except where motorsports or firearms are used)
Class F1

Learning and non-residential institutions

  • Schools
  • Galleries
  • Museums
  • Libraries
  • Public Halls (except local)
  • Churches and places of worship
Class F2

Local community uses

  • Shops less than 280m¬≤ and no other shops within 1,000m radius
  • Halls or meeting place for principle use of the local community
  • Swimming Pools
  • Skating rinks
  • Outdoor sports and recreation (except where motorsports or firearms are used)
Sui Generis

In a class of their own

  • Public Houses / Wine Bar etc. where no or little food is served
  • Drinking establishment with expanded food provision
  • Hot Food Takeaway
  • Cinemas
  • Music and Concert Halls
  • Bingo Halls
  • Dance Halls (not nightclubs)



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