Our recent blog ‘COVID-19 and The High Street’ went into detail on how the pandemic has further contributed to the decline of high street shops. There is a real need now more than ever for buildings on the high street and town centres to be repurposed. In this blog we discuss the recent change to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 which came into force on 1st September 2020. This Act amends the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 and introduces significant changes to the system of ‘use classes’. The change should hopefully provide flexibility for developers and property owners in how a property may be used.
What is the main change?
The main change was to recalibrate the classification of uses of property. After 1st September 2020, the following Use Classes no longer exist:
- A (retail)
- B1 (office)
- D1(non-residential institutions and assembly and leisure uses)
Use Class E has now been introduced which will be of importance to many business owners. This new class includes shops, financial and professional services (not medical), café or restaurant, research and development etc. Further new classes F1 and F2 apply to learning and non-residential institutions and local community uses respectively.
Uses such as cinema, concert halls, bingo halls and dance halls previously came under use class D2. These classes have now been moved into the ‘sui generis’ category, meaning they will belong to no specific class. What is also interesting is that pubs and take-aways, which were previously under Use Classes A4 and A5, will also come under ‘sui generis’. Planning permission will be required if you wish to change to and from these uses.
Why have the changes been made?
As mentioned above, the Government saw the need for greater flexibility in changing the use classes so buildings on the high street could be more easily repurposed. The new Class E allows for a variety of uses to reflect the changing retail needs. It will allow a building to be used flexibly by having a number of uses taking place simultaneously or by allowing different uses to take place at different times of the day. The main idea (and benefit) is that changes to another use, or a mix of uses, within this class will not require planning permission.
What does this mean now?
Properties which were previously for a use which falls within the old class of A1 (shops), A2 (financial and professional services), A3 (restaurants and cafés) or B1 (business) will now be treated as being for a use specified in the new Class E. Planning permission will not be required if you wish to change between uses in Use Class E.
If there are applications for planning permissions which were submitted before 1 September 2020, which refer to the old use classes and remain undetermined, then they should be determined by the local planning authority using the old use classes rather than the new ones.
Whether the new Use Class E will give more flexibility remains to be seen. For a landlord, it could mean that a use in a property could change without consent unless specific drafting covers that. This might be favourable to a tenant with a business that needs to evolve to enable costs to be met. There is no doubt that we continue to face unprecedented times. Only time will tell if Use Class E will make it easier for business and property owners to repurpose the buildings and to potentially get the high street moving again.
If you would like to discuss possible letting options then please contact Cathryn Pernstich.