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    Commercial Property – Changes to the Use Classes Order

    PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.


    By Amy Cornelius

    A complete overhaul of the current Use Classes Order comes into effect on the 1 September 2020 with the dual aim of:

    • better reflecting the increasingly diverse range of uses found on high streets and in town centres; and
    • allowing businesses the flexibility to adapt and diversify to meet changing demands

    The Use Classes Order groups different uses of land and buildings into use classes.  A change of use within a single use class is not considered to be development and therefore does not require planning permission.

    The current Use Classes Order sets out four main categories of use class:-

    • A classes (covers retail, food and drink)
    • B classes (covers places of work)
    • C classes (covers places of residence); and
    • D classes (covers institutions and leisure uses)


    • Class E – commercial, business and service use class which incorporates the previous shops (A1), financial and professional services (A2), restaurants and cafes (A3) and offices (B1) classes. The new Class E also incorporates uses including gyms, nurseries and health centres (previously in use classes D1 (non-residential institutions) and D2 (assembly and leisure)) as well as other uses deemed suitable for a town centre location.

    The new Class E is intended to allow a mix of uses to reflect changing retail and business models and allow for a mix of flexible uses in different parts of a building and differing times of the day.

    • Class F1 – learning and non-residential institutions use class which incorporates those uses from the former D1 (non-residential institutions) class which involve buildings such as schools, libraries and galleries which are regularly used by the wider public.
    • Class F2 – local community use class which groups together those uses from the old D2 (assembly and leisure) class which involve activities of a more physical nature (such as swimming pools, skating rinks and areas for outdoor sports) as well as the use of buildings where such usage is principally by the local community.

    The new Class F2 also seeks to recognise the importance of small local shops servicing the essential needs of local communities. These shops (no larger than 280 square meters) and in locations where there is no commercial class retail unit within 1km – are brought outside of the scope of Class E (commercial) in an effort to prevent changes of use.


    Former A4 (drinking establishments) and A5 (hot food takeaway) use classes have been removed in recognition that changes of use to and from these uses need controlling, taking local considerations into account.  These uses, together with cinemas, concert, dance and bingo halls, no longer fall within any use class meaning that changes to and from these uses will require planning consent.


    The residential (Class C), general industrial (Class B1) and storage and distribution (Class B8) use classes remain unchanged in all material respects.

    Transitional provisions will ensure that buildings or uses will continue to be subject to any existing permitted development rights in force on or before 31 August 2020.  These provisions will remain in place until 31 July 2021 when revised permitted development rights will be introduced.


    Unfortunately, flexibility in planning terms does not necessarily give rise to flexibility in user clauses contained within leases.  Therefore, tenants wishing to rely on new permitted development rights may need to revisit the user clauses in their leases to ensure they give the necessary scope.

    What happens next?

    How this plays out in practice from 1 September 2020 remains to be seen. The far-reaching range of the new Class E use class could lead to a departure from a diverse mix of high street uses to a high street full of the same most profitable models.  Planning authorities may therefore seek to impose conditions on new consents in an effort to retain come form of control.

    There is, though, huge potential for the revisions to the Use Classes Order to allow traders, developers and landlords to mix uses and rejuvenate high streets.

    The government has promised that guidance will be published alongside the regulations when they come into force.

    For further information please contact our Commercial Property team here or by calling 01604 609560.


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