It has now been over a month since the changes to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 came into effect on 1 September 2020, through the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020. The main driver of change has been the aim to enable a repurposing of buildings on high streets and in town centres quickly and in response to changing demand.
The new Regulations introduced radical changes by revoking Parts A and D of the original Use Classes, increasing the number of uses identified as Sui Generis and introducing three new Use Classes as follows:
- Use Class E (Commercial, business and service)
- Use Class F.1 (Learning and non-residential institutions)
- Use Class F.2 (Local community)
Changes of use within the same class are not classified as development.
One of the most significant changes, is the introduction of new Use Class E which has amalgamated A1, A2, A3, B1a, B1b, B1c and part D1 and D2 uses into one use class, allowing flexibility of uses without the need for planning permission.
However, the new changes have also resulted in original uses classes A4, A5 and D2 being classified as Sui Generis. This means that planning permission will now be required for changes of certain uses including pubs, takeaways, gyms, and indoor recreation.
The greater flexibility between certain uses (e.g. within Use Class E) is likely to make it harder for local authorities to be able to forecast the needs of different commercial uses such as retail and office. They will also lose control over certain changes of use, so may seek to control changes by imposing conditions or the use of Article 4 directions.
Certain aspects of these changes, and the processes that preceded them, are already being challenged in the Courts and DLP are monitoring the outcome of these deliberations.