Change Of Use
From newsagents to restaurants, every property used by a business will have a ‘use class’ assigned to it. This determines and restricts what the property can be used for. A charity shop can’t suddenly become a restaurant and a Chinese takeaway can’t transform into a hotel. To change from one use class to another, you’ll usually need to apply for planning permission from the local planning authority.
If your project needs planning permission and you do the work without getting it, you can be served an ‘enforcement notice’ ordering you to undo all the alterations you have made. That’s an expensive mistake, so best to check first
Under The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987, there four main categories of use class are:
Class A: shops and other retail premises such as bank branches and restaurants
Class B: offices, factories, workshops and warehouses
Class C: residential, hotels and hostels
Class D: non-residential institutions, and assembly and leisure uses
These four main classes are further divided into sub-classes. Nearly ever type of property will fall into one of these sub-classes. There are a few exceptions – like nightclubs and laundrettes – which fall outside any class and are considered sui generis (that’s latin for “in a category to itself”).
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For full details on what type of property falls into which class and sub-class, check out our handy table:
A2: Financial and Professional Services
A3: Restaurants and Cafes
A4: Drinking Establishments
A5: Hot Food Takeaways
B2: General Industrial
B3-7: Special Industrial Groups A-E
B8: Storage and Distribution
C2: Residential Institutions
C2A: Secure Residential Institutions
C3: Dwelling Houses
C4: Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)
D1: Non-Residential Institutions
D2: Assembly and Leisure
It is for local planning authorities to determine, in the first instance, which class a particular use falls into. Their decision will depend on the individual circumstances of each case.
Changes that won’t require planning permission
1. Changes that fall within the same sub-class
You won’t need planning permission if the proposed change falls within the same sub-class, e.g. changing a newsagent to a shoe shop, as they are both “A1” use classes.
2. Permitted changes of use
You won’t need planning permission if the proposed change is what’s referred to as a ‘permitted change’ e.g. turning a restaurant or café (A3) into a greengrocer (A1).
As a general rule, changes within the same class that go from a higher number to a lower number are permitted. However, there are exceptions to that. For example, you can’t turn a hot food takeaway (A5) into a drinking establishment (A4). But, you can turn it into a restaurant (A3), a professional and financial services branch (A2), or a shop (A1)
Even the change itself is permitted, it may not be enough to guarantee the premises can be used for its proposed purpose. There are other restrictions and factors that can come into play. For example, the lease could include a clause that prohibits the building being used for a particular use class. Or the property may be a listed building. Or there may be additional licenses required e.g. an alcohol license
3. Temporary Permitted Development Rights
Not to be confused with the time-limited permitted changes listed above. Temporary permitted development rights were brought in by the government to help boost housing stock by cutting red tape for developers. With these rights, you don’t need planning permission – just prior approval – to convert business premises into residential premises.
B1(a) Office use
So why is it called temporary? The permitted development right only holds up is the use as residential housing has begun by the cut off date.
B1(a) conversions must be in use as C3 by 30th May 2016
B8 conversions must be in use as C3 by 15th April 2018
Discussions are ongoing as to whether the government are going to extend the deadline for B1(a) conversions