Upcoming changes to high street use classes in the UK look set to represent the biggest change to town centre planning for a long time. A recent announcement on Twitter by Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP (who is Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government) outlined the UK Government’s plans to bring in sweeping changes to use classes. Mr Jenrick confirmed that amendments to high street use classes would come into effect on 1st September 2020.

What Does This Mean For High Street Use Classes?

It is thought that the proposed changes to high street use classes will give far more room for businesses, architects and developers to swap uses within town centres, without planning permission being needed. It seems this move by the UK Government is a bid to help town centres regenerate now that lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease. The new amendments will mean that current policies around shop frontages will become obsolete and that local planning authorities will see their remit to dictate the precise mixture of high street uses curtailed.

What Do The Details Of These Changes Look Like?

Of course, all architects, developers, landlords and business owners are keen to know what the new guidance around high street uses means in practice. In short, the amendments allow 3 new classes of use in town centres: – Class E which is service, commercial and business usage – Class F.1 which is learning and non-residential organisation usage – Class F.2 which is local community usage In addition, these changes will combine any premises which are currently classed as shops, financial services, restaurants/cafes, offices/businesses, nurseries/creches, indoor fitness/sports or medical facilities individually into one single usage class. This new combined use class will be known as Class E.

What Might The Changes To High Street Use Classes Achieve?

In the past, some plans for development have tried to protect the A1 class for shop use in the high street via clamping down on change of uses. These new amendments aim to stop this and make high streets more vibrant and diverse as a result. It is also key to note that the upcoming changes to use classes also bring in some additional restrictions. There seems to be added protection to guard against the loss of community, non-residential and learning institutions for example. There are also some so-called ‘bad neighbour’ classes for town centres which are in the sui generis list. This sees no change of use allowed for things like takeaways or pubs. There also seems to be a grey area in relation to food outlets. This could see disputes arise as to whether they will be placed in the A3, A5, E or sui generis use class.

Summary Of Changes To High Street Use Class Amendments

As the above shows, there is a lot to take in around these changes before 1st September 2020. For the brand new Class E usage, the way it combines multiple high street commercial uses means any change in use may not be seen as development at all. It is also key to note that there will be more sui generis uses in the future which caters to more high street uses than before. Of course, you may not have the time, expertise or inclination to get up to speed with what these changes mean for your premises or project. If this is the case, get in touch with Commercial Architecture today on 0203 409 4215. As a specialist change of use business architect, we have a firm handle on exactly what these changes will mean for you and can advise accordingly.

The national framework of ‘Use Classes’ regulates the way in which occupants can utilise a particular property. It was embodied in the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order (1987).

They encompass the building itself, but also the area of land around it when used for a single purpose by the occupant.

Aims and application of Use Classes

The Use Classes framework helps businesses and individuals to understand the permitted activities within a rented or owned property or new build scheme. This is laid out In Classes A to D – listed below. These are further broken down, to guide occupants on more specific permissions and categorisation. For instance, Use Class A1 is a general shop, but you would need Use Class A5 if you were serving hot food in a takeaway service.

When applying for planning permission, Local Authorities carefully consider the Use. It is part of their remit to keep a proper balance between residential and business properties, but also maintaining a mixed economy. For example, they can restrict too many off licence premises in a small area or industrial units detrimental to a community environment.

The planning authority regulates ‘permitted change of use’ too.

Not all types of business operations have been designated a Use Class, including theatres, petrol stations, betting shops and night clubs. They do not fit into any of the designated categories and are referred to as sui generis.

Use Classes Overview

The general framework is:

Class A – Retailing

A1 – Most retail operations (with some sui generis exceptions), selling goods, such as Post Offices, ticket agencies and florists – or services such as Hairdressers and Funeral Directors.

A2 – Business and professional services sold to the public. It does not include health service business use.

A3 – When the sole use is selling hot food and beverages to be consumed on and off-site. So, cafes and restaurants.

A4 – Drinking establishments like pubs and wine bars.

A5 – Hot food sold to be consumed off-premises.

Class B – Industrial

B1(a) – Offices not covered by A2, such as business advisors.

B1(b) – Properties with research and development functions

B1(c) – Industrial processes that can be safely delivered without affecting the local community.

B2 – General industrial operations

B8 – Distribution and storage centres.

Class C – Residential properties, including hotels and hostels

C1 – Hotel, guest house or other commercial accommodation with no care provision.

C2 – Residential operations with a care element, such as boarding schools, nursing homes and hospitals.

C3 – A ‘dwelling house’, but is further broken down according to amendments to the legislation in 2010, largely focusing on a number of occupants. Checking the updated classification system is vital.

Class D – Non-residential properties

D1 – Public services not covered by Class A, including use for education, health services, and children’s daycare, as well as museums and libraries for example.

D2 – Entertainment and leisure use of premises. For instance, swimming pools and gyms, cinemas and concert venues.

Help in understanding Use Classes

As the boundaries can have different interpretations, seeking professional advice on Use Classes is recommended. Not least many contemporary enterprises are sui generis.

The new Class E came into effect on 1 September 2020. Its purpose is to simplify the existing change of use class system and provide flexibility for owners and leaseholders of retail properties.

Essentially, Class E provides a much broader category of uses for retail properties meaning that classes A1 to A5, B1, D1 and D2 are now obsolete.

Understanding Class E

The new category is applicable to medium and large retail properties seeking a change of use to encompass another commercial business and service. Class E now incorporates Class A1 (retail), Class A2 (financial and professional services), Class A3 (restaurants and cafes), Class B1 (offices) and Class D1 (health/medical uses, creches and nurseries).

Please note, Class E does not include small rural shops that have a footprint of under 280 square metres and which sell essential goods and are situated more than 1km from other similar establishments. These are now covered by Class F2.

And, it’s also worth noting that the sui generis class is still applicable to beauty salons, nail bars and betting shops, so it’s crucial to know into which class your retail property falls.

Why Has Change Of Use Rules Changed?

The rationale behind the change is to make the whole process easier for retailers to switch use by not having to seek planning permission. This is an attempt by the Government to help revive the High Street and provide flexibility to owners and leaseholders of retail properties. It is hoped that this will allow retailers to adapt more smoothly to the fluctuating preferences of society.

So, for example, with the new Class E in place, if you own or lease a restaurant and you want to change it to an office, you can now do that without planning permission. Previously, you would need permission from your local council for the change of use or you could utilise certain permitted development rights. You would, however, need to seek planning permission in the usual way if you want to make any structural changes to the building in order to make that transition.

For owners this means leasing out properties will be more attractive to potential tenants if they are not restricted in terms of the building’s use. Likewise, selling the property will have a broader appeal if the commercial business and service is not fixed.

Can You Still Apply For Planning Permission?

The new Class E is still in its infancy and the change of categories for some retail properties may not always be straightforward. It’s important to know that you can still apply for planning permission for change of use. This will protect you from any future ambiguities regarding the definition of Class E.

There are some transitional regulations in place until 31 July 2021. You can refer to the Planning Portal for more details and, importantly, check with your Local Planning Authority (LPA) for specific information for your area.

Many businesses and properties change, from structural alternations to a shift in industry. However, it’s vital to understand what use class your building falls under so that you can make the appropriate changes and stay inline with Government regulations.

Let’s dive into building use classes and discover why they’re so crucial for your property.

What Is A Use Class?

Every building or piece of land has an allocated category, known as a use class. It’s important to know what class a facility falls under because you need to make sure the right permit development rights cover your building work.

In some situations, you may need to change your building’s use class to ensure the correct permits protect your work.

What Are The Different Use Classes?

There are a total of six use classes. These have changed in 2020, with the publication of ‘The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020’ coming into force in September. In this amendment, the UK Government removed the old classes A, D, and B1(a).

These include:

Class B- businesses which primarily serve people 

Class C- Locations where people sleep 

 Class E- Commercial, Business and Service 

 Class F1- learning and non-residential institutions 

 Class F2- local community 

Sui Generis- unique locations (e.g. pubs, takeaways, theatres) 

How Do I Find The Use Class Of A Building? 

No fixed list details every building’s use class, which can make it tricky for property owners to nail down which category their building belongs in. It will take some digging to find the registered use class for your property, but there are some simple ways to get started with the search:

Are there any previous applications for a change of use that can give you an indication?

What was the property originally built for? 

Was it owned by a public body in the past? 

Are there any old leases that can give you an idea of its use class? 

Your local authority might be able to offer some guidance on this, but it’s still worth doing some independent research to be safe.

What If I Need To Change The Use Class Of My Building?

If you’re looking to conduct some building work or invest in a property to renovate it, then you may need to apply for a Change of Use with your local authority. Often associated with a planning permission application for larger projects, your Change of Use application will vary from property to property depending on its original classification.

How Can Commercial Architecture Help?

If you’re looking to file a Change of Use application in the London area, then Commercial Architecture can help. Our team of expert architects have experience in obtaining planning permission and smoothly moving through building regulations in London to help get your project off the ground. We can even make 3D graphic visualisations of the finished product, enhancing the professionalism and success rate of your application.

Get In Touch To Find Out More.

When you’re going through the development process and attempting to create some residential accommodation for the community, you can often come up against D1 buildings. This article will give you a full explanation of what exactly a D1 building is, why it can be so difficult to convert it to a residence, and what you can do to make the transition faster?

What Is A D1 Property?

A D1 property is earmarked as one that is beneficial to the wider community. These generally include educational, medical or religious buildings, including churches, schools, doctors surgeries and even community venues such as public halls. This is why it can be tricky to convert a D1 building into a C2 (residential) structure. Housing is deemed to be less important to a community than a school or medical facility as it contributes less to public life in the local area. However, there are a few ways you can convert a D1 property into somewhere people can live.

How Can A Change Of Use D1 To Residential Happen?

It can be quite difficult to go through this change of status, as D1 properties have “protected” status. This means that you’re unable to change the use of the property without full planning permission, which can be a long process. In addition to this, you’ll often need to prove that the property has been available for at least a year with no acceptable offers being sent to the owners. Where possible, local authorities want these areas to remain of service to the community, but if no bidders are willing to make that happen they will reluctantly allow residential developments.

Exceptions To The Rule

There are a few ways that you can ensure a change of use from D1 to residential without waiting a year. These include:

– Proving that the building is not fit to be used. Whether this is because the building isn’t aligned with fire regulations anymore, the building being in poor condition or having no disabled access.

– The cost of getting the building running exceeding the benefit to the community.

– Proving that if the building did go on the market, it wouldn’t be an attractive prospect for new occupiers as a community space.

If you’re able to do any, or all, of these options, then it will make the switch from D1 to residential much smoother.

So What Now?

Start the process! You’ll need to remember that getting the status of a building changed is never quick, but by following this guide you should have something of a head start on the hurdles you might be expected to jump through in the process. Once the category changes, you can get on with development and building new homes.

Converting a commercial property to residential one may seem attractive, especially in the case when you are doing it for the first time. And moreover, this process has proved out to be a popular property investment process for the investors.

In fact, it is stated by the estate agents that around 40% of the increase in residential property has been made in the year 2007.

You can easily convert the commercial property to a residential one but you need to have planning permission. Sometimes it may land you in the legal and financial long processes. But in some cases, the commercial property already has planning permission which can save a lot of your time.

So basically the question here arises is that what is the main process of converting the commercial sector into the residential one.

The first thing to consider is how are commercial to residential sector funded?

Well, according to us it is most prudent to go heavy on your pockets, as conversions of this kind may sometimes lead to issues. And, it is the main factor to be discussed, as a lot of changes have been witnessed in the last three years by the amendment in the statutory planning.

Before the implementation of statutory planning, it was directly funded by the short term development finance on the vacant commercial properties. Hence, post-GPDO 2015, most developers are choosing over a hybrid of traditional commercial finance and development finance all cloaked together as a single package.

So, what are the resale outturn of commercial to residential property?

The vitality of taking a commercial to residential conversion by an officer is governed by various factors to find out whether it is a frugal job to take or not. To take up the project one must have in-depth knowledge of the locality and the state of the local buy market to make a primed verdict.

It is a sure fact that designing a commercial property for multiple occupancies provide much high revenue but a proper procedure must be followed to add it to the numbers.

Does a converting a commercial sector to a residential one require planning permission and how long does it take?

As specified in the current specific laws planning permission is not really required. But it doesn’t imply on the local authorities that focused on the protection of the commercial space. So, it is always helpful to check out all the facts of your property with your planning consultant before getting into the process.

Furthermore, most of the agricultural properties don’t require planning permission for converting it into the residential one but the contamination of the must be done to ensure the appropriateness for the development.

The processing time of converting a commercial to residential doesn’t take much time if your property is passed out the planning commission factors. So it all depends on the planning commission, all you are required to do is to follow the rules and regulations of the conversion process carefully.

It is also seen that converting of commercial to residential seems like a good investment opportunity to people because it is easy to buy a vacant commercial sector on lower rates which may give you higher ROI in the future. Moreover, the commercial market is quite saturated from a longer period of time which results in the lower values of the commercial sector than the residential one.

On the overall, we just want to help you out with the right procedure of converting a commercial sector into a residential one especially to the ones who are making their grand plans. Sometimes it may sound you mongering but it would be very insightful advice for the people who are in the middle of it but are not able to proceed it due to the lack of right guidance.