Project Speed - radical changes to planning classes

As part of the Government’s “Project Speed”, radical changes are being made to the Use Classes System in a bid to regenerate the High Street and offer greater flexibility to our Town Centres.  These changes take effect from 1st September 2020.

The change* removes the current Class A and D and part of Class B by amalgamating them into three new classes and new Sui Generis uses as follows:

Class E (Commercial business and services) incorporates parts of the previous Class A and Class D and B1 to include retail, financial services (such as banks and building societies), restaurants, offices, medical health facilities, nurseries, indoor sports and fitness, offices and light industrial uses.  

Class F.1 (Learning and non-residential institutions) includes non-residential educational uses, museums, art galleries, libraries, religious institutions, public halls and law courts.

Class F.2 (Local Community) relates to the use as a shop of no more than 280 sqm selling essential goods, such as food, where there is no other facility within a 1,000 meter radius, along with other uses including a community hall, areas of outdoor recreation and indoor or outdoor swimming pools or skating rinks.

New Sui Generis Uses incorporates the other class A and D1 uses which have not been amalgamated into the new classes above and include drinking establishments with or without eating provisions, takeaway, live music venues, cinemas, concert and dance halls and bingo halls.

How will this affect me practically?

  • Going forward, from 1 September 2020, if a building is being used within one of the previous use classes (eg Class A1) it will be treated as being used within the corresponding new class.

  • Any applications submitted before 1 September 2020 using the previous classes must be decided using the same.

  • If the use has already been established over time, rather than by planning permission, the applicant must show enough evidence of lawful use within the relevant classes to establish a certificate of lawfulness to be able to benefit from the wider class E.

What are the benefits for me as a Tenant, Landlord or property owner?

As planning permission is not required for a change of use within the same class and Class E has been increased to cover a wide range of uses, tenants and potential purchasers will have greater flexibility with regards to the properties available to suit their business needs which might otherwise have been redundant under the previous planning system. A Landlord will be able to pick and choose the use of their property in accordance with the needs in the market.

Tenants and potential purchasers should ensure that they check any current planning permissions, restrictive covenants or restrictions in the lease to ensure that they can use the Property as they wish. Some Landlords may not be happy for a Tenant to have the flexibility offered by the wide use class E and may limit the use of the Property under the lease by definition, for example use as a shop only.

Whilst these are positive changes for businesses and land owners, they may have an impact on the diversity and range of services that we see in our high street. Applicants may see more planning conditions restricting use if the council is not comfortable with this relaxing of the rules. Further legislation may be adopted in time to give local councils powers to impose restrictions to protect prime retail areas and core employment areas.

*The Town and Country (Planning) Use Classes (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020 No.757)

If you would like advice about this important change, or any aspect of Commercial Property, please email Becky Pickering or call us on 0800 118 1500 to find out how we can help you.