Planning Relaxations For Commercial Property

Publication Date12 February 2021
SubjectReal Estate and Construction, Construction & Planning, Real Estate
Law FirmWalker Morris
AuthorMr Graham Whiteford and Richard Sagar

Last year, the Government announced it would be introducing fundamental changes to the planning system. The first of these changes came into force on 1 September 2020 in The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 ('the Use Classes Amendment'). The Use Classes Amendment effectively re-categorises commercial property into one single use class.

Simultaneously with the Use Classes Amendment, The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Order 2020 ('the GPDO Amendment') came into force. Both pieces of legislation aim to significantly boost the supply of new homes and to allow greater flexibility between commercial uses.

These changes are to be supplemented in 2021 with tighter restrictions on amenity and Space Standards for new dwellings delivered through permitted development.

Further changes to the permitted development rights to convert commercial properties to residential are currently undergoing consultation and will be introduced later in 2021.

Use Classes Amendment

The classification of certain uses of property and land has undergone a substantial change in the Use Classes Amendment. The changes principally relate to commercial uses, such as retail, offices, financial and professional services, restaurants, cafes, crèches and gyms.

The Use Classes Amendment has placed most of the 'A' uses, B1 uses, D1 uses and D2 uses into a single Use Class - 'Use Class E. Commercial, Business and Service'. The new Use Class E is set out at the end of this Article for reference.

Premises which fall within A1, A2, A3, B1, D1 or D2 use on 1 September 2020 are to be treated as falling within the new Class E.

What do these changes mean?

The purpose of assembling all of these uses into a single Use Class is to provide flexibility in the office and retail sector, to allow premises to operate freely between these uses (within Class E) without requiring planning permission.

For example, a building which was used as a gym on 1 September could now be occupied by a retail unit (also Class E) and vice versa without requiring planning permission. Prior to the Use Classes Amendment, changing the use of premises from a gym to retail could have required a sequential assessment, if it was in a location outside a town/local centre. This will no longer be necessary, where the principle of the use is already established by an existing building within Class E.

Operational development, such as physical...

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