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New ‘Use Classes’: Town and Country Planning

Changes to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 took effect (in England) on 1 September 2020. The changes abolish use classes A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, B1, D1 and D2 and introduce new use classes in their place. These are as follows:

  • New Class E – “Commercial, Business and Service” includes retail, restaurants/cafes, financial/professional services, and other services it is “appropriate to provide” in a commercial, business or service locality. It also includes indoor sport/recreation uses, many medical/health services, creches/nurseries, offices, research and development and “light” industrial uses. This replaces long-established use classes in England, comprising classes A1 through to A3, B1, parts of D1 and part of D2.
  • New Class F1 – “Learning and Non-Residential Institutions” including education (without a residential element), art galleries, museums, libraries and places of worship, all of which were formerly D1.
  • New Class F2 – “Local Community” including small shops (less than 280m2) selling essential goods where there is no other such facility within a 1km radius, community halls, outdoor areas for most sport/recreation (formerly D2) and swimming pools (formerly D2).
  • Sui Generis This list now includes pubs/bars (formerly A4), drinking establishments with “expanded food provision”, hot food take-aways (formerly A5), cinemas and live music/similar venues (formerly D2). These uses no longer belong to any class, meaning that changes to and from these uses will constitute development requiring planning permission.

Classes B2 (General Industrial), B8 (Storage and Distribution) and C (Residential) remain unchanged.

What does this mean?

In many cases, this means increased flexibility. Buildings currently used for class E uses can change to other uses within class E without express planning permission or prior approval, because such a change no longer constitutes development.

This could be advantageous to a landlord wanting to quickly re-let vacant retail units to other occupiers for different class E purposes. It will also enable a building to be used for several uses simultaneously, which may previously have constituted a sui generis mixed use requiring express permission.

However, existing planning conditions attached to a planning permission, obligations in section 106 agreements, permitted use clauses in a lease, or restrictive covenants on title may all still restrict use.

Local Planning Authorities may also be able to impose conditions on new buildings to restrict uses to specific sub-classes of class E where justified e.g. by virtue of a relevant development plan policy.

In some cases, the new use classes mean more restriction. Some uses previously in the same class (where a change from one to the other did not constitute development) are now in different classes or are now sui generis, such that express permission will likely be required for such a change, e.g. some medical facilities and educational institutions formerly both in class D1, are now in class E and F1 respectively.

Some of the former use classes have historically benefited from permitted development rights which allow changes between them without the need for express permission. Transitional provisions provide that such rights will continue to apply until 31 July 2021 when the Government intends to introduce new, revised permitted development rights.


The new provisions are (at time of writing) subject to judicial review proceedings, the outcome of which is awaited with much interest. However, as it stands, they are effective unless and until any court order changes that. The current use of your premises may now fall within a different use class and due consideration should be given to any proposed changes of use accordingly.

If you require any further information, please email or call us on 0113 322 1915 today.


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Ellie Stansfield

Trainee Solicitor
0113 322 2855
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Ellie Stansfield Blacks Solicitors LLP