News & insight

Radical change for property use class system announced

Owen Pike / 4 Aug, 20

Proposed changes to planning use classes to provide businesses with greater flexibility to change a property’s use without the need to obtain planning permission.

The high street has struggled over the past few months with forced closures, reduced footfall and a significant shift in consumer shopping patterns. The changes are just one way that the government is looking to breathe new life into our town centres, representing a complete overhaul of the current system with key aims of:

  • better reflecting the increasingly diverse range of uses found on high streets and in town centres; and
  • Allowing businesses the flexibility to adapt and diversify to meet changing demands.

Coming into effect from September 1st 2020, the changes will see the creation of a broader use class (Use Class E) that allows for greater flexibility to change uses without the need to obtain planning permission. Use Class E will incorporate the following businesses:

  • Shops (A1)
  • Financial/Professional Services (A2)
  • Cafés/Restaurants (A3)
  • Non-residential Institutions (D1 part)
  • Indoor Sports / Fitness (D2 part)
  • Business (B1)

A building used for retail, for instance, would be able to be permanently used as a café or office without requiring planning permission.

Owen Pike, head of our planning team commented:

“At first glance these changes are welcome ones for businesses but the potential knock on effects may have unintended consequences.

“Over the past few months, we’ve seen fantastic examples of businesses adapting to meet changing consumer demand with restaurants and bars offering take out, shops taking their business online and many providing virtual services. The removal of the red tape of planning permission will help businesses adapt their spaces further and more permanently but it will be important that a certain level of control is retained to help keep town centres diverse.

“Previously restrictions have been placed to protect the number of A1 shops on our high streets but the ability for these businesses to change use freely may result in the loss of facilities that are core to our communities.

Whilst this article has focused on town centres, one unintended consequence of the changes is that they apply to any location, so may impact out of town retail parks or business parks as well. Ultimately the devil will be in the detail and it remains to be seen how the proposed changes are implemented.”

If you have any questions about the changes and how they may impact you and your business then please get in touch with Owen at 0117 338 1813 or at

Topics: News

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