Use Classes Order Change - What’s the impact?

Despite the pandemic JHWalter have seen an increase in a variety of planning applications and enquiries in all property sectors. One of the reasons for this is due to the legislative changes to the Use Classes Order.

  • Use Classes Order

Meanwhile, the last year has seen and increased trend towards online shopping and greater working from home has left developers and investors looking to repurpose poorer performing retail property and office space in town and city centres into residential properties which are high in demand.  However, the industrial and warehousing sectors has remained resilient for many of the same reasons with warehousing and distribution centres servicing the massive demand from people staying at home.

What are the Use Class Order Changes?

  • New Class - Class E (Commercial Business and Service) – Class E amalgamates the previous use classes: (A1) Shops; (A2) Financial/professional services; (A3) Restaurants and Cafes; (Part of D1) Medical health facilities, crèche and nurseries; (Part of D2) Indoor Sports/fitness and (B1) Office/business/light industrial uses. 
  • New Class - Class F1 (Learning and non-residential institutions) – this class includes: (a) Educational uses; (b) display of works of art; (c) museums; (d) public libraries or public reading rooms; (e) public halls or exhibition halls; (f) public worship or religious instruction and (g) law courts.
  • New Class - Class F2 (Local Community)– this class includes: (a) Shops for the selling of essential goods, including food, where the shop’s premises do not exceed 280 square metres and there is no other such facility within 1000 metres; (b) Halls or meeting places for the principal use of the local community; (c) Areas or places for outdoor sport or recreation; (d) Indoor or outdoor swimming pools or skating rinks.
  • The residential (C Classes), (B2) General Industrial and (B8) Storage and distribution remain unchanged, except for a new cross reference in the B2 Class to the new Class E ‘Commercial’ use class.
  • Some uses which were previously within a use class have now been moved into the ‘Sui Generis’ category, meaning they will now belong to no specific use class.  These uses include: Public houses, wine bars or drinking establishments (previously A4); drinking establishments with expanded foot provision (previously A4); Hot food takeaways (previously A5); Venues for live music performances; Cinemas (previously D2(b)); Bingo halls (previously D2(c)) and Dance Halls (previously D2(d)).

Why Change the Use Class Order?

  • To increase the speed of repurposing buildings.
  • The new class E allows for a mix of uses to reflect changing retail requirements.
  • The new concept of ‘Local Community’ uses – Class F2 – has been introduced to ensure important community facilities are protected through the planning system.
  • Allow a building to be used flexibly by having a number of uses taking place concurrently or by allowing different uses to take place at different times of the day.

The changes to the use classes have increased the flexibility of the commercial market with properties able to be repurposed into different uses quicker.  The Government’s aim is “primarily aimed at creating vibrant, mixed use town centres by allowing businesses greater freedom to change to a broader range of compatible uses which communities expect to find on modern high streets, as well as more generally in town and city centres”.  The compatibility is key, most notably with Class E amalgamating uses which are complementary and can be interchangeable. 

Whilst the changes are still in their infancy, in the short-term it is likely to see vacant units being brought back into use relatively quickly and the broader range of uses will attract a wider range of prospective tenants for commercial landlords.

Longer-term, the property market could see a vibrant and market-led high street with businesses and landlords able to be more flexible with uses and occupiers.  This enables the property market to move quicker and shift with market forces and consumer behaviour.

When did the changes come into force?

On the 1st September 2020 the Government published The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020.  This amended the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 by introducing the significant changes to Use Classes system.  The changes include a reconfiguration of use classifications, including commercial uses, which have subsequently had an impact on the property market.  

The Use Class Changes took effect on the 1st September 2020, however there is a transitional period that lasts until July 2021.  Until 31st July 2021, change of use permitted development rights as set out in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 will continue to be applied based on the existing use class, as they existed on 31st August 2020.  New permitted development rights will be introduced from 1st August 2021.  Until the 31st July 2021, you can choose either the GDPO or the new uses classes to secure your change of use.


Change of use within the same use class is not considered as development.  Therefore, planning permission is not required for existing and proposed uses falling within the same use class. Building works associated to the change of use are likely to require planning permission e.g. external building works and advertisement consents.