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Added on: 30th July, 2020 by O1
Last week the Government published legislation which will see a major overhaul to the well-established use class system in England in one of the biggest changes to the planning system in decades.
From the 1st September 2020, new legislation will take effect which will bring in 3 new Use Classes – Class E, F1 and F2.
The regulations are found in The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020.
Of particular interest is Class E, which will amalgamate some of the current use classes into a single new class, therefore deregulating changes of use between them.
As of the 1st September, uses including: shops, financial and professional services, restaurants and cafes, crèche, day nursery and day centres, indoor sport and recreation; medical or health services (to visiting members of the public); offices, research and development and light industrial, will be grouped together within the new Class E – Commercial, Business and Service.
As changes between uses within the same use class are not considered to be development, planning permission will not be required for a change between the uses, within this new use Class E.
So, a change from retail to a restaurant, an office, a gym or a nursery can all now be undertaken without the requirement to submit an application. A mix of uses within buildings and premises and which might include flexible use premises, e.g. a retail unit in the day and then a restaurant in the evening, will also be permitted.
Drinking establishments (formerly A4), ‘hot food takeaways’ (A5) and cinemas and bingo halls (D2) have been excluded and now fall within the ‘Sui Generis’ use class and will need bespoke planning permissions.
Learning and non-residential institutions and community facilities including museums, public halls and local shops now fall under Classes F1 and F2, which see more restrictions imposed.
The ‘let the market decide’ approach allows for more flexibility which is hoped will help high streets maintain their vitality, encourage investment and stimulate economic growth. These radical changes might prove to be good news for landlords with vacant units and for potential tenants normally discouraged from locating in primary retail areas in deference to Class A1 retail uses.
However, the Planning Practice Guidance has not yet been updated. There are likely to be unforeseen consequences and many may feel that decisions on use and mix are still more appropriately determined at a local level. Some have raised concerns that community uses might be ‘priced out’ as they are forced to compete with restaurants and offices.
Time will tell whether the changes result in town centres retaining a diverse mix of uses, or, will the flexibility actually result in a reduction in the range of services which is widely accepted as integral to the future of high streets and their communities.