Use Class Changes September 2020

Published 6 August 2020

Use Class order changes 2020 imageTo say that from 1 September 2020 there will be increased flexibility to changes in use is an understatement; the newly revealed shake up of the use classes to remove the requirement for planning permission across a swathe of current restrictions reflects an underlying desire to rejuvenate our high streets and once bustling town centres.

Where once there was red tape and bureaucracy there now appears a far easier path through for individuals or companies wishing to change the use of a building.

With just a few exceptions Classes A1-3, B1, and D1 will be amalgamated into a newly created Class E ‘Commercial Business and Service’. Specified under this class are: offices and light industrial, medical establishments such as health centres and clinics, nurseries and indoor sports centres. The new class also covers retail, financial and professional services, cafes and restaurants.

The new system also sees the creation of class F1 (learning and non-residential institutions, e.g. schools, museums and churches) and F2 (local community uses or swimming baths) which previously were classified as D1 and D2 respectively.

Is this a reaction to the risk of an economic downturn affecting the country? Quite possibly. But, more likely, the reaction to changing shopping habits, which accelerated during the lockdown, which has magnified the need for flexibility, and therefore hastened a plan which had been drafted.

It is to everyone’s disadvantage to see retail units sitting empty and this change will allow for a repurpose without potentially lengthy planning delays.  There are exceptions to every rule and in this case they appear to be to allow for some protection of highs streets from being overrun by hot food takeaways and drinking establishments which will continue to require planning permission.

The question is – how will the landscape change? When Permitted Development Rights were introduced in 2015 local authorities were unhappy and there followed an attempt to gain back localised powers. It seems unlikely that local councils will readily surrender the ability to mould the shape of the local surroundings again, particularly with the proposed extension to Permitted Development Rights.

As the last six months have demonstrated, in this new world where the fragility of some businesses has been exposed, some flexibility is very welcome to allow our economy to begin to recover. 

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