On 1 September 2020, the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force, significantly altering the Use Classes Order 1987. The purpose of the regulation is to save the high street by removing barriers to diversification, namely the need to apply for planning permission.

Increased flexibility:

The 2020 regulation has introduced a new Class E, which allows a building to be used flexibly. The building can have several different uses taking place simultaneously or successively throughout the day.  Class A1 (Shops), Class A2 (Financial and professional services), Class A3 (Restaurants and cafes), Class B1 (Business) will now fall within the new Class E. A change of use, or a mix of uses, within Class E does not constitute development and therefore does not require planning permission.

However, for a building to change use within Class E, it must fall within the terms and conditions permitted under the existing planning permission. Furthermore, alterations to the premises to facilitate the change of use may require planning permission.

Certain community assets have also been put together in the form of a new Class F1 (Learning and non-residential institutions) and Class F2 (Local community).

The Sui Generis Category:

The 2020 regulation has seemingly not benefitted the operators of pubs, wine bars, cinemas, concerts, dance halls and bingo halls. These buildings will now fall within the sui generis category meaning “in a class of its own”. Generally, premises which fall under the sui generis category cannot be altered to any other use (including from one sui generis category to another) without applying for planning permission.

The difficulty surrounding the sui generis label is most evident for nightclubs, dance halls and discotheques, which have been closed since 20 March 2020, to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The inflexibility of the category means that these business operators may have to seek planning permission to utilise their premises for a (temporary) different use or remain closed until the law changes and permits them to open.

Under The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015, some sui generis uses do currently have the benefit of ‘deemed planning permission.’ E.g. a betting office or pay day loan shop (both sui generis) can change to a class A2 (financial and professional services) without the need for planning permission.

New permitted development rights will come into force from 1 August 2021, but, in the meantime, change of use permitted development rights set out in the General Permitted Development Order will apply from 1 September 2020 until 31 July 2021, based on the use classes as they existed prior to 1 September 2020.

For further information, please contact Joanna Onisiforou on 020 7759 1371

By Joanna Onisiforou, Associate and Nola McDermott, Trainee

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