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Class of 2020 – Changes to the Use Class Order (Effective from 1st September 2020)
by boldmorerealestate
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August 13, 2020

Recent changes to the Use Classes Order represent one of the most significant overhauls since it was introduced in 1987. This, amongst other changes to the wider planning system, seeks to reflect the changing needs of the wider built environment. The changes, which come into effect on September 1 2020, aims to reimagine several prominent land uses, with flexibility at its core. At a time when fluidity is paramount in the wider economy, these changes should, in theory, aid in assisting entrepreneurial spirits and facilitate quick adaptations to the ever-changing business landscape.

There are two key areas of change within the use class system.

Firstly – the creation of a new set of classes and the amalgamation of others (more on this shortly).

Secondly – the greater flexibility for the changing of use without the need to obtain planning permission (even for uses which were previously in separate classes). This is due to the fact that some previously separate uses will now fall under the same umbrella.

These two aspects compliment each other, and reimagine the way in which property is and will be potentially used. For example, offices, restaurants and shops will now fall under the same use class and will not need planning consent to switch between uses (subject to certain conditions, which are outlined below).

What these changes generally seek to promote, is a greater flexibility and lessening of rigid use structures, thereby potentially limiting the power of local planning authorities.

It’s also important to note that the upcoming changes to the Use Classes Order are not solely limited to towns and town centres. Any building with applicable uses will be able to take advantage of this increased flexibility, regardless of its geographical location.

Let’s take a look at the upcoming classes (please note, this list is not exhaustive, but aims to cover the main changes. For example, industrial uses B2 and B8 will remain the same).

The New Classes

From September 1, three new classes will be come into effect:

1. Class E (Commercial, business and service) 

Broadly speaking, Class E will absorb:

  • Class A1 – shops.
  • Class A2 – financial and professional services (non-medical).
  • Class A3 – restaurants and cafes.
  • Class B1 – offices, research and development and any industrial processes carried out in a residential area without impacting on amenity.

Land or buildings associated with the above uses will not need to seek planning permission to make use changes within this new class.

Class E will also partially absorb:

  • Class D1 (partial) – pertaining to clinics, health centres, crèches, day nurseries, and day centres.
  • Class D2 (partial) – pertaining to gymnasiums and indoor recreation not involving motorised vehicles or firearms.

2. Class F.1 (Learning and non-residential institutions) 

Class F.1 includes uses in Class D1 not incorporated into Class E. Specifically, this class will encompass any non-residential use. 

This includes schools, museums, public libraries, public halls, exhibition halls, places of worship, and law courts.

3. Class F.2 (Local community) 

Class F.2 will consist of uses found in certain D2 uses. At first glance, some uses will appear quite different from one another However, uses in Class F.2 are grouped because of their local function and not because of shared land-use characteristics.

Uses that will fall under Class F.2 include local community halls or meeting places, indoor or outdoor swimming baths, skating rinks, and outdoor sports or recreations not involving the use of motorised vehicles or firearms.

Class F.2 also absorbs the existing Class A1 use referring to a shop that is:

  • Not larger than 280 square metres.
  • Mostly selling essential goods, including food.
  • At least 1 kilometre from a similar shop.

Sui Generis Use Classes

Several existing use classes that prohibit use changes will remain under the new system. Any changes to sui generis classes before or after September 1 will still require planning permission.

This includes:

  • Class A4 – pubs or other drinking establishments.
  • Class A5 – Take away food shops (it will be interesting to see how the A5 use class is applied, with takeaway and delivery services becoming much more commonplace, even amongst established ‘eat in’ venues).
  • Class D2 – cinemas, concert halls, bingo halls, and dance halls.

Part Use

Changes to the Use Classes Order also introduce the concept of “part use”. This enables a change of use of part of a building, use or planning unit to another use that falls under the new Class E designation.

Provided that the new use can also be found in Class E, planning permission does not need to be sought.

All in all, these changes are certainly radical (as radical as the often trundling planning system can be..) but are indeed a material change in both the renaming of classes, as well as the way in which the actual use system is applied. If done correctly, it could be the catalyst in a very different way of doing things. But lets watch this space..

For further information and a more comprehensive insight into all use classes, please contact:


020 7459 4580

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