In the spirit of seeking to help the high street and to allow the ease of reuse of vacant commercial units and buildings, the Government has brought in a number of changes to the Permitted Development regime.
The intention to allow greater ease of change of use between uses within the same use class. There are still some occasions though when prior approval on technical matters must still be sought.
Three new broad use classes - class E, class F1 and class F2 - will be introduced in England from the 1st September. The changes were detailed in a new statutory instrument, The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020.
The new class E "commercial, business and service" use class would subsume the existing class A1 (Shops), class A2 (Financial and professional services), class A3 (Restaurants and cafes), and class B1 (Business) use class.
Class F1 relates to "learning and non-residential institutions" and includes any non-residential use for the "provision of education, for the display of works of art (otherwise than for sale or hire), as a museum, as a public library or public reading room, as a public hall or exhibition hall, for, or in connection with, public worship or religious instruction, as a law court".
Class F2 relates to "local community" uses. This includes, smaller shops "mostly selling essential goods, including food, to visiting members of the public in circumstances where the shop's premises cover an area not more than 280 metres square, and there is no other such facility within 1,000 metre radius of the shop's location". Such a shop is defined as "mostly for the sale of a range of essential dry goods and food to visiting members of the public". The memo adds that this "provides some protection for such shops while placing those shops found on high streets and town centres in the new 'commercial' class". F2 uses also include "a hall or meeting place for the principal use of the local community, an area or place for outdoor sport or recreation, not involving motorised vehicles or firearms, an indoor or outdoor swimming pool or skating rink".
Some uses have been given greater protection. Pubs (class A4), takeaways (A5) and cinemas, concert halls, bingo halls and dance halls (D2) will become "sui generis" meaning that they are not in any use class. Therefore, planning permission will be required to change to and from these uses.
Some use classes, including industrial (B2), storage and distribution (B8) and the C-class residential uses will remain unchanged.
For the purpose of permitted development (PD) rights only, the existing use classes will remain until 31 July 2021 when such rights are due to reviewed by the government. For example after 31st July 2021 there is potential that a class E use, an office, would not be allowed to then convert to residential use under PD rights.
The Government’s Planning Practice Guidance will be updated to reflect the changes before they come into effect.