Business Use Classes 2021 Update

Posted: 4th June 2021

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) categorises various land and buildings into different ‘Use Classes’ under which a business can use their premises for specific, defined uses. A ‘Use Class’ is determined by the local planning authority as to which category a business falls under based on the individual circumstances and moving between the Use Classes can be a lengthy process with the relevant local authorities.

With the global events of 2020 having a significant impact on business in the UK and in particular on smaller, independent businesses, the Use Classes Order underwent a significant overhaul that came into force on 1 September 2020. The purpose of the amendments to the Order was to allow certain use classes to be grouped together so that a change of use between the uses within the group did not require any formal permission.

Free movement within the new use classes is permitted providing flexibility to premises owners where they may need to diversify to create new income streams for their business. Please do note however that if a planning application was submitted prior to September 2020, then the old Use Class system still applies. The same is true for Permitted Development rights, until 31st July 2021.

The main changes were:

  • Use Class A was revoked in its entirety as was Use Class B1 and D.
  • A new Use class E for Commercial, Business and Services has been created to cover the previous Use Class A1,2 and 3 together with the old B1 use.
  • Use Classes A4 and A5 have been moved to the Sui Generis use class.
  • The classes within the previous Use Class D have been sub-divided into Classes E, F1, F2 and Sui Generis.

An outline of the newly created Use Classes are provided below.

Class E – Commercial, Business and Service

In 11 parts, Class E more broadly covers uses previously defined in the revoked Classes A1/2/3, B1, D1(a-b) and ‘indoor sport’ from D2(e):

  • E(a) Display or retail sale of goods, other than hot food
  • E(b) Sale of food and drink for consumption (mostly) on the premises
  • E(c) Provision of: E(c)(i) Financial services, E(c)(ii) Professional services (other than health or medical services), or E(c)(iii) Other appropriate services in a commercial, business or service locality
  • E(d) Indoor sport, recreation or fitness (not involving motorised vehicles or firearms)
  • E(e) Provision of medical or health services (except the use of premises attached to the residence of the consultant or practitioner)
  • E(f) Creche, day nursery or day centre (not including a residential use)
  • E(g) Uses which can be carried out in a residential area without detriment to its amenity: E(g)(i) Offices to carry out any operational or administrative functions, E(g)(ii) Research and development of products or processes E(g)(iii) Industrial processes

Class F – Local Community and Learning

  • F1 Learning and non-residential institutions – Use (not including residential use) defined in 7 parts: F1(a) Provision of education, F1(b) Display of works of art (otherwise than for sale or hire), F1(c) Museums, F1(d) Public libraries or public reading rooms, F1(e) Public halls or exhibition halls, F1(f) Public worship or religious instruction (or in connection with such use), F1(g) Law courts
  • F2 Local community – Use as defined in 4 parts: F2(a) Shops (mostly) selling essential goods, including food, where the shop’s premises do not exceed 280 square metres and there is no other such facility within 1000 metres, F2(b) Halls or meeting places for the principal use of the local community, F2(c) Areas or places for outdoor sport or recreation (not involving motorised vehicles or firearms), F2(d) Indoor or outdoor swimming pools or skating rinks

Sui Generis – ‘Sui generis’ is a Latin term that, in this context, means ‘in a class of its own’.

Certain uses are specifically defined and excluded from classification by legislation, and therefore become ‘sui generis’. These are:

  • theatres
  • amusement arcades/centres or funfairs
  • launderettes
  • fuel stations
  • hiring, selling and/or displaying motor vehicles
  • taxi businesses
  • scrap yards, or a yard for the storage/distribution of minerals and/or the breaking of motor vehicles
  • Alkali work’ (any work registerable under the Alkali, etc. Works Regulation Act 1906 (as amended))
  • hostels (providing no significant element of care)• waste disposal installations for the incineration, chemical treatment or landfill of hazardous waste
  • retail warehouse clubs
  • nightclubs
  • casinos
  • betting offices/shops
  • pay day loan shops
  • public houses, wine bars, or drinking establishments – from 1 September 2020, previously Class A4
  • drinking establishments with expanded food provision – from 1 September 2020, previously Class A4
  • hot food takeaways (for the sale of hot food where consumption of that food is mostly undertaken off the premises) – from 1 September 2020, previously Class A5
  • venues for live music performance – newly defined as ‘Sui Generis’ use from 1 September 2020
  • cinemas – from 1 September 2020, previously Class D2(a)
  • concert halls – from 1 September 2020, previously Class D2(b)
  • bingo halls – from 1 September 2020, previously Class D2(c)
  • dance halls – from 1 September 2020, previously Class D2(d)