Up until now, the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 determined what kind of business could be conducted in a building with a certain type of use class. For example, an A1 property could only be used to sell retail goods, while an A3 property could only sell food and drink.
If a tenant wanted to use a building for a purpose other than its use class, they would approach commercial estate agents to apply for planning permission. Now, however, new regulations have been introduced by the government to merge a number of different use classes into one single use class – class E.
The new regulations, known as The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020, came into effect on 1 September 2020. The amendment affects property that falls under the use classes A1, A2, A3, B1, D1 and D2 – namely retail units, cafes, restaurants, offices, clinics, health centres, nurseries, gyms, indoor recreation centres and light industrial units.
This means properties that were in these use classes can now all be repurposed without the need to apply for planning permission.
What Commercial Property Consultants Have to Say
Commercial property consultants are in favor of the overhaul of legislation, and believe it will revive local highstreets which have suffered from a decline in trading in recent years, and have slumped even further in 2020 with Covid-19 restrictions.
They’re calling the use classes amendment the “biggest shakeup in 30 years” and think it will bring new purpose to highstreets, as well as giving new and growing businesses more options to find suitable premises without all the red tape.
For example, if an occupier wanted to use a former shop as a café, in the past they would have had to apply for planning permission to change the use from A1 to A3. This application could have taken up to 12 weeks to approve and cost hundreds of pounds. Often landlords are not prepared to wait that long and will look elsewhere for a tenant.
The new E classification is set to breathe new life into local highstreets and give them a viable future. The change will enable a greater variety of businesses to occupy highstreet properties.
Commercial property consultants believe this is good news for landlords and potential tenants, as businesses such as cafes, yoga studios, day centres and professional services companies won’t need to apply for planning permission to occupy units previously used as retail shops.
Many other premises still need planning permission to change their use, but by enlisting reputable commercial estate agents you could quickly change that.