November 24, 2020

Key Planning Law changes - The Use Classes Regulations 2020

Holmes & Hills Solicitors’ specialist Planning Law Solicitor Ellie Shemming discusses the changes introduced through the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) Regulations 2020.

In a bid to revitalise the high street, on 1 September 2020 the Government introduced significant changes to the use class system in England through The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 (‘the 2020 Regulations’).

The 2020 Regulations aim to overhaul the existing Use Classes Order 1987, and in doing so the following new Use Classes have been introduced.

Class E – Commercial, Business and Service

Class E will be for the use, or part use, for all or any of the following purposes:

  • For the display or retail sale of goods, other than hot food, principally to visiting members of the public.
  • For the sale of food and drink principally to visiting members of the public where consumption of that food and drink is mostly undertaken on the premises.
  • For the provision of the following kinds of services principally to visiting members of the public:
  • financial services;
  • professional services (other than health or medical services); or
  • any other services which it is appropriate to provide in a commercial, business or service locality.
  • For indoor sport, recreation or fitness, not involving motorised vehicles or firearms principally to visiting members of the public.
  • For the provision of medical or health services, principally to visiting members of the public, except the use of premises attached to the residence of the consultant or practitioner.
  • For a creche, day nursery or day centre, not including a residential use, principally to visiting members of the public.
  • For: an office to carry out any operational or administrative functions; the research and development of products or processes; or any industrial process, being a use which can be carried out in any residential area without detriment to the amenity of that area by reason of noise, vibration, smell, fumes, smoke, soot, ash, dust or grit.

Class E is effectively an amalgamation of the following uses:

  • Use Class A1- shops
  • Use Class A2- financial and professional services
  • Use Class A3 – restaurants and cafes
  • Use Class B1 – business
  • Gym, nurseries and health centres (previously in Use Classes D1 and D2).

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

F.1 and F.2 replaced D1 (Non-residential institutions) and Class D2 (Assembly and leisure).

Class F.1 includes any use not including 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 F.2 includes use as:

  • A shop 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 a 1,000-metre radius of the shop's location.
  • 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.

New sui generis uses

Several uses have been removed from the Use Classes Order and are now sui generis. This includes the following uses:

  • A public house, wine bar or drinking establishment (currently Class A4).
  • A drinking establishment with expanded food provision (currently mixed use of Class A4 with Class A3).
  • A hot food takeaway for the sale of hot food where consumption of that food is mostly undertaken off the premises (currently Class A5).
  • A venue for live music performance.
  • A cinema (currently Class D2).
  • A concert hall (currently Class D2).
  • A bingo hall (currently Class D2).
  • A dance hall (currently Class D2).

Sui generis uses cannot generally be changed to any other use (including other sui generis uses) without planning permission.

Transitional provisions

Between 1 September 2020 to 31 July 2021, land and buildings which would now fall into classes E, F.1 and F.2 will continue to benefit from any permitted development rights it was entitled to on or before 31 August 2020. It is expected new revised permitted development rights will be introduced after 31 July 2021.

References to uses or use classes in Article 4 Directions which have already been made will continue to be read as the previous use classes.

Planning applications submitted prior to 1 September 2020 should be determined by reference to the previous use classes.  


The changes introduced in the 2020 Regulations are all significant, however it is the introduction of the new Class E which provides arguably the most important reform to the English planning system in decades.

Class E is different, adopting a completely different approach, by encompassing the changes of use between commercial, business and service all within a single Use Class.

As we are all probably undoubtedly familiar, a change of use within the same use class does not constitute development and therefore does not require planning permission.

As such, movement between uses contained within Class E no longer require planning permission because the change of use is not deemed development. This is significant, allowing businesses to freely change the use of their premises without having to obtain planning permission. To put this in context, a business owner could turn their office into a gym, then into a shop and then into a creche and then revert back to an office all without having to obtain planning permission (subject to specific site restrictions), because these changes would not even constitute development at all.

Class E allows businesses to use their premises how they see fit and provides them with the flexibility required in these uncertain times. This is a significant shift from the regularised planning system we have all become accustomed to, and will no doubt raise many questions as to the future of the plan-making and decision-making process.

Get expert Planning Law advice.

Call 01206 593933 and speak to Ellie Shemming, specialist Planning Law solicitor.
Or send an e-mail.
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