News & Insights

Property Use Classes and how they can affect your Business

Planning Use Classes determine what a property may be used for by its lawful applicants. Before you lease or buy a property for your business, you should always check whether you need to obtain planning permission or prior approval for its intended use, and, if so, assess your chances of getting it. Lauren Walker, an associate in the Real Estate team, looks at the different use classes and the changes made to these in September 2020.

Property Use Classes can be complex. The local planning authority ultimately determines which particular ‘Use Class’ a property may fall into and this revolves around the individual circumstances of each case.

Below is a list of Use Classes which can be used as a rough guide:

ClassType of Property
B2General Industrial
B3Alternative Industrial including Storage and Distribution
B5Building Materials
B7Animal Products
B8Storage and Distribution
C1Hotels and Hostels
C2Properties Offering Accommodation such as Hospitals,
Nursing Homes, Boarding Schools, or University Halls
C3Dwellings, Houses, Flats, and Apartments
C4Dwellings with 3-6 Residents
ECommercial, Business and Service including Shops, Restaurants, Offices, Industrial Properties, Care Centres and Gyms
F1Education, Learning and non-residential Institutions
F2Local Community, Community Halls, Swimming Baths and Outdoor Sports
Sui GenerisBuildings that don’t fit neatly into any of the other use classes are put into this category. Many properties in the Sui Generis class are entertainment, leisure and sports facilities

The above list of Use Classes is the current list of Use Classes following changes brought in on 1 September 2020. The changes revoked all class A categories, removed category B1 and created a new class E, as set out above. Use Classes A1-A3 have been removed and Use Classes A4 and A5 now fall under the ‘sui generis’ Use Class.

In respect of any planning applications submitted before 1 September 2020, the Use Classes which were in effect at the time the application was made will be applicable to the application.

In relation to any permitted development rights, and for restrictions to them or any applications for prior approval, the Use Classes which applied prior to 1 September 2020 will be applied until the end of July 2021.

For the sake of completeness, we have set out below the use classes which have since been revoked:

ClassType of Property
A2Financial and Professional Services
A3Restaurants and cafes
A4Drinking establishments
A5Hot food takeaways
B1Business as follows:
• B1(a) Offices
• B1(b) Research and development
• B1(c) Industrial processes

Same Use Class

Planning permission is generally not needed when changing from one use to another falling under the same Use Class, although planning permission may be required for any potential building work associated with the proposed change of use.

Key Considerations for Commercial Landlords

A lease will often be drafted in such a way that it restricts the tenant to a certain use of the property. Landlords generally will look to attempt to limit what the tenant can do with the property, while tenants will look to attempt to ensure that the permitted use is wide enough for both their purpose and also the purpose of any potential assignee or undertenant in the future. Depending on the nature of the property, it may be advisable to define the permitted use by express description rather than relying on use class references.

Permitted Use

Some changes from one Use Class to another are covered by ‘permitted development’ rights, and some building work associated with these changes of use can also be covered by ‘permitted development’ rights. However, to be eligible for any of these rights, the proposals must meet specific conditions, which may also require you to make a prior approval application. This already confusing situation is further complicated by the ability of local authorities to make what are termed ‘article 4 directions’ which remove permitted development rights to protect the character of a particular area. We recommend you consult the local planning authority to be certain whether a change of use class is considered a permitted development or not, and whether any further conditions must be met.

Each case revolves around its own set of specific facts and problems can prove very costly. Be aware and seek advice. Our expert team at Field Seymour Parkes advises commercial landlords, tenants, developers and property investors and are here to help with this. Please contact our experienced lawyers within the Real Estate team if you require further assistance.

This article forms one of a series of planning articles we have released. Please see the other related articles as follows: