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New Planning 'Use Classes' Now in Effect - What's Changed?

on Thursday, 03 September 2020.

While we do not expect to see many of the Government's "Build Build Build" Planning reforms emerging in legislation for some time yet, certain changes have come into effect on 1 September 2020.

For planning purposes, common uses of buildings are divided into 'use classes'. Planning permission is required to change a building's use from one class to another, as this constitutes development (even if no external construction works are required to do so). A full planning application is not generally required to move within classes, for example from a café to a restaurant which both currently fall within class A3, nor to move between certain classes if captured by the permitted development rules as discussed below. Some uses are designated 'sui generis', meaning planning permission is required to change to and from those uses in most circumstances.

The Town and Country Planning Act (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 change these use classes with effect from 1 September.

New Classes

The current use classes have been amended and in many cases collated with other existing classes to create new broader use classes. The effect of this is that developers will be able to change a building between a wider range of uses without the need to submit a full application for planning permission to their local authority.

On the other hand, some uses have been moved out of the use classes into a 'sui generis' designation, meaning planning permission is required to change a building to that use, or from that use to another.

The below table summarises how some common use classes have changed.

New Use Classes

New Use Class

Uses that can be changed from and to without the need for a full planning application

Pre- 1 September 2020 Use Class


Financial and professional services
Café or restaurant
Office other than financial and professional services
Research and development
Light industry that can be carried out in a residential area
Clinics, health centres, crèches, day nurseries
Gymnasiums, indoor recreation




Schools, non-residential education and training centres, museums, public libraries, public halls, exhibition halls, places of worship, law courts



Shops up to 280m2 in area selling essential goods, at least 1km from a similar shop
Hall or meeting place for the local community
Indoor or outdoor swimming pools, skating rinks, outdoor sports and outdoor recreation



Sui generis

Pubs and drinking establishments
Take away
Cinemas, concert halls, bingo halls and dance halls



Use Classes Unaffected by the Changes

Use Class



General industrial




Hotels, boarding houses, guest houses


Residential institutions


Secure residential institutions




Houses of multiple occupation


Permitted Development

The position on permitted development has not yet changed; although the use classes have changed, there will be a 'material period' (ie a transition period) until 31 July 2021 in which permitted development between use classes will remain the same, with reference to the current use classes.

In many cases, an application for prior approval must be submitted to the local authority before a change of use that constitutes permitted development can take place. Applications for prior approval submitted before 31 July 2021 for change of use under existing permitted development rights will be assessed against the pre-September 2020 legislation.

How We Can Help

Our team of Planning lawyers can help you navigate these changes, as well as advising on all aspects of Planning law including planning and prior approval applications, objecting to applications, planning obligations, highways agreements, public rights of way issues, heritage assets and green space.

For specialist legal advice on the changes to planning use classes, please contact Bethan Sykes in our Planning Law & Infrastructure team on bsykes@vwv.co.uk, or complete the form below.

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