Planning Use Classes Order & Change of Use

This guide is intended to serve as a reference guide to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes Order) 1987 that puts uses of buildings and land into categories known as ‘Use Classes’.

Use classes are an integral component and statutory instrument of the UK planning system. They control and govern the planning and development of every type of building in the UK.

We’ve updated the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 guide with the 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2020 Amendment Orders.

Use Classes Update 2020/21

In July 2020, The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020 No.757) act was introduced in July and has largely come into effect as of the 1st September 2020.

It is important to note, however, that this update is pending judicial review in October. A campaign group named Rights:Community:Action lodged a legal challenge on the new legislation that queried its statutory instruments. Indeed, the update the Town and Country Planning has been dubbed the biggest shake-up since the Second World War.

The Aims of Reform

High streets across the country had been waining economically and footfall has been declining even prior to the COVID crisis. As part of the governments’ initiative to rejuvenate, boost, and create new infrastructure, also dubbed ‘Project Speed’, changes to planning act grant enhance flexibility and are particularly focussed at town centres and inner-city areas. At its core, the aim of these amendments is to grant greater flexibility to building owners, businesses and developers. The government has recognised that many buildings are now used multi-purposefully, and that these purposes change dynamically.

Summary of Changes

Overall, this new legislation represents a simplification of the existing use classes order and subsumes differing use classes into a broad new category, Class E. Class E is supposed to represent the composition of a typical high street where shops, cafes, light industry, offices and other services come together dynamically with intermixing uses. The new amendments do also create two new categories, F1 and F2. Parts of Class A and D have been deleted.

NOTE: The new legislation is subject to a transitionary period that lasts until the 31st of July 2021. Until then, for the purpose of permitted development, both the new and old use classes order can be used. You are therefore free to make changes under permitted development in accordance with the new or older classes, and can take advantage of whichever you choose.

A) Class E – Commercial, Business and Services

Classes A1, A2, A3, B1 and some of D2 have been summed into a new class, Class E named Commercial, Business and Service. Class E is the broadest category of the new use classes order. It contains several key classes that together are seen to form the ‘standard high street’. These classes include:

  • Retail and shops
  • Restaurants and Cafes
  • Some financial and professional services
  • Offices
  • Indoor sports, fitness and recreation
  • Nurseries and creches
  • Light industry
  • Research and development facilities
  • Health and medical facilities

Within Class E, buildings can be altered to other uses or a mix of uses using permitted development without obtaining planning permission. This is the core instrument of the new legislation. It is designed to make the conversion and intermixed use between the above classes as simple as possible.

B) Class F1 – Learning and Non-Residential Institutions

Class F1 now contains buildings such as museums, art galleries, libraries, public halls, religious institutions and law courts.

C) Class F2 – Local Community Uses

Includes community halls, outdoor sporting facilities, swimming pools and skating rinks as well as smaller shops below 280m² that sell mostly essential goods including food that are further than 1km from another similar shop. This is designed to target more isolated local shops under the more protected Class F2 instead of the less regulated Class E.

Other buildings under both classes A and D such as pub/drinking establishments (A4), takeaways (A5), live music venues (D2), cinemas (D2(a)), indoor concert halls (D2(b)) and bingo halls (D2(c) are now sui generis. This means no use changes to these buildings will fall under permitted development. They are essentially not subject to the same deregulation as other classes.

Current Use Current Use Class New Use Class
(from 1st September 2020)
Shops ﹤280m² selling mostly essential goods and further than 1km from another similarly purposed shop A1 Class F2
Local Community Uses
Shops A1 Class E
Commercial, Business and Service
Post Office
Travel Agency
Sandwich bars
Funeral directors/undertakers
Retail warehouse (such as Argos)
Domestic hire shops (e.g. tool hire)
Dry cleaners
Location to receive items for cleaning or repair
Internet café
Banks and building societies A2
Estate agents or employment agencies
Restaurants A3
Drinking establishments A4 Sui Generis
In a class of their own
Hot food takeaway A5
Offices B1(a) Class E
Commercial, Business and Service
Research and development of products and processes B1(b)
Light industry (in residential areas) B1(c)
General Industrial B2 Class B2 (no change)
Storage and distribution B8 Class B8 (no change)
Hotels C1 Class C1 (no change)
Residential institutions C2 Class C2 (no change)
Secure residential institutions C2A Class C2A (no change)
Houses and flats C3 Class C3 (no change)
HMOs (between 3 & 6 residents) C4 Class C4 (no change)
Doctors, clinics & health centres, acupuncture clinic etc. (except where linked to the residence of the practitioner) D1 Class E
Commercial, Business and Service
Crèche, day nursery or day centre
Schools D1 Class F1
Learning and Non-Residential Institutions
Public Halls (except local)
Churches etc.
Cinemas D2 Sui Generis
In a class of their own
Music and concert halls
Bingo halls
Dance halls (not nightclubs)
Gymnasiums D2 Class E
Commercial, Business and Service
Indoor sports and recreation (except where motorsports or firearms are used)
Halls or meeting place for principle use of the local community D2 Class F2
Local Community Uses
Swimming pools
Skating rinks
Outdoor sports and recreation (except where motorsports or firearms are used)
Theatres, betting shops,
funfairs, large houses in multiple occupation (seven or more),
‘Alkali work’, hostels, scrap yards,
yard for the storage/distribution of minerals and raw materials, payday loan shops,
scrap and breakage yards, fuel stations, car/vehicle shops,
retail warehouses, nightclubs, launderettes, police stations, taxi companies, car hire locations,
amusement arcades and centres, casinos, tattoo parlours, massage parlour, landfill sites,
beauticians, sport arenas, firearm ranges
Sui Generis Sui Generis (no change)

Do I need Planning Permission for Change of Use?

Simply put, you do not need planning permission for change of use if it falls under these categories:

  • The change of use is under the Permitted Development Rights.
  • The change of use is within the same use class.
  • There will only be interior alterations.
  • The development does not change the exterior appearance of the place.

On the other hand, there are also specific developments that the legislation requires to have planning permission. These include:

  • Structural modification, construction, rebuilding and demolition.
  • Material change of use.
  • Engineering operations.
  • Mining operations.
  • Builder operations.
  • Subdivision of houses turning it into two to three houses.

How long does it take to receive planning permission for change of use?

A planning application could take up to 8 weeks to be processed, however, more complex or larger applications can take longer.

To receive a more accurate timeframe for your planning permission, we recommend that you speak with either your local planning adviser or local authority planning offer.

Permitted Change of Use Classes – *Subject to Change*

 NOTE: The above changes, provided no further amendments are made following the legal challenge in October, are subject to a transitionary period. This will run until the 31st of July, 2021. Until then, developers and building owners will be able to use either the new or old use classes order to make changes to buildings and their uses. This means either the new or older legislation can be taken advantage of.

Below you will find all the Permitted Changes of Use for all building within England and Wales (amended).

This can help in understanding whether or not it’s necessary for you to actively seek out planning permission.

use class orders

Use Class Use / Description Permitted Change
Shops, retail warehouses, hairdressers, undertakers,
travel and ticket agencies, post offices, dry cleaners, etc
Pet shops, cats-meat shops, tripe shops, sandwich bars
Showrooms, domestic hire shops, funeral directors.
A1 or A2 & up to 2 flats.

Temporary (up to 2 years) to A2, A3 or B1 (interchangeable with notification).

C*, A2, A3*, D2*.

Banks, building societies, estate and employment
Professional and financial services, betting offices.
A1 where there is a display window at ground floor level.Permitted change to or from a mixed-use for any purpose within A2 and up to 2 flats.

To A1 and up to 2 flats, where there is a display window at ground floor level.Temporary (2 years) to A1, A3 or B1.C3*; A3*; D2*.

Food and Drink
Restaurants, pubs, snack bars, cafés, wine bars, shops for
sale of hot food.
C1 or C2.

Temporary (2 years) to A1, A2 or B1.

Drinking Establishments
Wine bars, public houses or other drinking establishments (excluding night clubs). A3.
Hot Food Takeaways
Properties that sell hot food for consumption off of the premises. A1, A2 or A3.
Offices, not within A2.
Research and development studios, laboratories, high tech light industry
Ba(a) to C3*.Temporary (2 years) to A1, A3 or A3.State-funded school or nursery*;B1(c) to C3*. (Built/Created between 1 October 2017 – 30th September 2020).
Used for industrial processes other than properties falling within class B1

(excluding incineration
purposes, chemical treatment or landfill or hazardous waste).

B1 and B8.
Wholesale warehouse, distribution centres, repositories. B1 where no more than 235 sqm

C3* (until 15 April 2018).

Hotels, boarding and guest houses. A state-funded nursery or school.
Residential schools and colleges.
Hospitals and convalescent/nursing homes.
A state-funded nursery or school.
Use as a dwellinghouse (whether or not as the main residence) by:

A single person or by people to be regarded
as forming a single household.

Fewer than six residents living together
as a single household where care is
provided for residents.

Not more than six residents living together
as a single household where no care is
provided to residents (other than use
within Class C4).

Small houses in multiple occupation
These are small shared houses that are occupied by between three and six unrelated individuals, as their primary place of residence. C3.


Clinics, health centres, crèches, day nurseries, consulting
rooms.Museums, public halls, libraries, art galleries, exhibition
halls.Non-residential education and training centres.
Temporary (up to 2 years) to A1, A2, A3 or B1.

and Leisure

Cinemas, music and concert halls.

Dance, sports halls, swimming baths, skating rinks,

Other indoor and outdoor sports and leisure uses, bingo

State-funded nursery or school*.

Temporary (up to 2 years) to A1, A2, A3 or B1.

Theatres No permitted
Sui Generis Shops selling and/or displaying motor vehicles.

Launderettes, taxi or vehicle hire businesses,  petrol filling stations.

change to A1, No permitted
Any work registrable under the Alkali, etc. Works
Regulation Act, 1906
No permitted
Hostel, Casinos, amusement centres No permitted
changesCasinos to A3 (subject to approval) Casinos to D2.Amusement centre or Casino to C3
Agricultural Buildings Buildings solely in agricultural use since 3rd July 2012. Flexible A1, A2, A3, B1, B8, C1 or D2 up to a limit of 500 sqm in perpetuity creating a sui generis use.
D1 (state-funded school or registered nursery only.


Certificate of Lawful Use

If your property can demonstrate that it’s been in residential use for four years, it might be possible to gain a Certificate of Lawful use, which will allow the property to effectively have planning permission for that use.

The same is available for commercial properties, however, the period of time required is ten years.


Notes On The Use Classes Order Act

  1. Changes of use within a specific class do not require planning permission provided that the use
    subsists; the planning permission has been implemented, and no restrictive condition is attached to
    the consent
  2. The permitted development rights shown in the final column do not require planning permission where
    all criteria set out in the Order are met and no restrictive conditions apply
  3. The General Development (Amendment) Order 1995 provides for the permitted change of use of a
    building from Class A1 or Class A2 to a mixed-use for the purposes of either Class A1 or Class A2 and
    as a single flat, and from such a mixed-use to Class A1 or Class A2 use provided the Class A1 or Class
    A2 use is situated on a floor below the single flat and various other conditions are met.
  4. Sui Generis is a term which refers to use on its own. Any planning use not falling within a specific
    class within the Classes Order falls within this category.
  5. A B1 use must be capable of being undertaken “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”.
  6. The Use Classes (Amendment) Order 1995 amends the 1987 Order by omitting Classes B4 – B7
    (special industrial groups B – E). Industrial processes previously within these classes now fall within
    Class B2 (general industrial).
  7. A C1 use is defined as a hotel or a boarding or guest house where, in each case, no significant
    element of care is provided.
  8. Six or fewer residents unless living together as a family.
  9. It should be noted that permitted changes of use identified above are ratchet changes, i.e. cannot be
    made in reverse.
  10. Various other permitted development rights exist for, inter alia, industrial and warehouse buildings,
    dwelling houses, agricultural buildings, schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and development by
    statutory undertakers.
  11. The above is intended as a general guide only. Reference must be made in the final instance to the
    Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as amended, the Use Classes Order 1987 as amended, and the
    General Development Order 1988 as amended.

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