Last edited 05 Dec 2016

Change of use class

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order categorises uses of land and buildings. Developments may not be used for purposes that are not within the use class for which they received planning permission.

Use class designations are defined below, although It is the responsibility of the local planning authority to decide which class a use falls into, depending on its particular circumstances:

  • A1. Shops.
  • A2. Financial and professional services.
  • A3. Food and drink.
  • B1. Business.
  • B2. General industrial.
  • B3 to B7. Special industrial.
  • B8. Storage or distribution.
  • C1. Hotels and hostels.
  • C2. Residential institutions.
  • C3. Dwellinghouses.
  • D1. Non-residential institutions.
  • D2. Assembly and leisure.
  • Sui generis’ buildings are those that do not fall within any particular use class.

See: Use class designation for land and buildings for more information.

Planning permission is not needed to change the use of a development when the current use and the proposed use are within the same class.

Changing the use of a development from one class to another may require planning permission, however, some changes are considered to be ‘permitted developments’ that are allowed without the need for a planning application. These permitted changes are listed on the Planning Portal website and are summarised below:

From To
A1 A1 plus up to two flats above.
A2 A2 plus up to two flats above.
A2 (professional and financial services) when premises have a display window at ground level A1 (shop)
A3 (restaurants and cafes) A1 or A2
A4 (drinking establishments) A1, A2 or A3
A5 (hot food takeaways) A1, A2 or A3
B1 (business) (not more than 500 square metres of floor space) B8 (storage and distribution)
B2 (general industrial) B1 (business)
B2 (general industrial) (not more than 500 square metres of floor space) B8 (storage and distribution)
B8 (storage and distribution) (not more than 500 square metres of floor space) B1 (business)
C3 (dwellinghouses) C4 (houses in multiple occupation)
C4 (houses in multiple occupation) C3 (dwellinghouses)
Casinos (sui generis) D2 (assembly and leisure)

From 30 May 2013.

From To
Agricultural buildings under 500 square metres A1, A2, A3, B1, B8, C1 and D2 (subject to prior approval of certain aspects)
B1, C1, C2, C2A and D2 State-funded school (subject to prior approval of certain aspects)
B1(a) office use C3 residential use (subject to prior approval of certain aspects)
A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, B1, D1 and D2 A1, A2, A3 and B1 uses for a single period of up two years
B1 and B2 B8 Thresholds increased from 235 square metres to 500 square metres
B2 and B8 B1 Thresholds increased from 235 square metres to 500 square metres for permitted development

From 6 April 2014 (with some restrictions)

From To
A1 and A2 small shop or provider of professional / financial services C3 residential use (subject to prior approval of certain aspects)
A1 shop Bank or a building society
Buildings used for agricultural purposes C3 residential use (subject to prior approval of certain aspects)
Offices (B1), hotels (C1), residential (C2 and C2A), non-residential institutions (D1), and leisure and assembly (D2) Nurseries providing childcare (subject to prior approval of certain aspects)
Buildings used for agricultural purposes State funded school or nursery providing childcare (subject to prior approval of certain aspects)

This already very confusing situation is further complicated by the ability of local authorities to make article 4 directions which remove permitted development rights to protect the character of a particular area. See: Article 4 direction for more information.

It may be necessary to consult the local planning authority to be certain whether a change of use class is considered a permitted development or not.

NB The Queen's speech in June 2014 suggested there would be further reform to change of use rules to make it easier for empty and redundant buildings to be converted into productive use, supporting brownfield regeneration and increasing the supply of new homes

On 31 July 2014, Brandon Lewis, newly-appointed Minister of State for Housing and Planning at the Department for Communities and Local Government, announced proposals suggesting that rules governing change of use from a shop to a restaurant, and from a shop to leisure use, may be relaxed in order to help high streets adapt to changing customer needs. Payday loan shops and betting shops would be excluded from a new, wider “retail class”, so councils have a greater say over these being set up in their area. Ref DCLG, Making the planning system work more efficiently and effectively, Giving communities more power in planning local development, 31 July 2014.

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