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Last edited 26 Jan 2021
Land use is the exploitation of land and its resources, that is, the managing and modifying of natural or urban environments for the benefit of humans. This benefit may accrue to individuals, companies, local and regional authorities and nation states. The way land is used varies considerably across the world due to geographical, geological, climatic, cultural and economic reasons.
Land is a scare commodity so its use is usually dictated by economics, achieving maximum efficiency, regardless of whether it is to be used for agricultural, residential, recreational, industrial or urban purposes. However, land use is also dictated by the biological and physical nature of the land in question: good soil can lead to agricultural use, whereas elevated land can be used for settlements due to the lower risk of flooding. Major changes in land-use patterns have occurred over the centuries due to the effect of food production, power availability, transportation, popultion growth, climate change, resource depletion, communication technologies and so on.
Around 10,000 years ago, humans started to modify the landscape extensively with the domestication of plants and animals. The large-scale clearing of land also occurred to create settlements and agriculture. As populations grew, settlements became larger with a network of structures built, altering the land.
Over the past half century, the dramatic increase in urban populations globally has resulted in urban sprawl, where cities consume agricultural and open space around them. This phenomenon has emphasised the value of prioritising land use to limit urban growth (such as by the creation of green belts). Furthermore, zoning regulations provide a controlled and regulated use of land for the benefit of society.
In the UK, the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 categorises land use into categories known as ‘use classes’. For England, these are generalised very broadly below but it is up to local planning authorities to determine which category a particular use falls into. The use classes are:
 Part A
- A1 Shops – shops and retail warehouses;
- A2 Financial and professional services – e.g banks and building societies;
- A3 Restaurants and cafés;
- A4 Drinking establishments – public houses, wine bars etc (but not night clubs),
- A5 Hot food takeaways.
 Part B
- B1 Business – offices (other than those that fall within A2), research and development of products and processes, light industry appropriate in a residential area;
- B2 General industrial – use for industrial process other than one falling within class B1;
- B3-B7 Special industrial uses;
- B8 Storage or distribution – includes open air storage.
 Part C
- C1 Hotels – hotels, boarding and guest houses;
- C2 Residential institutions – residential care homes, hospitals, nursing homes, boarding schools, residential colleges and training centres.
- C2A Secure Residential Institution – with secure residential accommodation, including use as a prison, young offenders’ institution, detention centre, secure training centre, custody centre, short term holding centre, secure hospital, secure local authority accommodation or use as a military barracks.
- C3 Dwelling houses – this class has three parts,
- C4 Houses in multiple occupation.
 Part D
- D1 Non-residential institutions – clinics, health centres, crèches, day nurseries, day centres, schools, art galleries;
- D2 Assembly and leisure - cinemas, music and concert halls, bingo and dance halls (but not night clubs), swimming baths, skating rinks, gymnasiums etc.
- ‘Sui Generis’ is a Latin term which means ‘of its own kind’. This category is for uses that do not fall within any of the above use classes e.g betting offices/shops, pay-day loan shops, theatres, larger houses in multiple occupation, some hostels, scrap yards, petrol filling stations and shops selling and/or displaying motor vehicles, retail warehouses nightclubs, etc
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Ancillary uses of buildings.
- Article 4 direction.
- Avoiding planning permission pitfalls.
- Change of use class.
- Detailed planning permission.
- Existing use value.
- Houses in multiple occupation.
- Meanwhile use.
- Mixed use development.
- National Planning Policy Framework.
- Non-domestic building.
- Outline planning permission.
- Permitted development.
- Planning enforcement.
- Planning permission.
- Sui generis.
- Sui generis and planning permission.
- Types of building.
- Types of room.
- Workplace definition.
- Zoning in the United States.
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