Planning Portal

 
  1. Do you need permission
  2. Common Projects
  3. Change of Use

Change of Use

Planning Permission

Use Classes

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) puts uses of land and buildings into various categories known as 'Use Classes'. This Order is periodically amended, the most recent amendment comprising The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Order 2015.

It is generally the case that you will need planning permission to change from one use class to another, although there are exceptions where the legislation does allow some changes between uses.

For example, A3 uses can change to A1 uses without the need for planning permission. However, if you are proposing to change the use of a premises or land, you should always seek advice from the local planning authority to confirm whether planning permission is required or not.

The following list gives an indication of the types of use which may fall within each use class. Please note that this is a guide only and it is for local planning authorities to determine, in the first instance, depending on the individual circumstances of each case, which use class a particular use falls into.

  • A1 Shops - Shops, retail warehouses, hairdressers, undertakers, travel and ticket agencies, post offices, pet shops, sandwich bars, showrooms, domestic hire shops, dry cleaners, funeral directors and internet cafes.
  • A2 Financial and professional services - Financial services such as banks and building societies, professional services (other than health and medical services) and including estate and employment agencies. It does not include betting offices or pay day loan shops - these are now classed as “sui generis” uses (see below).
  • A3 Restaurants and cafés - For the sale of food and drink for consumption on the premises - restaurants, snack bars and cafes.
  • A4 Drinking establishments - Public houses, wine bars or other drinking establishments (but not night clubs).
  • A5 Hot food takeaways - For the sale of hot food for consumption off the premises.

  • 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 (excluding incineration purposes, chemical treatment or landfill or hazardous waste).
  • B8 Storage or distribution - This class includes open air storage.

  • C1 Hotels - Hotels, boarding and guest houses where no significant element of care is provided (excludes hostels).
  • C2 Residential institutions - Residential care homes, hospitals, nursing homes, boarding schools, residential colleges and training centres.
  • C2A Secure Residential Institution - Use for a provision of 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 Dwellinghouses - this class is formed of 3 parts:
    • C3(a) covers use by a single person or a family (a couple whether married or not, a person related to one another with members of the family of one of the couple to be treated as members of the family of the other), an employer and certain domestic employees (such as an au pair, nanny, nurse, governess, servant, chauffeur, gardener, secretary and personal assistant), a carer and the person receiving the care and a foster parent and foster child.
    • C3(b): up to six people living together as a single household and receiving care e.g. supported housing schemes such as those for people with learning disabilities or mental health problems.
    • C3(c) allows for groups of people (up to six) living together as a single household. This allows for those groupings that do not fall within the C4 HMO definition, but which fell within the previous C3 use class, to be provided for i.e. a small religious community may fall into this section as could a homeowner who is living with a lodger.
  • C4 Houses in multiple occupation - small shared houses occupied by between three and six unrelated individuals, as their only or main residence, who share basic amenities such as a kitchen or bathroom.

  • D1 Non-residential institutions - Clinics, health centres, crèches, day nurseries, day centres, schools, art galleries (other than for sale or hire), museums, libraries, halls, places of worship, church halls, law court. Non residential education and training centres.
  • D2 Assembly and leisure - Cinemas, music and concert halls, bingo and dance halls (but not night clubs), swimming baths, skating rinks, gymnasiums or area for indoor or outdoor sports and recreations (except for motor sports, or where firearms are used).

  • Sui Generis - Certain uses do not fall within any use class and are considered 'sui generis'. Such uses include: betting offices/shops, pay day loan shops, theatres, houses in multiple occupation, hostels providing no significant element of care, scrap yards. Petrol filling stations and shops selling and/or displaying motor vehicles. Retail warehouse clubs, nightclubs, launderettes, taxi businesses, amusement centres and casinos.

Before you negotiate a lease or buy a property for your business, check whether you need to obtain planning permission for your intended use, and, if so, your chances of getting it.

Changes of use not requiring planning permission

Planning permission is not needed when the existing and the proposed uses fall within the same “use class”, or if the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) says that a change of class is permitted to another specified class.

For example, a greengrocer’s shop could be changed to a shoe shop without the need for planning permission as these uses fall within the same ‘use class’, and a restaurant could be changed to a shop or a estate agency as the Use Classes Order allows this type of change to occur without requiring planning permission. 

Whilst a change of use might not need permission, any external building work associated with a change of use may still require planning permission.

The table below summarises the permitted changes of use following the 2015 Use Classes Amendment Order. The table simplifies the complex legislation and should be read as a guide only, and in conjunction with the additional comments and restrictions below.

 From  To
 A1 (shops)  A2, or up to 150m2 A3 subject to Prior Approval, or up to 200m2 D2 subject to Prior Approval and only if the premises was in A1 use on 5th December 2013. A mixed use comprising an A1 or A2 use and up to 2 flats may also be permitted subject to meeting certain conditions. C3 if the cumulative floorspace of the building is under 150m2 and subject to Prior Approval.
 A2 (professional and financial services) when premises have a display window at ground level, but excluding betting offices or pay day loan shops  A1, or up to 150m2 A3 subject to Prior Approval, or up to 200m2 D2 subject to Prior Approval and only if the premises was in A2 use on 5th December 2013.  A mixed use comprising an A1 or A2 use and up to 2 flats may also be permitted subject to meeting certain conditions. C3 if the cumulative floorspace of the building is under 150m2 and subject to Prior Approval.
 A3 (restaurants and cafes)  A1 or A2
 A4 (drinking establishments)  A1 or A2 or A3 except buildings that may be defined as “community assets”.
 A5 (hot food takeaways)  A1 or A2 or A3
 B1 (business) Up to 500m2 B8.
 B2 (general industrial)  B1
 B2 (general industrial) Up to 500m2 B8
 B8 (storage and distribution) Up to 500m2 B1
 C3 (dwellinghouses)  C4 (houses in multiple occupation)
 C4 (houses in multiple occupation)  C3 (dwellinghouses)
 Sui Generis (casinos and amusement arcades/centres)  D2, or only if existing building is under 150m2 A3 or subject to Prior Approval. C3 if the cumulative floorspace of the building is under 150m2 and subject to Prior Approval.
 Sui Generis (betting offices and pay day loan shops)  A1 or A2.  C3 if the cumulative floorspace of the building is under 150m2 and subject to Prior Approval. A mixed use comprising a betting office or a pay day loan shop, or an A1 or A2 use and up to 2 flats may also be permitted subject to meeting certain conditions.
 Sui Generis (agricultural buildings)  A1, A2, A3, B1, B8, C1, C3, D2, all subject to meeting relevant criteria and Prior Approval. See notes below.

The table provides a summary for the most common changes of use that apply in most circumstances, but there may also be further restrictions that do not allow you to implement the change of use. For example, if the property is within a Conservation Area, National Park, or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or if the building is a Listed Building or Scheduled Monument, within a site of special scientific interest, safety hazard area, or military explosives area.

Local Planning Authorities can also remove permitted development rights in certain areas, meaning that you will require planning permission, so you should always check with your local Council before you consider undertaking any works.

Some changes of use are also permitted, either only on a temporary basis, and/or subject to additional restrictions.

Some changes of use are subject to a Prior Approval procedure with the Local Planning Authority. This seeks approval of various matters, dependent on the nature of the use, but might typically include matters relating to parking and highways, flooding, and contaminated land. In the case of A3 uses, Prior Approval is required in respect of matters relating to noise, odour, waste collection, impact of the hours of opening, transport and highways impact, impact on existing shopping provision and the design of any external changes.

All Prior Approval applications require a fee to be paid to the Local Planning Authority.

There are some restrictions on the change of use of public houses (Class A4) where they have been designated or could be nominated as a “community asset”. If a public house has already been defined by the Council as a community asset then there are no permitted development rights, and a planning application is required for any change of use or demolition. If the building is not a community asset, developers are required to give notice to the Local Planning Authority at least 56 days in advance of the commencement of any works. If community groups are then interested in buying the property to retain it as a community asset, then permitted development rights are temporarily removed, and the community group must be given the opportunity to purchase the property. See Assets of Community Value (England) Regulations 2012.

Where a development comprises a “mixed use” in the retail uses classes and betting office / pay day loans shop category then there are also some permitted development rights for changes of use of that mixed use, similar to the presiding use identified in the table above. Check with your Local Planning Authority (See Class M).

Temporary permitted development rights currently apply in respect of the change of use of premises from a B1(a) office use to C3 residential use. This is subject to Prior Approval being sought in respect of flooding, contamination, highways and transport issues. For a property to benefit from C3 use, the use must begin by 30th May 2016 (See Class O).

Temporary permitted development rights also apply in respect of the change of use of premises from a B8 storage and distribution use under 500m2 to C3 residential use. This is subject to a number of criteria being met and subject to Prior Approval being sought in respect of air quality, transport and highways impacts, contamination risks, flooding risks, noise impact, and impact on the sustainability of adjoining uses. For a property to benefit from C3 use, the use must begin by 15th April 2018 (See Class P).

Buildings with A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, B1, D1 and D2 uses are permitted to change use for a single period of up two years to A1, A2, A3 and B1 uses.

Agricultural buildings under 450sq m are permitted to change to Class C3 dwellinghouses, together with some building operations necessary to facilitate the conversion. This is subject to meeting certain criteria, including no more than 3 dwellings within an agricultural unit.

It is also subject to Prior Approval being sought in respect of transport and highways impacts, noise impact, contamination risks, flooding risks, whether the building is suitable for a residential use, and the design or external appearance of the building (See Class Q).

Agricultural buildings under 500sq m are permitted to change to a flexible commercial use, comprising A1, A2, A3, B1, B8, C1 or D2 uses. This is subject to meeting certain criteria, and Prior Approval being sought in relation to uses over 150m2 in respect of transport and highways impacts, noise impact, contamination risks and flooding risks (See Class R).

Agricultural buildings within land under 500sq m are permitted to change to a state funded school or a registered nursery. This is subject to meeting certain criteria, and Prior Approval being sought in respect of transport and highways impacts, noise impact, contamination risks, flooding risks and whether the building is suitable for the proposed use (See Class S).

Buildings and land within Class B1, C1, C2, C2A and D2 uses are permitted to change to a state funded school or registered nursery. This is subject to meeting certain criteria, and Prior Approval being sought in respect of transport and highways impacts, noise impact, and contamination risks (See Class T).

The following links provide the detailed legislation:

 

Changes of use requiring a planning application

Other than for the permitted changes of use listed above and changes where both uses fall within the same use class, planning permission is generally required for a material change of use.

Most external building work associated with a change of use is also likely to require planning permission, although the The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 does also allow some minor external changes.

Building Regulations

The building regulations may apply to certain changes of use of an existing building even though you may think that the work involved in the project will not amount to 'Building Work'.

You may wish to contact your local Building Control body for further advice.

Disclaimer

This is an introductory guide and is not a definitive source of legal information. Read the full disclaimer here.

This guidance relates to the planning regime for England. Policy in Wales may differ. If in doubt contact your Local Planning Authority.