House of Commons Library

Planning: change of use

Published Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The planning use class system along with permitted development rights allows the change of use of buildings without the need for planning permission. This paper sets out some recent and proposed Government changes to the system.

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This briefing paper applies to England only. For information about use classes in the other UK countries see section 9 of the joint Library briefing paper Comparison of the planning systems in the four UK countries: 2016 update.

Use classes of land and buildings

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 puts uses of land and buildings into various categories known as “use classes”. The categories give an indication of the types of use which may fall within each use class. There are four main categories:

  • Class A covers shops and other retail premises such as restaurants and bank branches;
  • Class B covers offices, workshops, factories and warehouses;
  • Class C covers residential uses; and
  • Class D covers non-residential institutions and assembly and leisure uses.

These categories are then further split up into a number of subclasses. Not all uses are put into a use class; these are called “sui generis”. A further regulation, the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (the “2015 Order) grants what are called “permitted development rights”. Permitted development rights are a right to develop without the need to apply for planning permission, although in some cases “prior approval” may be needed. Under the 2015 Order planning permission is not needed for changes in use of buildings within each subclass and for certain changes of use between some of the classes.

Removing permitted development rights

In some circumstances local planning authorities can suspend permitted development rights in their area, under Article 4 of the 2015 Order.

Recent changes

In 2015 betting and payday loan shops were moved into the “sui generis” category of use classes, meaning that a planning application is now necessary before a building can be converted into those uses. In May 2017 the former Government removed the permitted development rights which allowed pubs to change use or to be demolished.

Office to residential change of use

The office to residential change of use permitted development right has attracted controversy. This was originally a temporary three year permitted development right, but subsequent regulations have put this on a permanent footing from 6 April 2016. Concern has been expressed about the impact on office rents and availability and on the quality and affordability of the housing produced.

Changes coming into force

Regulations will also come into force to allow for light industrial buildings to change use to housing from 1 October 2017. There are also proposals to grant further agricultural to residential change of use permitted development rights.

Calls for further change

There are calls to give greater powers to local authorities to prevent change of use to betting shops in areas where there are already clusters of them. There are also calls to curb the change of use of shops into charity shops.

Commons Briefing papers SN01301

Author: Louise Smith

Topic: Planning

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