House of Commons Library

Planning: change of use

Published Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The planning use class system along with permitted development rights allow 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 grants what are called “permitted development rights”. Permitted development rights are basically a right to develop without the need to apply for planning permission. See Library briefing paper, Permitted development rights for further information. 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 Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015.

Recent changes

The former Government made several changes over the course of the last Parliament. 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. From April 2015 change of use permitted development rights which had allowed a public house to be demolished or change its use were removed where the public house was listed as an asset of community value.

Office to residential change of use

Some permitted development rights for change of use have attracted controversy, including allowing offices to change to residential use. This was originally a temporary permitted development right that was due to expire on 30 May 2016, but new regulations will put this right on a permanent footing from 6 April 2016.

Changes coming into force

Regulations will also allow for launderettes to change use to housing from 6 April 2016 and for light industrial buildings to change use to housing from 1 October 2017.

Calls for further change

There are calls to protect pubs further from change of use permitted development rights and to curb the change of use of shops to charity shops.

Commons Briefing papers SN01301

Author: Louise Smith

Topic: Planning

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