As trailed a few weeks ago, the Government laid further changes to the planning system before parliament on Tuesday, bringing significant changes to the current Use Classes Order, coming into effect on 1 September 2020, and the Permitted Development regime, coming into effect on 31 August 2020, representing a major overhaul of key parts of the town planning regime.

• A new ‘Commercial, Business and Service’ Use Class: (Class E) will subsume and replace Use Classes A1 (Shops) (albeit with a notable exception – see below), A2 (Financial and Professional Services), A3 (Restaurants and Cafes) and B1 (Offices, Research & Development and Light Industrial), as well as certain D1 (Non-Residential Institutions) and D2 (Assembly and Leisure) uses such as health/medical centres, gyms and nurseries which will not fall within the new Class F. Under normal circumstances, this will permit premises to switch between these uses without the need for prior approval or planning permission. However, shops smaller than 280sqm mostly selling essential goods, including food, and at least “1km from another similar shop” will fall within a new Class F.2 (see below);

• Class D to be replaced by a new Class F: the current Use Classes D1 (Non-Residential Institutions) and D2 (Assembly and Leisure) will be revoked, and replaced with the following:
*Class F1 (Learning and Non-Residential Institutions) which will include educational premises, museums, galleries, libraries, public/exhibition halls, places of worship and law courts.
*Class F2 (Local Community) which will include some small shops (as detailed above), community halls and meeting places, outdoor sports and recreational facilities, swimming pools and skating rinks.

• Other Use Class Order changes: consequentially, a number of different land uses which currently fall into Use Classes will become sui generis, and therefore planning permission will be required to change to and from them, including: pubs and bars, hot food takeaways, music venues, bingo halls and dance halls.

• Permitted Development for the Demolition of Vacant Buildings to Residential Development: specifically, the demolition of a single detached purpose block of flats, or building used for office, research and development or industrial purposes, and its replacement by a single detached block of flats or detached dwelling within the footprint of the old building. The building to be demolished must have been vacant for a period of at least 6 months, have a footprint no larger than 1,000 sqm and be no taller than 18 metres. There is, also, a more wide-ranging prior approval process which will require confirmation from the Local Planning Authority that the new development is acceptable, before the work can commence. In this regard, the Local Planning Authority will consider, amongst other things: the design and appearance of the new building, possible transport and highway impacts, residential amenity impacts including the right to light, and the impact on heritage and archaeology.

• Two-storey Upward Extensions: the upward extension of existing dwellings and blocks of flats by up to two storeys. The rights will only apply to dwellings constructed between 1 July 1948 and 28 October 2018, and to buildings for flats, between 1 July 1948 and 5 March 2018. The new rights are also subject to a number of other limitations and conditions, including the requirement for prior approval from the Local Planning Authority in relation to matters such as the design and appearance of the new extension, possible transport and highway impacts, and residential amenity impacts including the Rights to Light.

Guidance providing further details about how the changes will work in practice is still to be published, but they are likely to have wide-ranging consequences. From a landowner and developer perspective, they are very likely to present a range of opportunities to repurpose existing residential, commercial and retail assets in order to respond and adapt to fluctuating market conditions. If you have any questions following these announcements, particularly in relation to the exceptions, limitations and conditions to such measures, please contact Jeevan Thandi or any member of our nationwide Town Planning team.

contact: