This week, Government announced far-reaching changes to the UK’s planning system, including sweeping changes to the system of use classes for commercial property which see a new Class E as the rising star.

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 come into force on 1st September. Their primary aim is to revitalise town and city centres by making the planning regime more permissive of changes in the business environment resulting mainly from shifts in retail trends but also, more lately, from changes in working practices arising from the pandemic.

The changes streamline the system from the current eleven commercial use classes to just six; residential use classes remain unchanged.

The changes place the majority of commercial property types into a single new use class, known as Class E. This class will include all property which is currently in Classes A1, A2 and A3 (retail, cafe and restaurant, financial services), plus offices and light industrial uses currently in Class B1, healthcare and childcare uses currently in Class D1 and gyms and most other fitness uses currently in Class D2.

Commercial uses which do not fall into Class E are industrial and warehouse/distribution properties which remain in Classes B2 and B8; pubs and takeaways, which fall into ‘sui generis’ use (as do cinemas and concert halls); and community asssets, which can include rural shops and community sports and recereation facilities, which are protected by being given their own use classes F1 and F2.

The new system will be fully implemented following a transition period which lasts from 1st September 2020 to 31st July 2021, during which time the system will continue to refer to permitted development rights under the current system.

Questions remain over the details, but the potential impact of the new Class E are immediately clear: with offices, shops, gyms and restaurants in a single use class, properties can move between these uses without consent. Expect to see more gyms on office parks, and possibly also restaurants; expect certain businesses to move away from shop fronts in favour of offices; and watch the High Street diversify to include many more leisure and entertainment options.

We continue to monitor developments, and will be ready to advise clients as the details emerge. Contact Jonathan Ling for more information: