Planning Regulations

More flexibility for businesses in new planning regulations

New planning regulations which aim to make the change of use of buildings easier to reflect ever-shifting business and retail patterns have been announced by government. These important changes to the already much-amended 1987 Use Classes Order in England are set to take effect on September 1 this year.

The regulations amend and simplify the system of use classes in England, creating a new comprehensive and wide-ranging ‘Commercial, Business and Service’ use class (Class E). This incorporates the previous use classes of shops (A1), financial and professional services (A2), restaurants and cafes (A3) and offices (B1).

Previous use classes falling within non-residential institutions (D1) and assembly and leisure (D2) such as gyms, nurseries and health centres and other uses which are suitable for a town centre area are also included. 

The new Class E will allow a mix of uses across a site or building to reflect the changing business and retail patterns. It will also enable a building to simultaneously operate within a number of uses or have the flexibility to operate with differing uses throughout the day.

Changes to another use, or a mix of uses, within Class E will now not require planning permission.

The regulations have also created the other new use classes of learning and non-residential institutions (Class F1) and local community (Class F2). Class F1 incorporates the former non-residential institutions use class (D1) which includes buildings which are regularly in wider public use such as libraries, schools or art galleries. Class F2 combines the former D2 use class which provide for leisure/sporting activities, such as skating rinks, swimming pools and areas for outdoor sports. It also recognises the importance of small, local shops in meeting the day to day essential shopping needs of local communities.

Greg Collings, Associate in our Worcester office, said: “With the significant changes and radical reform to the use class order, especially within the commercial sector, this represents real opportunities and flexibility to operate buildings and sites in diverse and dynamic ways which previously would have resulted in difficult and complex change of use planning applications.

“The newly-created Class E will present opportunities and give businesses greater freedom to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. It allows flexibility as businesses, particularly those in town centres, seek to recover from the economic impact of Covid-19.”

Quick Reference Guide to the Use Class Order

Class E – Commercial, Business and Services

Class F1 – Learning and Non-residential institutions

Class F2 – Local Community

Use, or part use, for all or any of the following purposes—

(a) SHOPS - for the display or retail sale of goods, other than hot food, principally to visiting members of the public [formerly A1]

(b) RESTAURANTS - for the sale of food and drink principally to visiting members of the public where consumption of that food and drink is mostly undertaken on the premises [formerly A3]
(c) for the provision of the following kinds of services principally to visiting members of the public [all formerly within A2] —
(ii) PROFESSIONAL SERVICES (other than health or medical services), or
(iii) OTHER SERVICES which it is appropriate to provide in a commercial, business or service locality
(d) for INDOOR SPORT, RECREATION OR FITNESS, not involving motorised vehicles or firearms, principally to visiting members of the public [formerly within D2(e)]

(e) for THE PROVISION OF MEDICAL OR HEALTH SERVICES, principally to visiting members of the public, except the use of premises attached to the residence of the consultant or practitioner [formerly D1(a)]

(f) for a CRÈCHE, DAY NURSERY OR DAY CENTRE, not including a residential use, principally to visiting members of the public [formerly D1(b)]

(g) for—
(i) an OFFICE to carry out any operational or administrative functions [formerly B1(a)],
(ii) the RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT of products or processes [formerly B1 (b)], or
(iii) any INDUSTRIAL PROCESS [formerly B1(c)]


Any use not including residential use—

(a) for the provision of SCHOOLS AND EDUCATION FACILITIES [formerly D1(c)]

(b) ART GALLERIES  (for the display of works of art  otherwise than for sale or hire) [formerly D1(d)]

(c) as a MUSEUM [formerly D1(e)]

(d) as a PUBLIC LIBRARIES [formerly D1(f)]


(e) as a PUBLIC HALLS OR EXHIBITION HALLS [formerly D1(g)]

(f) for, or in connection with, public PLACES OF WORSHIP OR RELIGIOUS INSTRUCION [formerly D1(h)]

(g) as a LAW COURT [formerly D1(i)]

Use as—

(a)  SHOP SELLING MOSTLY ESSENTIAL GOODS, including food, to visiting members of the public in circumstances where—
(i) the shop’s premises cover an area not more than 280 metres square, and
(ii) there is no other such facility within 1000 metre radius of the shop’s location  [formerly within A1]

(b) a HALL OR MEETING PLACE for the principal use of the local community [formerly within D1(g)]


(c) an AREA OR PLACE FOR OUTDOOR SPORT OR RECREATION, not involving motorised vehicles or firearms [formerly within D2(e)]


Within Class E, buildings for industrial processes (Class E(g)(iii)) are those which formerly classed as B1(c), i.e. appropriate for residential locations.

Class B2 (general industrial) and Class B8 (storage and distribution) uses are unaffected by these changes.

With the demise of the old Class A and D uses, as identified within the amended 1987 Use Classes Order, several uses have not fallen into Classes E, F1 or F2 and are now recognised as ‘Sui Generis’ uses.

These are:
(q) DRINKING ESTABLISHMENT with expanded food provision [which fell awkwardly between A4 and A3]
(r) HOT FOOD TAKEAWAY for the sale of hot food off the premises [formerly A5]
(t) CINEMA [formerly D2(a)]
(u)CONCERT HALL [formerly D2(b)]
(v) BINGO HALL [formerly D2(c)]
(x) DANCE HALL [formerly D2(d)]

Sui generis uses p - x will require a change of use from one of these to another, even though some were formerly within the same use class. Consequently, this will be regarded as development and will therefore require planning permission.

It should also be noted that any building or use will continue to be subject to the permitted development rights it was entitled to on or before August 31, 2020 until June 31, 2021.

If you think you may be affected by these changes, or need help navigating the new use classes, get in touch with your local Fisher German planning team for advice.