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27 August 2020

Changes to Use Classes Order – impact for Christie & Co’s sectors

In July 2020, the government announced changes to the Use Classes Order in England which, since 1987, has been the primary legislative tool to control changes of use within property.

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These changes will take effect from 1 September 2020 and will provide greater flexibility to repurpose property which has become redundant and protect uses which are the lifeblood of communities and will not be covered by the changes.

The changes aim to arrest the decline of city and town centres in recent years, not helped more recently by Covid-19. There will be more flexibility to change uses in town centres without having to obtain planning permission, in conjunction with the government’s Project Speed.

These changes will impact a range of sectors in which Christie & Co specialises, including convenience retail, pubs, restaurants, leisure, medical, children’s day nurseries and schools, the main ones being:

  • Use Classes A, B1 and D1 (retail, office and non-residential institutions and assembly and leisure) are being removed and merged into a newly created Use Classes E (commercial, business and service), F1 (learning and non-residential institutions) and F2 (local community use). The practical effect of this will be that owners/occupiers can change use within new Class E without planning permission (subject to any specific controls). It will be much easier, for example, to convert a former bank into a restaurant; a shop, office or light industrial building to day nursery; and a shop or office to medical practice.

  • The new Use Class F2 (local community uses) will protect shops no larger than 280m2, selling mostly essential goods and at least one kilometre from another similar shop, so particularly where there are few facilities. Other key community assets, such as local community halls, swimming pools and outdoor recreational areas, are included in F2.

  • Public Houses, wine bars, and drinking establishments will move into “sui generis”, with that “catch all” Use Class also containing hot food takeaway, cinemas, bingo halls, dance halls and live music venues. The definition of a restaurant (in Use Class E) versus a pub (in “sui generis”) is likely to get tested.   

Darren Bond, Global Managing Director at Christie & Co, comments, “As these government changes to the Use Classes Order have been pushed through quite quickly, there are still questions around the impact to each of the sectors in which we operate. The removal of red tape will bring a boost to the high street and, in many cases, will allow property owners to consider alternative options more easily. Use Class E will bring closer alignment in the value of assets that previously sat in different markets. We are also assessing any impact in terms of lease renewals and rent reviews. As always, there will be winners and losers, at a challenging time for a number of our sectors still coming to terms with the longer-term impact of Covid-19.”

In a separate change, two new General Permitted Development Order Regulations are introduced (both with effect from 31 August 2020) to allow the construction of additional storeys on some buildings as well as the demolition and redevelopment of freestanding blocks of flats and certain commercial buildings for residential purposes. This should help “recycle” commercial buildings at the end of their useful life, and speed their transition into residential use, as well as enabling homeowners to extend their properties upwards. 
 

For further information on this press release, contact:
Fiona Fieldhouse, Corporate Communications Director
P: 07738 182 406 or E: fiona.fieldhouse@christie.com