Planning Use Classes

Planning Use Classes: Understanding Zoning Regulations

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on planning use classes! Understanding zoning regulations is crucial for anyone involved in property development, investment, or even homeownership. In this article, we’ll delve into what planning use classes are, why they matter, and how they impact property use and development.

What are Planning Use Classes?

Planning use classes are a system used by local authorities to categorize different types of land and property usage. These classes help determine what activities are permitted in specific locations, ensuring that development aligns with local planning policies and objectives.

Why Do Planning Use Classes Matter?

Understanding planning use classes is essential for several reasons:

  • Regulatory Compliance: Compliance with planning use classes ensures that property developments are legal and adhere to local planning regulations, mandated by legislation.
  • Investment Considerations: Investors need to understand use classes to assess the potential of a property for their desired purpose and evaluate its long-term viability.
  • Property Development: Developers must navigate planning use classes when changing the use of existing properties.
  • Community Impact: Zoning regulations play a crucial role in shaping communities, influencing factors such as housing availability, amenities, and environmental sustainability.

Common Planning Use Classes

The UK employs a specific set of planning use classes, including:

  • Residential (Class C (Residential Classification)) Classification: Covers various types of housing, from single-family homes to apartment buildings.
  • Commercial (Class E): Encompasses a wide range of commercial activities, including retail shops, offices, and restaurants.
  • Industrial (Class B): Designated for industrial activities such as manufacturing, storage, and distribution.
  • Mixed Use (Class F): Allows for a combination of residential, commercial, and other uses within a single development.

Understanding Use Class E

Class E, introduced on 1 September 2020, allows for a mix of commercial, business, and service uses within the same class, facilitating better classification of property uses. This flexibility is designed to support town centre vitality and encourage the adaptive reuse of buildings without needing separate planning permits for each use.

Navigating Changes to Planning Use Classes

Property owners or developers may seek to change the designated use class of a property. This process involves applying for planning permits and demonstrating how the proposed change aligns with local planning policies and objectives.

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Detailed Analysis of Specific Use Classes

Class E: The New Commercial Use Class

Class E was created to consolidate and simplify several previous use classes, including:

  • Class A1 (Shops)
  • Class A2 (Financial and Professional Services)
  • Class A3 (Restaurants and Cafes)
  • Class B1 (Business)

This new class allows for a flexible mix of uses within commercial properties, facilitating easier adaptation to market demands without the need for multiple planning applications.

Class C: Residential Use

Class C includes:

  • C1: Hotels
  • C2: Residential Institutions (e.g., care homes, hospitals)
  • C3: Dwelling Houses (e.g., houses, flats)
  • C4: Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

Class D1 and D2: Non-Residential Institutions and Assembly and Leisure

Class D1 (Non-Residential Institutions) and Class D2 (Assembly and Leisure) have been replaced by new use classes F1 and F2, effective from July 2021. These classes cover uses such as schools, libraries, places of worship, and community halls (F1), and smaller-scale local community uses, such as community halls and sports facilities (F2), introduced in July 2021.

Amendments to the Use Classes Order

The Use Classes Order 1987 was significantly amended by the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020, which took effect on 1st September 2020. These amendments introduced new use classes and revised existing ones to better reflect modern commercial realities and community needs, falling within the framework of the Country Planning Act.

Permitted Development Rights and Planning Permissions

Certain changes of use can be carried out under permitted development rights, meaning they do not require a full planning application. However, other changes will need planning permission. The General Permitted Development Order 2015 outlines these rights and any conditions that apply.

Change of Use Without Planning Permission

Changes within the same use class, such as moving from a retail shop to a restaurant within Class E, can generally be done without planning permission. However, changes between different classes often require a planning application.

Change of Use to Specific Classes

Change of Use to A3 (Restaurants and Cafes)

Class A3 Includes establishments where food and drink are sold for consumption on the premises, falling within Class E. Changing a property’s use to A3 typically requires planning permission. Factors considered include:

  • Impact on local traffic and parking
  • Noise and disturbance to neighboring properties
  • Odor control measures

Change of Use to A5 (Hot Food Takeaways)

Class A5 covers properties where hot food is sold for consumption off the premises. Changing to A5 use also requires planning permission, with considerations similar to A3, plus:

  • Litter and waste management
  • Anti-social behavior in the vicinity, potentially addressed under relevant legislation.

Change of Use to D1 (Non-Residential Institutions)

Class D1 includes non-residential institutions like medical centers, day nurseries, schools, and places of worship. A change to D1 use necessitates planning permission, evaluating:

  • Accessibility and parking facilities
  • Impact on community amenities
  • Suitability of the building for institutional use

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Contact A&A Party Wall Surveyors today to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards successful property development. With our expertise and dedication to excellence, we’ll help you navigate the complexities of planning use classes and achieve your property goals.


What are planning use classes?

Planning use classes are a system used by local authorities to categorize different types of land and property usage. They help determine what activities are permitted in specific locations and guide property development and land use regulation.

Why do planning use classes matter?

Understanding planning use classes is crucial for ensuring compliance with local planning regulations, evaluating property investment opportunities, and navigating the development process. They also play a significant role in shaping communities and promoting sustainable development.

How do planning use classes impact property development?

Planning use classes dictate what types of development are permitted in specific areas. Developers must adhere to these classes when proposing new developments or changing the use of existing properties. Understanding the relevant use class is essential for securing planning permission and avoiding regulatory issues.

Can planning use classes change?

Yes, planning use classes can change under certain circumstances. Property owners or developers may apply for planning permission to change the designated use class of a property. This process involves demonstrating how the proposed change aligns with local planning policies and objectives.

How can I ensure compliance with planning use classes?

To ensure compliance with planning use classes, it’s essential to consult with local planning authorities and seek professional guidance from experts in property development and urban planning. Understanding the relevant zoning regulations and obtaining the necessary planning permissions are key steps in ensuring compliance.

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