Andrew Barr, Head of Planning & Development at Robinson & Hall reports on these changes:
We reported in the summer of government proposals on major changes to the planning system, designed to simplify the planning process and accelerate development. Proposed changes included the introduction of zoning areas which in certain ‘growth zones’ may mean that development could proceed without reference to the planning authority. The consultation is due to end on 29th October and we will provide further updates when feedback is received.
In response to the changing face of the high street, the government has made a radical overhaul of the regulations surrounding Planning Use Classes encompassed in the Use Classes Order 1987. The Order has seen some modifications since its introduction, but the original Order does not perhaps cater for the myriad of uses in the 21st century high street.
The main change is to merge the number of uses into three main classes:
New Class E
This will cover commercial, business and services. This is a very broad ranging use class which will include retail space (current use classes A1-A3), office space B1 and a number of other uses including health centres, clinics, day centres, day nurseries, creches, gyms and most indoor recreations.
New Class F1
This will cover learning and non-residential institutions. It will include a number of former D1 uses e.g schools, non-residential and education training centres, museums, libraries, public halls, exhibition halls, places of worship and law courts.
New Class F2
This will include certain former A1 retail uses (local convenience stores), halls, meeting places, swimming pools, skating rinks, outdoor recreation.
This is the ‘none of the above’ category and has been widened to include pubs or drinking establishments (currently A4) and takeaways (A5). A number of D2 uses are also included e.g cinemas, concert and bingo halls.
All B2 (industrial) and B8 uses (storage and distribution) are unchanged.
Also unchanged are the former C class uses covering residential, hotels and guesthouses.
Merging all uses into one class (particularly relevant with Class E) offers greater flexibility for property owners and supports the high street into the 21st century. It should also afford greater protection for services such as pubs and community shops e.g local convenience stores.
Whilst the changes should be broadly welcomed and should see the end of the large number of applications for minor changes of use clogging up the system, there is some nervousness surrounding the implications of these regulatory changes. Under the new system for example, it will be possible to change the use of premises from say a dental practice to a restaurant, uses with considerably differing impacts on the local neighbourhood, without recourse either to the planning authority or to the local community.
If you would like to discuss the implications for your property on these changes, please do not hesitate to contact one of the planning team.