UK: New Use Classes Categorisation - Watch this Space

Last Updated: 20 November 2001
The DTLR has recently published a comprehensive review of the existing use classes legislation. The purpose of the review is to examine the Use Classes Order 1987 in terms of its contribution to the delivery of a number of stated planning objectives, namely:
  • Achievement of integrated transport
  • The efficient use of land and buildings
  • The enhancement of the vitality and viability of town centres
  • The facilitation of economic development
  • The protection of the environment
  • The protection of public amenity
The proposals will be subject to a full consultation in due course but the review is now likely to be a point of reference particularly for local authorities, where it can assist in determining what use class particular uses fall within, where this is not clear under the 1987 Order. Good examples are coffee shops and internet cafés. This note is intended to give a brief overview and a useful alert of the findings and consequential proposed changes which are set out in more detail in the table.

The main planning objective with regard to the A Use Class is to create “viable and vital town centres”. Activities in this class attracted the most comment e.g. warehouse clubs, sandwich bars, internet cafés, pubs and takeaway facilities. The breadth of activities included in this class is in itself an issue. Each activity often has a different impact, raising issues on traffic, noise, smells and customer activity at unwanted hours. The objective of protecting public amenity is also of particular relevance and the implementation of transport policy is important. A particular emphasis is given to the achievement of integrated transport throughout the review. In this context the aim is to create mixed use centres providing a wide range of uses in one area, resulting in the need for only “one trip”, and at the same time provide public transport to minimise use of private vehicles.

It is evident from the proposals (set out in the table) that where planning authorities have identified that public amenity is threatened or transport issues are pertinent, greater control is being imposed. The use of a size threshold (suggested as gross lettable area of 100 sq m) allows freedom to smaller establishments, but at the same time controls activities which could have a larger impact.

With regard to the B Use Class the main planning objective is the promotion of economic development. Again, the wide range of activities included in each part of this class potentially enables change without planning control, with both traffic and environmental consequences. In addition, transport objectives are also very pertinent, in particular the location of places of work in accessible areas for employees and suppliers and the provision of public transport as a means of travelling to work.


A Use Classes

A1 Retail
A2 Professional and Financial Services provided principally to members of the visiting public
A3 Food and Drink

Proposed Changes

  1. Classify any premises where the primary use is the sale for consumption off the premises of hot food (e.g. takeaways and drive-throughs) as a separate use (sui generis), change to which will require planning permission
  2. Combine A1 and A2 within same class, together with all A uses (other than hot food takeaway) in A3 if below a size threshold of 100 sq m gross lettable area (the “size threshold”) – Mixed Retail Aa
  3. Create new use class where the primary purpose is consumption of food on the premises if above the size threshold – Ab
  4. Create new use class where the primary purpose is consumption of alcohol on the premises if the premises are above the size threshold – Ac
  5. Sandwich and coffee shops below the size threshold will be mixed retail Aa, whereas those above the size threshold will be Ab
  6. Internet shops / cafes:
    • If primary purpose is sale of access to internet – Aa
    • If above the size threshold and primary purpose is consumption of food or alcohol on premises then Ab / Ac respectively
  7. In addition to the above proposals amend the GPDO so as to classify the following changes of use as Permitted Development:
    • Ac to Aa and Ab
    • Ab to Aa
    • Sui generis (sale of hot food for consumption off the premises) to Aa and Ab
  8. Motor sales showrooms to become sui generis whereby no change of use is allowed without planning permission
  9. Warehouse clubs to be included in Aa mixed retail class

B Use Classes

B1 (a) Office
B1 (b) Research and Development
B1 (c) Light Industry
B2 General Industry
B8 Warehouse / Distribution

Proposed Changes

  1. The current classes B1 (a) and B1 (b) should remain together in a new class Ba and a change between them should remain free from control.
  2. The current class B1 (c) should be made a separate Use Class Bb, encompassing light industrial use and clean production use. Permission is then required to change from this to office/research.
  3. The GPDO provision that a move from Class B2 to B1 be permitted development should be limited to classify only a move from class B2 to new class Bb as permitted development. This would allow general industrial use to be changed to light industrial use only without permission, the impact of which is broadly similar.

C Use Classes

C1 Hotels, boarding and guest houses
C2 Residential Institutions
C3 Dwelling Houses

Proposed Changes

There are no changes proposed to the current Orders.


D Use Classes

D1 Non-Residential Institutions
D2 Assembly and Leisure

Proposed Changes

The only recommendation with regard to this Use Class is to make nightclubs distinct from dance halls. It is suggested that nightclubs should be included within the definition of the new Ac use, namely premises for consumption of alcohol above the size threshold.

"© Herbert Smith 2002

The information contained in this article is of a general nature. and should not be relied on in that way. Specific advice should be sought about your specific circumstances."

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