Not always. It all depends on the specific business uses – what you want to change the use from and to.
Generally speaking, premises can only be used for purposes within the 'use class' they belong to. The Land Planning and Development (Use Classes) Ordinance 2017 sets out the numbered use classes under various headings such as visitor economy, retail, administrative financial and professional services, storage/distribution and industrial. There are a number of use classes under each heading. For example, under 'Industrial' there are four use classes (Light Industry, General Industry, Special Industry and Waste).
The Ordinance allows you to change the use of premises if both the current and the proposed use fall within the same use class. This provides flexibility for a change to a similar use without the need for planning permission.
In most cases, if the proposed use falls outside of the same use class, planning permission will be required. However, in such a case there is still a possibility that planning permission will not be required if the change of use falls within one of the exemptions in the Land Planning and Development (Exemptions) Ordinance 2007. This Ordinance allows changes between certain use classes. For example, you are permitted to change from general industry (use class 25) to light industry (use class 24); you can change between light industry (use class 24) and general storage or distribution (use class 22) and from general industry (use class 25) to general storage or distribution (use class 22) (subject to some limitations on floor area).
It is also worth noting that if the proposed change of use is only for part of the premises, planning permission may not be required if the proposed use is ancillary or incidental to the main use of the premises.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.