The use of all buildings is governed by the planning laws. The 'use classes' are the legal framework which set out what a particular property may be used for. Broadly, the use classes have been in the same format since 1987 but the recent political impetus to regenerate properties particularly on the high streets of England and Wales has led to a significant change in the use classes. Most people in residential properties tend not to be concerned about them but they are of considerable importance to anyone owning or renting commercial premises.
The central point about the use classes is that if the use to which a building is put is going to change, for example from retail to office use, it is necessary to establish whether that change of use is permitted under the use classes. It is not necessary to apply for planning permission to change the use of the property within the same use class. In many cases, it is also not necessary to obtain planning permission to change from one use class to another. But, depending on the specifics of any proposed change of use, including any building work associated with the proposal, it might be necessary to apply for planning permission. There may also be a requirement for building regulation consent if the change of use will involve building work.
Significant changes to the use classes were introduced from 1 September 2020 and some well-known existing use classes have been revoked altogether. The list of changes is significant and anyone buying or leasing commercial premises for the first time or wishing to change the use of premises which they already occupy should take specialist advice. The government's Planning Portal advises that the specifics of any proposed change of use are confirmed with the relevant local planning authority.
This is a complex area at a challenging time for businesses. There are transitional provisions in place. Business owners will need to ensure that they are properly authorised to run their chosen business from their premises. This is perhaps even more important at the moment where businesses may want to adapt to meet the challenge of such difficult market conditions.
To discuss this or any other commercial property matter, contact us.