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How to change commercial use class on a property
You might not be aware that certain commercial properties have specific use classes, as determined by the Town and Country Planning Order 1987. This outlines what a specific premise may be legally used for.
Planning permission is typically required from your local council’s Local Planning Authority (LPA) department if you wish to submit a ‘change of use’ application. Planning permissions is not necessary if the current and proposed uses fall within the same use classes. For example, if you are planning on turning a Class A1 hairdressing salon into another A1 retail store, it won’t be necessary. Nevertheless, if you wish to change a property’s commercial use class from A1 to A3 – perhaps to operate a café or restaurant where patrons can eat on-site – planning permission is needed.
Failure to obtain the necessary planning permissions to change a property’s commercial use class could lead to significant financial penalties.
Before you make any legal commitments to a specific commercial property, it’s important to note that some premises are only permitted to be changed to a limited number of use classes. Be sure to check out the following use classes available to each type of property below to avoid any nasty surprises:
- Class A1
Typical Class A1 premises include retail stores, hairdressers, travel agents, pet shops, post offices and car showrooms. It is permitted to change to A2, with up to two flats. Meanwhile temporary changes are permitted to A2, A3 and B1 (C3, A2, A3 and D2 subject to approval).
- Class A2
Typical Class A2 premises cover those for the financial service sector, such as high-street banks, building societies and estate agents. It is permitted to change to A1, providing there is a display window at ground floor level, and A2 with up to two flats. Temporary changes are permitted for up to two years to A1, A3, and B1 (C3, A3 and D2 subject to approval).
- Class A3
Restaurants and cafes are classified as A3 commercial properties. They permit the sale of food and beverages for consumption on-site. It is permitted to change to C1 or C2. Temporary changes are allowed for up to two years to A1, A2 and B1.
- Class A4
Typical Class A4 premises are so-called drinking establishments, such as wine bars and public houses. This class does not include late-night clubs. A4 premises are permitted to change to A1, A2 or A3. Temporary changes are allowed for up to two years to A1, A2, A3 and B1.
- Class A5
Class A5 properties are those reserved exclusively for the sale of takeaway hot food. It is permitted to change A5 premises to A1, A2 and A3 properties. Temporary changes are allowed for up to two years to A1, A2, A3 and B1.
- Class AA
A Class AA property is deemed to be a drinking establishment with additional provisions for food on-site. These properties are permitted to be changed from Class AA to A4.
- Class B1
Typical Class B1 premises are business-based. They include: B1(a) – Offices, B1(b) – R&D of products and processes, B1(c) – Light industry. B1 premises can be changed to B8, while specific B1(a) properties can also be changed to C3 subject to approval. Temporary changes are allowed for up to two years to A1, A2 and A3.
- Class B2
Class B2 premises are reserved for any general industrial uses that don’t fall directly into Class B1. It is permitted to change B2 premises to B1 and B8 properties.
- Class B8
Class B8 premises are reserved for storage and distribution purposes, including those with open-air storage. It is permitted to change B8 premises to B1.
- Class C1
Typical Class C1 premises are hotels, guest houses and boarding establishments. It is permitted for C1 premises to be changed to state-funded schools or nurseries, subject to approval.
- Class C2
Typical Class C2 premises are residential institutions, some of which may offer care to those in need e.g. nursing homes, hospitals, as well as schools, colleges and training academies. C2 premises can be changed to state-funded schools or nurseries, subject to approval.
- Class C3
Class C3 premises are reserved for dwellings. They include: C3(a) – Single-occupant or family, C3(b) – Suitable for up to six occupants living and receiving care e.g. supported housing schemes, and C3(c) – Groups of individuals living under one roof that don’t fall within the C4 definition. C3 premises can be altered to C4, subject to approval.
- Class C4
Class C4 premises are reserved exclusively for houses in multiple occupation (HMO). These are shared by up to six unrelated tenants as their primary place of residence, with shared basic amenities. C4 premises can be changed to C3 premises, subject to approval.
- Class D1
Typical Class D1 premises are non-residential institutions such as health centres, museums, libraries, town or city halls and places of worship.
- Class D2
Typical Class D2 premises are deemed so-called leisure and assembly buildings. These incorporate entertainment venues such as cinemas, concert halls, swimming pools, gymnasiums and bingo halls. D2 premises are permitted to be changed to state-funded schools or nurseries. Meanwhile two-year temporary changes are allowed to A1, A2, A3 and B1 classes, subject to approval.