E’ is for Easter and for Use Class E

Easter this year not only represents arguably the most important date on the Christian calendar but also society as a whole stumbling into the light as we approach (hopefully!) the end of the restrictions on movement that we have learnt to live with over the last 12 months. In the world of planning, the government has, for the last year, rolled out several pieces of legislation – some to ease the economic and social impact of lockdown and others to make the planning system more flexible in general. On 31 March 2021, right before Easter, the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development etc.) (England) (Amendment) Order 2021, which grants permitted development rights to convert use class E buildings into dwellinghouses, was added to the group.

Use classes were created to allow the change of uses within a group of uses without the need to engage the planning system. The Use Class Order 1987 sets out what those the use classes are. The Permitted Development Order creates further flexibility by granting permitted development rights for changes between certain use classes. These changes do not require planning permission but may be subject to a less detailed prior approval process as well as limitations and conditions.

Use class E was created in September 2020 by regulations which reconfigured and changed the use class system. The following uses have been subsumed in the new use class E:

  • Display or retail sale of goods, other than hot food (shops)

  • Sale of food and drink for consumption (mostly) on the premises (restaurant and cafés)

  • Provision of financial services, professional services (other than health or medical services), or other appropriate services in a commercial, business or service locality

  • Indoor sport, recreation or fitness (not involving motorised vehicles or firearms)

  • Provision of medical or health services (except the use of premises attached to the residence of the consultant or practitioner)

  • Crèche, day nursery or day centre (not including a residential use)

  • Uses which can be carried out in a residential area without detriment to its amenity comprising offices to carry out any operational or administrative functions, research and development of products or processes and industrial processes - use classes: planning portal

  1. switching the use of buildings and land between the above uses does not require any consent under the planning system. The permitted development rights for changes between certain use classes will remain based on the old use classes until 31 July 2021, pending new legislation from the government.

In December 2020 the government consulted on a number of proposals including a proposed new permitted development right for the change of use from use class E use to houses stating:

Where there is a surplus of retail floorspace, quality residential development will help diversify and support the high street. It will create new housing opportunities including for those who will benefit from close proximity to services, such as the elderly and those living with disabilities. It will also make effective use of existing commercial buildings, bring additional footfall from new residents, and assist in the wider regeneration of town centre and other locations.”

As stated, on 31 March 2021, the latest amended order for permitted development rights was enacted. The order applies to England and Wales according to regulation 1(2) and despite the title of the order and the scope of the consultation in December.

It grants permitted development rights (Class MA of Part 3 rights in the permitted development order) for the change of use from use class E buildings to dwellinghouses. Before development is started, an application must be made to the local authority so that they may determine if prior approval is required as to the transport impact and flooding and contamination risks of the development, the impact on the intended occupiers of noise from a commercial area or effects from an industrial area, the impact on the characteristics and sustainability of a conservation area (if relevant) and the impact of the loss of certain services. Prior approval applications for this new right can be made from 1 August 2021.

The new use class is a significant step in simplifying the planning system and is something, along with the raft of legislation enacted in 2020 and 2021, on which lawyers and planners as well members of the public, whether applicants or objectors, will continue to need education and clarification. At Lanyon Bowdler, our planning team can assist in navigating through the use classes and linked permitted development rights. Please contact us for more information.