... or its death knell?  You decide...

Following quickly on from the governments latest shake up of permitted development rights which my colleague Megan has already written on; the government has radically rewritten the Use Class Order overnight (but only in England). This might be the governments most radical move yet!!!

The draft new Regulations can be found here and come into force on 1 September 2020.*&^

Class E.

Class A1 (Shops), Class A2 (Financial and professional services), Class A3 (Restaurants and cafes), and Class B1 (Business), are all to be treated, on or after 1st September 2020, as if they are being used for a purpose specified within a new Use Class E (Commercial, Business and Service).  In addition the new use class E includes uses for indoor sport, recreation or fitness, (not involving motorised vehicles or firearms, principally to visiting members of the public), for the provision of medical or health services, principally to visiting members of the public, except the use of premises attached to the residence of the consultant or practitioner, for a creche, day nursery or day centre, not including a residential use, principally to visiting members of the public.

Class B 

Class B2 remains – it is now any industrial process not in the new Use Class E(g) – i.e. the old B1 uses which can be carried out in any residential area without detriment to the amenity of that area by reason of noise, vibration, smell, fumes, smoke, soot, ash, dust or grit.  The regulations are silent on B8 so for now it is assumed that B8 Storage remains the separate use lass we are used to dealing with.

Class F

In addition a new Class F is created to cover learning and non-residential institutions at Class F1 and “local community uses! at F2 including at F2(a) an isolated “essential goods” shop. 

Sui Generis

Uses as a public house, wine bar, or drinking establishment, as a drinking establishment with expanded food provision, as a hot food takeaway for the sale of hot food where consumption of that food is mostly undertaken off the premises, as a venue for live music performance, a cinema, a concert hall, a bingo hall, or a dance hall are all added to the list of Uses at Article 6 which are expressly sui generis and outwith the Use Classes Order.

So what?

Is Class E going to be the saviour of our High Street – truly reflecting the mixture of uses under one roof in a number of our more successful High Street offerings; and then rightly allowing flexibility to move between them more freely or will it heighten the risks to the High Street with more and more coffee shops popping up to the detriment of a truly mixed offering?  

Without even a prior approval process to guide the change (as there is no longer a change between many of these uses) the community objection and / or control of the direction or travel is lost. 

This new flexibility should of course be of assistance to the many landlords who have been struggling to plan a way through the lockdown knock backs and add much greater fluidity to changing of users as tenants reach difficulty under their current arrangements. (One large delay to changing tenants of course, fit out aside, is the need for a new tenant to apply for a change of use planning permission).

What about Zoning?

The last remaining rhetorical question – is this a step towards or way from zoning?  If the industry press and hype is to be believed this is not the last big shake up for planning this summer - is there still place for a zonal system now that the flexible use class provides, potentially greater fluidity.  A true zonal system may have segmented out many of the Uses now held together under the new Class E.

*&^ I wouldn’t want to working at a large planning consultancy right now and be tasked with the fun job of rewriting their Use Classes ready reckoner, let’s be sure.