Use Classes Order: A Guide For England

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Let’s consider an example most familiar to everyone after the pandemic. if someone works from home, would their house be considered a residency or a workspace? Perhaps this answer is quick and straightforward because the term ‘work from home” has come to be used for jobs in the tertiary industry.

However, what would be the correct response if the work from home was in the primary or secondary industry? If an individual grows vegetables in their garden or manufactures, assembles or packages a product in their home, what would the property in question classify as?

What if the person uses the goods made and grown in-house for their own use? Will that still be considered industry then? Who decides these limits and what are the parameters of distinguishment? This is where use classes order come in.

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order of 1987 outlines “Planning Use Classes” as a means of administratively classifying the uses of land and buildings for appropriate development in England.

“Development” refers to any significant change in the use of a building or piece of land (also known as “change of use”).

Planning legislation does not specify what constitutes a “material change”; rather, it leaves it up to each case’s circumstances to decide what comprises “material change”

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What is the purpose of the use class order?

The purpose of a use class order is to Use classes order is simply a legislated structure that clarifies permissions and restrictions of the use of a property to its owners and tenants. Authorities oversee property planning and development to make sure they are in the public interest and do not disrupt the environment of an area. 

A residential building henceforth, cannot start being used as a factory overnight in a predominantly residential area and vice versa because both uses belong to different classes.

When did the use classes order change?

Use classes order was first established by The Town and Country Planning Order 1987 and reformed recently with the Business and Planning Act 2020, effective from 1 September 2020.

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015 also outlined some development rights permitting for use class to be changed if certain requirements are being met.

The Business and Planning Act 2020 passed new regulations, adding and revoking classes, to essentially make development planning easier for individuals and businesses.

This is because the fast-paced changes in recent years such as COVID-19 forced business owners to adapt quickly to changing consumer needs and alter their operations. 

What are the current use classes?

Thee current use classes are grouped in A, B and C categories. For a simpler understanding, B class use refers to businesses typically catering to the general public, C class use includes properties where people routinely sleep, E class use is for commercial, business and service, F1 is for learning and residential institutions and F2 stands for the local community. 

Uses that do not fall in any of the above classes become part of sui generis. It is important to note that there are certain technicalities that cannot be covered here. Click here to learn more.

As of September 2020, the use classes order for planning are as detailed below:

  • B2 (general industrial) use class is concerned with premises where all industrial processes except for incineration purposes, chemical treatment or landfill or hazardous waste (part of use class E) take place. A B2 property is allowed to change use class to B8, granted that the total floor space of the building is less than or equal to 500 square metres. A B2 property is also permitted to be used as a state-funded school for 2 years. 
  • B8 (storage and distribution) includes warehouses, distribution houses, and repositories. Properties of B8 class use can also change temporarily into a state-funded school for 2 years. 
  • C1 (hotels) stands for regulated accommodations such as hotels, guesthouses, and boarding. It is important to note that the C1 use class does not include hostels/dorms. Again, C1 class use property can be used as a state-funded school and if needed, can change back to its former lawful use. 
  • C2 (residential institutions) include properties where people get settled in under their related institutions. These include care homes such as hospices, hospitals, nursing homes, boarding schools, residential schools and residential training centres. As is the case with C1, C2 use classified properties that can be used as a state-funded school and if needed, can change back to their former lawful use.
  • C2A (secure residential institutions) refer to guarded accommodations such as prisons, young offenders institutions, detention centres, secure training centres, custody centres, short-term holding centres, secure hospitals, and protected local authority housing.
Properties with same use class follow certain layout
  • C3 (dwelling houses) use class is divided into three subsections:
    • C3(a) refers to a property occupied by a single household. Here, a household can constitute a family, blood-related or step, a couple (married or not), some categorized people employed by the household such as a nanny, or a person receiving care such as a foster child. 
    • C3(b) classifies property where less than or a total of six people who live together and are provided care such as differently-abled individuals. They would all form a single household.
    • C3(c) classifies property where less than or a total of six people live together and are not provided care. It should be noted that C3(c) does not include HMOs (House in multiple occupations) letting types that are part of C4. This difference exists because, in C3(c), all people combine up to form one household due to reasons such as being part of a religious institutional group whereas, under C4, there are multiple households under one roof.

C3 class use properties are allowed to change their class to C4.

  • C4 (houses in multiple occupations (HMO)) refers to properties that inhabit 3 to 6 people from more than one household in a single premise and amenities like kitchen and washroom are shared amongst them. C4 class use properties are allowed to change their class to C3. 
  • Sui generis includes all uses that do not fall within any use class. These can include theatres, amusement parks or clubs, nightclubs and casinos, petrol filling stations and shops with motor vehicles on display or for sale, scrapyards or waste disposal plants, hostels and taxi businesses.

What are the new Use Classes?

There are three relatively newly established use classes E, F1, and F2. The amendments established that a property will continue to be subject to class use agreed upon or before 31 August 2020 until 31 July 2021. The RPC had a largely positive opinion on the reforms made to use classes order. Click here to learn more 

  • E (commercial, business and service) includes shops (for the display or retail of products excluding hot food), financial and professional services, restaurants, office premises, research and development, small clinics and health centres, nurseries or sittings, and recreational indoor activities. Properties whose use falls under class E can change their use class to C3, given that the total floor space is less than or equal to 1500 square metres. Class E can also be used as a state-funded school (within limitations of F1(a) class uses) and is permitted to change back into its lawful state. 
  • F1 (learning and non-residential institutions) such as properties concerned with the provision of education, display of art, public museums or libraries, reading or exhibition halls.
  • F2 (local community) use class includes shops (that cover area less than or equal to 280 metres square and there no other similar shop to them within 1000 metres radius), largely selling essential goods, halls for meetings and areas for outdoor recreational activities only used by the local community.

Revoked Use Classes

The Business and Planning Act 2020 introduced new classes E, F1 and F2 (discussed above) in place of the previous A, B1 and D classes that are now scraped. There were no changes made to the original C, B2 (industrial) or B8 (storage or distribution) use classes. The law permits changes of use between some classes with some restrictions and terms of conditions. 

  • The A1 class use included shops, retail warehouses, post offices, ticket and travel agents, domestic hire shops, sandwiches or other food purchased and consumed off the premises, and internet cafes. This category is now divided between newly introduced classes E and F2.
  • The  A2 use class referred to properties concerned with financial such as banks and professional services such as estate agents and employment agencies use. The A2 use class was split between class E and sui generis.
  • The A3 use class had restaurants and cafes where food was prepared and consumed on the premises. These are now part of use class E.
  • The A4 use class included pubs and drinking bars which are now part of sui generis.
  • The A5 use class was for hot food takeaway which is now classified under sui generis use class.
  • The B1 use class is intended to refer to businesses including managerial offices. This use class had further 3 subsections. The B1(a) included offices, excluding those that were part of the A2 use class. The B1(b) included research and development and the B1(c) classified light industrial uses of a property. The entire B1 use class is now part of the E use class.
  • The D1 use class, now divided between E and F1, referred to non-residential institutions. 
  • The D2 use class, concerned with meeting places and recreational activities included cinemas, concert halls, dance halls, swimming pools, skating rinks, gymnasiums or areas for indoor or outdoor sports and recreations (excluding the use of vehicles and firearms). All these are now part of either E or F1 class use.

How do I find the use class of property?

In order to find the use class of a property, 

becauseBusinesses and individuals must be sure about the use class of their concerned property so they are not in violation of government guidelines intentionally or unintentionally.

Before starting developmental work on a property from scratch or deciding to change a building’s purpose or structure, you will need the right permit that covers your development plans that even extend to relatively minute details like electricity safety and gas safety.

If you follow the use class of the property correctly you should be able to follow fire safety regulations well too.

Contacting local planning councils is the best way to go in determining the use class of a certain property. For one, they are a specialized authority and can find out or if not available in the records, find out themselves, the use class of a certain property.

Any use class orders guide can only cover so much and the laws may differ from the general clauses discussed above depending on where you live in the UK.

    Architectural plans need to consider use class of a property

    What use class for residential properties?

    In use classes order, residential properties are essentially places where people sleep and do not include properties that are corporate let. Residential properties fall in the C use class and are further sub-categorized. 

    • C1 (hotels) class is used for moderated living spaces, typically rented out for small periods such as hotels.
    • C2 (residential institutions) are properties under an institution where it only allows people under it or affiliated with it such as hospitals.
      • C2A (secure residential institutions) refer to guarded and controlled properties such as prisons. 
    • C3 (dwelling houses) has further subsections;
      • C3(a) includes property where there is only a single household. A single household certainly does not mean one tenant or the concept of the nuclear family that immediately pops up with the word “household”. Here, a household can refer to a family, blood-related or step, a couple, people employed by the household such as a nanny, or a person receiving care such as a foster child. 
      • C3(b) classifies property with less than or a total of six people that all form a single household since they are provided care
      • C3(c) is concerned with buildings where less than or a total of six people form a single household and are not provided care. 
    • C4 (houses in multiple occupations (HMO)) refers to multi-let properties which have the type of tenancy that accommodates 3 to 6 who form multiple households but share a single premise and amenities under one roof. By sharing, it does not however mean that all households also equally share responsibilities like deposit. A single household could be paying for all expenses but the property would still be called house in multiple occupations (HMO).

    When do you need permission for development within the same use class?

    You need permission for development  within the same use class when the government says so and tell you you need to fill out an application. But there are some situations when a previous permission procedure must be followed and an application must be filed with property documents that contain proof of ownership

    Prior permission indicates that before any development can start, the applicant must get the local authority’s consent that certain developmental features are acceptable and that any necessary offset efforts are appropriate. Depending on the type of approved development, several factors, such as noise or transportation may need to be mentioned for prior approval. 

    The preliminary approval procedure is designed to be easier to follow. with the local authority only allowed to assess the stated technical issues, as the development’s basic principles will already have been defined under the approved development rights. As a result, substantially less information must be submitted for a planning application. 

    The local authority’s legislated evaluation timeframe, which starts the day after it receives a legitimate application, varies depending on the issue but is typically either 28 days or 56 days. In certain cases, although not always, if the city council does not inform the developer of their answer within the agreed time limit, the construction may go on under the presumption that preliminary approval has been granted. 

    If preliminary clearance is denied, an appeals process is available. Whenever the owner or tenant wants to change the use class of a property, they will need to get in touch with their local planning authority (LPA). There are no exceptions and failure to follow the law due to intentional or unintentional negligence will count as a violation. 

    It is important to remember that consultation does not take much of your resources and it is better to be safe than sorry. A local planning council authorized to overlook certain matters possesses the right qualifications to help the public out, no matter how much they might appear to be irritating good-for-nothing to a person whose limited concern is only about getting the construction started. 

    For example, authorities create social housing white paper in the interest of the general public but perhaps to a landlord, these mechanisms put in place may seem like hurdles against business activity. This is why it is crucial to understand that the laws and procedures in place are there to protect everyone despite seeming like a hassle.

    Conclusion

    The government has classified properties for ease of management. The rules are set in place so that every citizen can enjoy a quality life without getting disturbed by others. Imagine your house next to a big factory. 

    There will always be dust and noise and polluted air. Your privacy, peace, and resources all will be disturbed.

    Similarly, if one day your next-door neighbour decides to open up a school in their 2 BHK apartment, not only it will be a nuisance for you, but also it will be a bizarre quality institute for the students there.

    To avoid these issues, authorities have set these guidelines so that no child has to go to a 2 BHK apartment school.

    Industries disrupt environments residential areas use classes

    These restrictions may appear to some people as a limitation to expanding the available resources. This can be true at a personal level.

    However, when an authority plans legislation, they plan it keeping in view the larger picture. Public interest as a whole is way more important than individual benefit. The same is the case here. As much as these laws can be a limitation for some people, they safeguard the larger benefit of building a secure society.

    Another benefit of these classes is the provision of the right resources for the right user. The amount of electricity required to run a factory plant is not the same as required for a dwelling place.

    The water supply required for individual houses is not the same as required by multi-housing societies. These classifications help the authorities in sorting these problems too.

    When a citizen wants to change the class and goes to civil authorities for a permit, this helps them in changing the supply of resources to that property as per the new needs. Not only does this make sure that an adequate supply of resources is done to a place, but also saves wastage of unnecessary resources. 

    These saved resources can be utilized in some other place. For an instance, if someone decides to turn a housing bungalow into a school, they will go for a permit. Previously, that bungalow needed a 24/7 electricity supply since it was a dwelling place.

    However, with this change in status, since it has become a school, it will be shut off at night hence not requiring any electricity at that time. This saved electric supply can be used in any else place as per requirements. 

    The process of getting a permit and changing class order can be exhausting for the utilizer. Government can facilitate consumers by making this process smooth and easy or by adding some monetary compensation for abiding by the rules.

    It can also make an e-portal where people can check the class order of a property before buying or renting it. 

    This will save them from losing their hard-earned money in scam offers. They can also simplify these class orders so it is easier to use by the common man. Layman terminologies and a simpler well-modified structure can be a big relief for people.

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    andreas gerazis

    Andreas Gerazis

    Experienced landlord

    Andreas is a certified landlord with extensive knowledge about the UK property market as he has been actively investing for half a decade. Founder of the first three-in-one property management software, Lofti Proptech, Andreas has a brilliant understanding of the details surrounding what it takes to grow and run a thriving property portfolio.