The Use Classes Order (UCO) has a dual purpose – to define buildings’ use and group and grant permission for changes between some uses. Put simply, where changes of use are allowed between classes, it is usually felt that the permitted changes will generally mean an environmental improvement.
The history behind the UCO is more complex! The present Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order was created on 1 June 1987 and while there have been amendments, notably in 1990 when the Welsh National Assembly took on responsibility for Wales to give all four nations their own planning policies, it has been the last two years where significant and numerous amendments have come into force. This year alone has already seen updates covering a number of groups [Planning Portal Guide] but perhaps the most significant of which are:
1. From May 2017, pubs can no longer be changed or demolished following the removal of permitted development rights
2. From October 2017, a temporary amendment has been issued allowing light industrial sites, up to a maximum 500 m2, to be developed into residential buildings. Applications under General Permitted Development Order (GPDO) will be considered up until 30th September 2020. There are limitations. The legislation does not include any sites that are fully or even part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), in a safety hazard zone or a military storage area. In addition, the building itself cannot be listed and the site must not contain a scheduled monument.
One area of the UCO which has created a whole new dimension, has been the decision to allow permitted development of offices (Class B1) to residential (Class C3). Introduced in 2013 on a temporary three-year basis, it became a permanent fixture in April 2016.
The knock-on effect, particularly in the south, has been the substantial reduction in available office space as out of date buildings and a few proposed office developments have all become apartments or student accommodation. We wait to see if October’s temporary GDPO amendment to allow small industrial sites to become residential areas will have a similar impact.
One of the changes that we have seen occupiers make use of is the current two year temporary permitted development opportunity for occupiers to change the use of shops (A1) and professional and financial services (A2) premises into restaurants and cafes (A3). For example: Beatons Tearooms was granted change of use of a Petersfield estate agent’s office (A2) into a café (A3) operated as part of its franchise. A similar change of use application was sought for 147 London Road, North End when a local occupier undertook permitted development of a retail property (A1) to open a sandwich shop and café (A3). Both these examples needed to go through the prior approval procedure with the local planning authority to ensure the impact of noise, odour, waste collection, opening hours, transport and highways, as well as the effect on existing shopping provision, were all approved in advance of any reclassification and development.