In an effort to support and hasten the recovery of our high streets and towns following recent disruptive events, a new announcement by the Government has introduced fairly radical changes to our planning system.

Due to come into force on 1 September 2020, the changes are designed to bring greater flexibility to the way our built environment is used, without the need to obtain planning permission.

The changes will see the end of Classes A1, A2, A3, B1, D1 and D2, which will be replaced by a new Class E ‘Commercial Business and Service’ covering a broad range of uses that will include retail, financial and professional services, cafés and restaurants (currently A1-A3); offices, research and development and light industrial (currently B1); clinics, health centres and nurseries (currently D1) and indoor sport and recreation (currently D2).

Two other new use classes will be introduced: Class F.1 (Learning and non-residential institutions) which are currently covered by class D1 use, and F.2 (Local community) which are currently under class D2 use.

There have been some exclusions from Class E, which are intended to protect uses with community value, such as ‘cinemas and bingo halls’ (currently D2) and to prevent unrestricted conversion to those uses with potential negative externalities, for example drinking establishments (currently A4) and ‘hot food takeaways’ (currently A5).

These now come under Sui Generis use and will need planning permission for change of use, allowing landlords, and tenants to a degree, to adapt to the changing retail and leisure market, besides creating uses for redundant retail accommodation.

All in all, the new use class system will help remove red tape, increase flexibility of land use, and make it easier for our built environment to keep pace with inevitable changes in consumer and occupier habits.