A glimmer of hope for the high street?

7th October 2020

Today, as we continue our week long series of articles with the Business Desk, our planning expert Amanda Beresford looks at the potential lifeline for UK high streets as the new permitted development rights are announced for the change of use of commercial premises.

The Government has changed permitted development rights to allow the change of use of premises from one business use to another without planning permission. However, the new rules are not straightforward.

Lets look at some of the opportunities and potential issues for businesses who are thinking of taking advantage of the new rules.

The new law

The new law creates a commercial, business and services class known as class E.

This new class E incorporates the following old classes:- retail (A1), professional services (A2), restaurants (A3), business (B1), some medical, creche and day-care uses (D1) and some indoor sport, recreation and fitness uses (D2).

Providing your change of business use, both old and new, falls within class E, your planning permission will automatically be granted under this new law.

The opportunities

This is great news for occupiers and landlords given the prevailing market conditions, particularly in city centres and high streets where footfall has fallen during the pandemic. The new class E provides greater flexibility and allows a business to diversify more easily without the cost of a planning application.

Landlords should be able to use class E to maximise the occupation and value of their property portfolios.

What to consider in taking advantage of the new rules

The process may not always be straightforward. Make sure you seek advice to avoid the pitfalls below:

  • Businesses who lease their premises will need to review the user clause in the lease and any restrictive covenants as the leases may need amending
  • Landlords will need to consider how these new provisions might affect the value of their portfolio and how to respond to any requests for amendments. Depending on the wording of the lease there may be questions of reasonableness to consider
  • Businesses will also need to check their current planning permissions and review any S106 planning agreements as if there are conditions or obligations restricting use to one of the old use classes, then it may be necessary to apply to have the planning condition amended and the planning obligation varied
  • Businesses will also need to check if there are any ‘article 4’ directions in force in the area. These are legal orders by the local planning authority that can change the rules so that planning permission in that area may still be required. They can override the provisions of class E.

If external building alterations are needed to convert premises into their new class E use, these may still require a separate planning permission. Consent to the alterations from a landlord may also be required under the terms of any lease. If the building is listed, listed building consent may still be required.


Some uses are excluded from the new use class E as follows:

  • Shops under 280m2, community halls, swimming pools, skating rinks and outdoor sports facilities. These are incorporated into a new local community use class F2. Changes of use from one use within class F2 to another use within class F2 will not require planning permission.
  • Schools, museums, libraries, exhibition spaces, places of worship and law courts. These are incorporated into a new class F1 – learning and non-residential. Changes of use from one use within class F1 to another use within class F1 will not require planning permission.
  • Pubs, takeaways, cinemas, concert venues and night clubs are all also excluded from class E. Each of these uses are in a class of their own (Sui generis) and changes of use relating to these uses will therefore be subject to planning controls.

It is worth noting that class C – residential, class B2 – general industrial and class B8 – storage and distribution all remain unchanged.


The new class E is a useful but not a complete green light to help business diversify. Due diligence will still be required to see if in your circumstances you can freely exercise the class E rights.

Need some advice on your business premises, we’re here to help – get in touch.

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