How to change commercial use class on a property

Published by Pall Mall Estates on 4th November 2019 -


Something that people often forget is that commercial properties have their specific use classes, which have been determined by the Town and Country Planning Order 1987. This blog post will help you understand what each specific premises may be legally used for.

If you want to submit a ‘change of use’ application, planning permission is usually required from your local council’s Local Planning Authority (LPA) before you can do so. However, planning permission is not necessary if the current and proposed uses both falls within the same class. An example of this would be if you intend to turn a Class A1 hairdressing salon into another A1 retail store, planning permission would not be necessary. On the other hand, planning permission would be required if you plan on changing the property’s commercial use class from A1 to A3 - possibly to operate a restaurant where food is eaten on-site.

You could find yourself with significant financial penalties if you attempt to change a property’s commercial use class without obtaining the correct planning permission. Hence, it’s necessary to note that some premises are only permitted to be changed to certain use classes before you make any legal commitments to a commercial property. It’s worth taking a look at this guide below to check the compatibility of use classes to avoid anything unwanted cropping up later down the line. 

Class A

  • Class A1

A Class A1 premises include hairdressers, pet shops, post offices, travel agents, car showrooms and retail stores. They are authorised to change to A2, with up to two flats. Further, temporary changes are authorised to A2, A3 and B1 while C3, A2, A3 and D2 are subject to approval.

  • Class A2

Class A2 premises tend to cover those in the financial service sector, such as building societies, estate agents and high-street banks. They may change to A1, as long as there is a display window at the ground floor level and A2 with up to two flats. More, temporary changes are permitted for up to two years for A1, A3 and B1 classes with C3, A3 and D2 are subject to approval.

  • Class A3

A3 commercial properties are classified as restaurants and cafes. They allow for the sale of food and beverages and to be consumed on-site. They are permitted to change to C1 or C2 use classes and temporary changes are allowed to A1, A2 and B1 for up to two years.

  • Class A4

Drinking establishments, such as wine bars, are classified as Class A4 properties, however, this class does not include nightclubs or related uses. A4 properties are permitted to change to A1, A2 or A3 class premises and temporary changes are allowed for up to two years to A1, A2, A3 and B1 properties.

  • Class A5

Typical Class A5 properties are those that sell takeaway hot food. They are generally permitted to change to A1, A2 and A3 properties but temporary changed are allowed for up to two years to those listed above as well as Class B1.

  • Class AA

A Class AA property is deemed to be a drinking establishment that also has provisions for food on-site. They are authorised to be changed to A4 premises.

Class B

  • Class B1

A Typical Class B1 premises is business-based, including:

B1(a) offices

B1(b) R&D of products and processes

B1(c) Light industry

These properties can be changed to B8, yet certain B1(a) premises can also be changed to C3 but are subject to approval. Further, temporary changes are permitted to A1, A2 and A3 classes for up to two years.

  • Class B2

Commonly Class B2 premises are for any general industrial uses that don’t fall directly into Class B1. They are authorised to change to B1 and B8 properties.

  • Class B8

Class B8 properties are reserved for storage and distribution purposes, this includes those with open-air storage. You are allowed to change B8 premises to Class B1.

Class C

  • Class C1

Class C1 premises are usually hotels, guest houses and boarding establishments. These properties can change to state-funded schools or nurseries, subject to approval.

  • Class C2

Typical Class C2 premises are residential institutions, some of which may offer care to those in need, for example, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, colleges and training academies. They are also permitted to change to state-funded schools or nurseries, subject to approval.

  • Class C3

Class C3 premises are reserved for dwellings, including:

C3(a) single-occupant or family

C3(b) suitable for up to six occupants living and receiving care e.g. supported housing schemes

C3(c) groups of individuals living under one roof that don’t fall within the C4 category.

C3 properties can be changed to C4 but are subject to approval

  • Class C4

Houses in multiple occupations (HMO) are generally classes as C4 properties. They are usually shared by up to six unrelated tenants as their primary place of residence, with shared amenities. These properties can be changed to C3 use classes, subject to approval.

Class D

  • Class D1

Class D1 premises tend to be non-residential institutions such as museums, health centres, town or city halls, libraries, and places of worship.

  • Class D2

Typical Class D2 premises are usually leisure and assembly buildings. These are incorporate entertainment venues, examples include concert halls, swimming pools, gymnasiums and cinemas. These properties are permitted to change to state-funded schools or nurseries. Whilst two-year temporary changes are allowed to A1, A2, A3 and B1 classes, subject to approval.

Christine Brewis

Thirty years ago when Matti Kraus established his property company he created a customer focussed culture built around value for money.

Link to Pall Mall Estates business profile

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