When facing the nitty gritty world of planning legislation, many homeowners can find themselves becoming lost in the jargon. No more so than with Use Classes.
Use classes are categories used by local authorities to define what purpose, and what best practices, a building should have. You’ll most likely encounter this area of planning if you’re converting a detached garage into an annex, or if you plan on converting a church or shop into a new home.
Let’s dive a little deeper into this admin world…
Types of Use Classes
Use Classes are separated into four categories, going from A-D. According to Planning Portal, they are…
- A1 Shops - Shops, retail warehouses, hairdressers, undertakers, travel and ticket agencies, post offices, pet shops, sandwich bars, showrooms, domestic hire shops, dry cleaners, funeral directors and internet cafes.
- A2 Financial and professional services - Financial services such as banks and building societies, professional services (other than health and medical services) and including estate and employment agencies.
- A3 Restaurants and cafés - For the sale of food and drink for consumption on the premises - restaurants, snack bars and cafes.
- A4 Drinking establishments - Public houses, wine bars or other drinking establishments (but not night clubs).
- A5 Hot food takeaways - For the sale of hot food for consumption off the premises.
- B1 Business - Offices (other than those that fall within A2), research and development of products and processes, light industry appropriate in a residential area.
- B2 General industrial - Use for industrial process other than one falling within class B1 (excluding incineration purposes, chemical treatment or landfill or hazardous waste).
- B8 Storage or distribution - This class includes open air storage.
- C1 Hotels - Hotels, boarding and guest houses where no significant element of care is provided (excludes hostels).
- C2 Residential institutions - Residential care homes, hospitals, nursing homes, boarding schools, residential colleges and training centres.
- C2A Secure Residential Institution - Use for a provision of secure residential accommodation, including use as a prison, young offenders institution, detention centre, secure training centre, custody centre, short term holding centre, secure hospital, secure local authority accommodation or use as a military barracks.
- C3 Dwelling houses - this class is formed of 3 parts:
- C3(a) covers use by a single person or a family (a couple whether married or not, a person related to one another with members of the family of one of the couple to be treated as members of the family of the other), an employer and certain domestic employees (such as an au pair, nanny, nurse, governess, servant, chauffeur, gardener, secretary and personal assistant), a carer and the person receiving the care and a foster parent and foster child.
- C3(b): up to six people living together as a single household and receiving care e.g. supported housing schemes such as those for people with learning disabilities or mental health problems.
- C3(c) allows for groups of people (up to six) living together as a single household. This allows for those groupings that do not fall within the C4 HMO definition, but which fell within the previous C3 use class, to be provided for i.e. a small religious community may fall into this section as could a homeowner who is living with a lodger.
- C4 Houses in multiple occupation - small shared houses occupied by between three and six unrelated individuals, as their only or main residence, who share basic amenities such as a kitchen or bathroom.
- D1 Non-residential institutions - Clinics, health centres, crèches, day nurseries, day centres, schools, art galleries (other than for sale or hire), museums, libraries, halls, places of worship, church halls, law court. Non residential education and training centres.
- D2 Assembly and leisure - Cinemas, music and concert halls, bingo and dance halls (but not night clubs), swimming baths, skating rinks, gymnasiums or area for indoor or outdoor sports and recreations (except for motor sports, or where firearms are used).
When it comes to your own project, you’ll likely be concerned with Part C of this list, as this relates to residential properties.
If you’re unsure if your project falls within ‘change of use’ ask your architect or local authority. While change of use can be applied for after construction, if you fail to obtain the correct planning permission, your project could be subject to demolition, should your post-application be rejected.
Rules to consider
Now there are some rules to help homeowners sitting on a home that’s not in the correct use class. In no way should these be used as a sneaky way to avoid planning permission, but can prove helpful if you’ve inadvertently bought a home that’s suffered from bad planning in the past.
The four year rule
This applies to a property that has been converted into a single dwelling house, but the change of use occurred more than four years ago. If this is the case, the change of use becomes legal and is immune from enforcement action.
However, if there is evidence that you deliberately concealed your development from your local authority, this rule might not apply. For this reason, it’s best to get expert legal advice.
The ten year rule
Similar to the four year rule, but it applies to everything that isn’t a single dwelling house. For example, if you ran a beauty salon from your garage, this would be subject to this rule, if proper planning hadn’t already be obtained.
Again, this rule can be made void, if you’re found guilty of deliberate deception.
Do I need to apply for a change of use class?
Not all changes of use require permission beforehand. For instance, a cafe could be turned into a restaurant, and could still fall within permitted development rights. A full guide to what changes of use classes don’t require planning permission can be found here on the Planning Portal.
Don’t worry if that document looks confusing, planning legislation isn’t the most accessible. Your best bet for working out whether or not you need to apply for change of use is have an architect assess your project. If you’re not using an architect, your local authority should have an advice service to help you understand how these rules will apply to your property.
How to apply for change of use class?
If you do need to apply for a change of use class, you’ll then need to apply for planning permission, as use classes are incorporated into the process. This applies even if the rest of your project falls within your permitted development rights.
In order to be successful, a planning application should include:
- Existing and proposed floor plans, elevations along with block and site location plans
- Supporting documentation, including certification of ownership and a design and access statement
- Completed planning application form, including change of use forms.
- A fee
Want to make sure you secure permission first time round? Getting an architect to act as your planning agent gives you the best chance of early success. Not only will they have dealt with hundreds of similar projects, and so know the forms inside out, they’ll also be able to liaise with your local authority and make ad hoc changes - should they be required.
Use classes still got you scratching your head? We offer free consultations to all homeowners, with our experts happy to answer any burning questions you might have. Books yours in today.