Changes to planning to help revive the high street and bring forward development

24 July, 2020

July 2020

The Government has published the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020. The Regulations will collate existing town centre uses into one new class, Class E. Shops, financial and professional services, restaurants, cafes, indoor sports e.g. gyms, medical services, day nurseries, offices, research and development and light industrial all fall in to the new Use Class E, subsuming previous Classes A1 to 3 and B1. By placing all of these uses within the same class it means that it will be possible to move between the uses without the need for permitted development rights or express planning permission. This is clearly aimed at generating new life in to high streets that are suffering from the fall in demand for retail shops.


Pubs and takeaways, as well as uses such as cinemas, are not within the use class and so planning permission will still be needed to introduce these uses. This is to guard against the fear of runs of shops becoming dominated by bars and takeaways.


Two new classes F1 and F2 are also created. F1 is for learning and non-residential institutions, covering education, galleries, museums, libraries, public halls, public worship and law courts. F2 is for local community uses, covering a shop mostly selling essential goods, including food, where the shop is no more than 280sq m and there is no such facility within 1,000m radius. F2 also covers local community halls, outdoor sports and swimming pools. F1 and F2 subsume some of the previous D1 and D2 use classes.


The change to the use classes do not come in to effect until 1 September and are subject to transitional arrangements, and certain technicalities. It is always worth checking the detail but the new changes will provide much more flexibility for owners of properties.


The Government has also passed legislation, the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) (No.2) Order 2020, to introduce, from 31 August, new permitted development rights to allowing the creation of new flats through upwards extensions to existing properties. These are:


Class AA – construction of up to two new storeys of flats on top of detached buildings in commercial or mixed use, including where there is an element of residential use;

Class AB – construction of new flats on top of terrace buildings (including semi-detached buildings) in commercial or mixed (including residential) use;

Class AC – construction of new flats on top of terrace dwelling houses (including semi-detached houses);

Class AD – construction of new flats on top of detached dwelling houses.


Two storeys may be added if the existing building is two or more storeys tall, or one additional storey where the building consists of one storey. The PD right is subject to Council prior approval of a large range of issues meaning that there is little difference from applying for an express planning permission. These issues include transport and highways, external appearance, adequate natural light, impact on neighbours and impact on protected views.


The new rights are in addition to the new PD right introduced in June that permits free-standing blocks of flats to be extended upwards by two storeys to create new homes. That right comes into force on 1 August.


The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) (No.2) Order 2020 also introduced a permitted development right to allow existing houses which are detached, semi-detached or in a terrace to be extended upwards to provide additional living space by constructing additional storeys. The height of extensions allowed depend on the nature and height of the existing dwelling, and there are, again, limitations on what is permitted and what requires the Council’s prior approval. To prevent overlooking a window cannot be installed in a wall or roof slope of a side elevation of an additional storey built under the PD right. The right will only apply to houses built since July 1948.


And it goes on.


Well Boris did say “Build, build, build”. The Government has also announced a permitted development right allowing , from 31 August, vacant and redundant free-standing buildings that are  offices, premises for research and development or light industrial buildings, as well as purpose-built residential blocks, to be demolished and replaced with residential units. The existing building must have existed before 1 January 1990 and been vacant for six months. The new building  cannot be larger than the current building’s footprint nor exceed  1,000 sq. m. Again, there are a series of prior approval matters to be considered by the Council and limitations on the new building.


The changes to the use class system and the introduction of a whole series of new permitted development rights are an attempt to encourage development and create flexibility to enhance the life of town centres and thereby increase economic activity. Time will tell whether the PD rights are seen as a means to speed up development or whether their restrictions and controls mean developers may as well submit express planning applications. The PD rights with the new use class flexibility may, though, just result in developments and uses that harm the built environment whilst not generating that much more economic activity than previously. The hope is that good development results, more quickly and in a way that adapts to the post-COVID world.

For further information on these changes and how they are likely to affect future planning developments, contact our Head of Planning, Jason Towell.