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Last revised August 14, 2022

A building is classified as a particular type of use.

Class C = residential; C1 = Hotel;

Class E – Commercial, Business and Service E;   E(b) sale of food and drink for consumption on site

Change of use is classed as development and as such requires planning permission, however planning approval is not required for some changes of use for example, for a pub to a shop. Under the previous and current government administration more permitted development changes of use have been brought in.

A revised General Permitted Development Order was published in 2015

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015

Note: some permitted development rights for eg house extensions may vary within Conservation Areas.

Permitted development rights for change of use from Retail to Residential are not applicable in conservation areas. See part 3 M of the Schedule 2 Permitted development rights

Change of use from Office to Residential is permitted change of use in Conservation areas (not for Listed buildings) but an application has to be made to cover certain aspects of the proposed development, transport, contamination and flooding See part 3 O of Schedule 2 Permitted development rights

Prior Approval applications are for Permitted Developments and cover the aspects of development set out above.

Information on Use Classes from Planning Portal and Planning Resource

Planning Portal summary

  • From 1 September 2020, for purposes of Use Class, A1/2/3 & B1 to be treated as Class E
  • For any planning applications submitted before 1 September 2020, the Use Classes in effect when the application was submitted will be used to determine the application.
  • For any reference to Permitted Development rights, and for restrictions to them or applications for Prior Approval, the Use Classes in effect prior to 1 September 2020 will be the ones used until the end of July 2021 (this is defined as the ‘material period’ in legislation so may be referred to as such)

Class C

Class C is not affected by the 1 September 2020 changes.

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 Dwellinghouses – This class is formed of three 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) covers 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.

Class E – Commercial, Business and Service

Class E is introduced from 1 September 2020.

In 11 parts, Class E more broadly covers uses previously defined in the revoked Classes A1/2/3, B1, D1(a-b) and ‘indoor sport’ from D2(e):

E(a) Display or retail sale of goods, other than hot food

E(b) Sale of food and drink for consumption (mostly) on the premises

E(c) Provision of Services:

E(c)(i) Financial services,

E(c)(ii) Professional services (other than health or medical services), or

E(c)(iii) Other appropriate services in a commercial, business or service locality

E(d) Indoor sport, recreation or fitness (not involving motorised vehicles or firearms)

E(e) Provision of medical or health services (except the use of premises attached to the residence of the consultant or practitioner)

E(f) Creche, day nursery or day centre (not including a residential use)

E(g) Uses which can be carried out in a residential area without detriment to its amenity:

E(g)(i) Offices to carry out any operational or administrative functions,

E(g)(ii) Research and development of products or processes

E(g)(iii) Industrial processes

Class F – Local Community and Learning

Class F is introduced from 1 September 2020.

In two main parts, Class F covers uses previously defined in the revoked classes D1, ‘outdoor sport’, ‘swimming pools’ and ‘skating rinks’ from D2(e), as well as newly defined local community uses.

F1 Learning and non-residential institutions – Use (not including residential use) defined in 7 parts:

F1(a) Provision of education

F1(b) Display of works of art (otherwise than for sale or hire)

F1(c) Museums

F1(d) Public libraries or public reading rooms

F1(e) Public halls or exhibition halls

F1(f) Public worship or religious instruction (or in connection with such use)

F1(g) Law courts

F2 Local community use– Use as defined in 4 parts:

F2(a) Shops (mostly) selling essential goods, including food, where the shop’s premises do not exceed 280 square metres and there is no other such facility within 1000 metres

F2(b) Halls or meeting places for the principal use of the local community

F2(c) Areas or places for outdoor sport or recreation (not involving motorised vehicles or firearms)

F2(d) Indoor or outdoor swimming pools or skating rinks

Sui Generis

‘Sui generis’ is a Latin term that, in this context, means ‘in a class of its own’.

Certain uses are specifically defined and excluded from classification by legislation, and therefore become ‘sui generis’. These are:

  • theatres
  • amusement arcades/centres or funfairs
  • launderettes
  • fuel stations
  • hiring, selling and/or displaying motor vehicles
  • taxi businesses
  • scrap yards, or a yard for the storage/distribution of minerals and/or the breaking of motor vehicles
  • ‘Alkali work’ (any work registerable under the Alkali, etc. Works Regulation Act 1906 (as amended))
  • hostels (providing no significant element of care)
  • waste disposal installations for the incineration, chemical treatment or landfill of hazardous waste
  • retail warehouse clubs
  • nightclubs
  • casinos
  • betting offices/shops
  • pay day loan shops
  • public houses, wine bars, or drinking establishments – from 1 September 2020, previously Class A4
  • drinking establishments with expanded food provision – from 1 September 2020, previously Class A4
  • hot food takeaways (for the sale of hot food where consumption of that food is mostly undertaken off the premises) – from 1 September 2020, previously Class A5
  • venues for live music performance – newly defined as ‘Sui Generis’ use from 1 September 2020
  • cinemas – from 1 September 2020, previously Class D2(a)
  • concert halls – from 1 September 2020, previously Class D2(b)
  • bingo halls – from 1 September 2020, previously Class D2(c)
  • dance halls – from 1 September 2020, previously Class D2(d)
  • Large HMOs -houses in multiple occupation with more than six residents become a ‘sui generis’ use.

Planning resource info:

Class MA: permitted development right:

“The new PD right, and other changes to the PD system, were introduced via new regulations laid by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) last Wednesday, the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development etc.) (England) (Amendment) Order 2021. Here are 12 things you need to know about the revisions.

  • The new class MA PD right allowing a range of commercial uses to convert to housing without needing a planning application will be introduced on 1 August. It covers a range of uses in the new class E use class, including offices, shops, restaurants, cafes, health services, nurseries, gyms and leisure uses. Of the above uses, shops and offices are already subject to other residential conversion PD rights (see next point). An explanatory memorandum accompanying the changes states that applications for prior approval under Class MA “may therefore only be submitted on or after 1 August 2021”.
  • The new class MA PD right replaces two existing commercial-to-residential PD rights, including the controversial office to residential right. The latter, called class O, was introduced in 2013 and the government says has “delivered over 72,000 homes in the five years ending March 2020”. It will also replace the class M right allowing A1 shops and A2 financial and professional services to convert to residential. The memorandum states that the “existing rights for the change of use from offices and from retail to residential will continue to apply until 31 July 2021” but the legislation prevents applications for prior approval for under these two rights being made after 31 July 2021. The class M right also allows the conversion of take-aways, betting offices, pay day loan shops and launderettes, which will not be allowed under class MA.
  • The government has placed limits on the size of the buildings that can be converted. Buildings with over 1,500 square metres of floorspace will be exempt from the new rules, the statement said, to “focus the right on medium sized high street sites which are more likely to be suitable for conversion”. This is a change on the consultation proposals which had said that no size limit would be in place. According to the MHCLG memo, the change is “in response to comments received”. The current class O right places no limit on the size of buildings to be converted.
  • A three-month vacancy requirement has been introduced. Applicants will need to show that the class E building has been “vacant for three continuous months immediately before the date of application for prior approval”. The MHCLG memo says that it has introduced this consideration in response to “concerns raised” during the consultation about “the impact on thriving business”. It adds: “The time that the premises is closed as a result of Government Covid-19 restrictions will not count towards this period where the building continues to be occupied by the owner or tenant.”
  • Applicants will also need to demonstrate that it has been in the correct commercial usage for at least two years. They will need to show it has been in class E use for at least two years before the application “in order to prevent gaming”. Because class E was only introduced last autumn, “time served in the uses in former use classes now within the Commercial Business and Service use class, such as A1 (shops), and D1 (b) (non-residential institutions – crèche, day nursery or day centre), will count towards this period”, says the memorandum.
  • The prior approval process adds new considerations aiming to protect health centres, nurseries and conservation areas. The right will be subject to prior approval by the local authority in respect of: flooding; transport impacts; contamination; adequate natural light; noise “from existing commercial premises”; and the “impact on future residents from introduction of residential use in an area the authority considers is important for heavy industry, waste management, storage and distribution”. In addition, councils will be able to consider the impact of the loss of health centres and registered children’s nurseries on the provision of local services. The MHCLG memo says it has introduced this consideration in response to “concerns raised” during the consulation about “the potential loss of services like health centres”. In conservation areas, a further consideration is the “impact of the loss of ground floor commercial, business and service use on the character and sustainability” of the area. The memo adds that “separate legislation later in the year will amend the right to introduce an additional prior approval in relation to the fire safety of the building changing use”.
  • National parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) and sites of special scientific interest will be exempt from the right. However, it will apply in conservation areas (see point above).
  • Article 4 directions exempting areas from current commercial-to-residential PD rights will be allowed to continue for another year. The regulations confirm that any Article 4 directions which currently restrict office-to-residential or retail-to-residential changes will still be in force until the end of July 2022, rather than expiring on 1 August, as many experts had feared. More details here.
  • Councils will be able to charge a fee of £100 per home under the new PD right, up to a maximum level of £5,000. The fee “will be introduced via separate secondary legislation at the first available opportunity”, says the MHCLG memo. Currently, £96 is the fee for a prior approval application under class O.
  • PD rights for schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and prisons are amended to allow such buildings to expand to a greater extent. The changes to class M of the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO) increase the threshold of the footprint and height these “public service buildings” can increase to under the PD rights. A special prior approval process specifically for university buildings has been introduced “that will allow for local consideration of the impact on design, heritage and archaeology, and highways and transport”, says the MHCLG memo. More details here.
  • The new regulations change planning rules around the removal of statues and other monuments. An amendment to class B of the GPDO exempts “statues, memorials and monuments from the permitted development right for the demolition of buildings”. It applies to such structures that “have been in place for at least ten years on the date of proposed demolition” so that in future, proposals to demolish them “will require an application for planning permission”. More details here.
  • The new regulations expand PD rights for ports with the changes coming into force on 21 April. The change to class B of the GPDO allow a greater range of buildings to be erected without needing a planning application, bringing the rights into line with those for airports. However, a requirement to consult the local authority would also be included. More details here.”

Permitted development orders:


  • size of side and rear extensions, quantum of retained garden, height depending on proximity to boundary
  • garage conversion, loft conversion, additional storeys