Earlier this year the Government announced significant changes to the use classes system in England through the new Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020. These changes took effect from 1 September 2020.

The Government also announced changes to permitted development rights.

A campaign group was granted permission to launch a judicial review to challenge the Government’s reforms.  With the outcome of the judicial review pending many landlords and tenants have taken a cautious approach and continued to refer to the legislation as it applied before 31 August 2020.

On 17 November 2020, Lord Justice Lewis and Mr Justice Holgate sought to provide some clarity for the sector by dismissing all grounds of challenge brought by the campaign group.  It is understood that they are seeking permission to appeal.

The radical changes have been introduced to support the repurposing of the high street and provide a greater degree of flexibility for landowners and occupiers.

Much has been written about the impact of the changes, but a brief overview is set out below:

  • The new regulations introduce three new use classes – E (Commercial, Business and Service), F1 (Learning and non-residential institutions) and F2 (Local Community).
  • The most significant change is the introduction of the new use class E which groups together most commercial uses, such as cafés, retail, offices, gyms and clinics as a single use class. This will allow for changes of use between them without needing planning permission.
  • A number of uses have now become “sui generis” (falling outside any use class), such as theatres, fuel stations, pubs, takeaways and cinemas. Changes to and from these uses will now be more restricted.
  • New permitted development rights will allow the demolition of vacant and redundant office and light industrial buildings and their redevelopment as dwellings.

With the introduction of the new use class E particular care should be taken by commercial landlords to ensure the definition of “permitted use” in a lease is not too wide.  We would advise including a description of the use, together with a reference to the specific sub-section within use class E (e.g. use as offices within Use Class E(g)).

We are experienced in drafting and negotiating commercial leases, so please contact Thomas McKeown on 0113 280 2079 to find out how we can assist you with this.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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