Use classes, change of use and permitted development

The Town & Country Planning Act divides land into various use classes. These are outlined in the Use Classes Order. Pubs are classed as ‘Sui Generis’ which means they are in a class of their own. There is no permitted development allowing the automatic change of use or demolition of pubs

Use classes

on 1st September 2020 the Use Classes Order (1987) was overhauled as part of the UK Government response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

New Use Class categories are now defined:

  • Class E  – Commercial, Business & Service (e.g. shop, restaurant, cafe, gym, creche)
  • Class F1 – Learning and Non-Residential Institutions (e.g. school, museum, library, exhibition space, art gallery, court of law, place of worship)
  • Class F2 – Local Community (e.g. small shops located in rural locations which were previously most likely in Class A1, community hall, outdoor sport and recreation)
  • Sui Generis – Class of Its Own (e.g. public house, wine bar, drinking establishment, drinking establishment with expanded food provision, hot food takeaway, live music venue, concert hall, theatre)

For many years, pubs typically fell into the former Use Class A4. Some pubs preferred to be classed as A3, particularly if their business was food-led. Councils do not maintain lists of which land is in which class and the actual use class was often a matter of some debate, triggered when a planning application is submitted or when development takes place. Some land in mixed use would meet various use class descriptions.The 2020 amendment has simplified this by placing pubs and other drinking establishments in the Sui Generis class. There are no permitted development rights within this class. It has also cleared up any ambiguity on what lawful planning use was extant at any pub site that might come up for development. We welcomed the changes.

Change of use and permitted development

Historically, it was possible to change the use of an A class premises without requiring permission, as long as the use was changed to a lower number within the A class of uses.  This was known as “permitted development”.  From 2017, permitted development rights have been removed for A4 premises (though they still exist for A5, A3, A2 and, A1 use classes). This means that any change of use away from A4 is now subject to planning control. This has not changed with the 2020 amendment but the A use class no longer exists. Pubs, wine bars, drinking establishments are all now Sui Generis.

Curry restaurant in former pub building

Masala Zone, Camden; permitted development allowed this former pub to become a restaurant