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Do I need to apply for planning permission for change of use to my business?

Dec 14, 2016

Generally, you will need to obtain planning permission to change the use of your business premises, but some changes can be done without it.

Any changes made to a business premises’ use are made under the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended). This order was brought in to classify and categorise land and buildings to reflect their usage.

Whilst there are some exceptions to the rule, it is up to each local authority to decide if planning permission is necessary, so you should always check with them first.

Usually if you are changing a building’s use within the same category, you wouldn’t need planning permission. Within each category, there are sub categories of the same type of premises. Changing within these subcategories would normally not need planning.

For example, Part A of the legislation contains 5 subcategories. They are:

  • A1 – Shops
  • A2 – Financial and professional services
  • A3 – Restaurants and cafes
  • A4 – Drinking establishments
  • A5 – Hot food takeaways

If the building you are looking to lease or purchase was originally a shop, you can normally put a business of any of the A types into that building. So, a shop could change usage to an accountancy practice – it would change from an A1 category to an A2 category.

There are other parts to the legislation where you may not need to obtain planning permission to change the category. They are:

Part B

  • B1 – Businesses
  • B2 – General Industrial
  • B8 – Storage or distribution

Part C

  • C1 – Hotels
  • C2 – Residential Institutions
  • C2A – Secure residential Institutions
  • C3 – Dwelling houses
  • C4 – Houses in multiple locations

Part D

  • D1 – Non-residential institutions
  • D2 – Assembly and leisure

Each of these parts will have descriptions of the type of businesses that are suitable in that category. You should always check with a solicitor and the local authority before making a commitment to a lease or a commercial property purchase. This will make sure that you don’t have to apply for planning permission to change the use, which could leave you in a position where you couldn’t use the property for your business at all.

You should also be aware that some businesses do not fall into any category and are called ‘sui generis’. This means it’s unique and does not fit anywhere into the Parts of the legislation. Just because your business is included in the sui generis type, it doesn’t mean you’ll need planning. Just get advice.

Remember that a local authority can still turn down an application for a change of use. They will take into account the type of business going into the property, its location in relation to residential property and its potential impact.

If you need help and advice on a change of use application, call our commercial property team now on 01264 353411, via email:  conveyancing@bsandi.co.ukor contact us via our free, no obligation online enquiry form and we will be happy to assist you.


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