Changes of use not requiring planning permission


In many cases, when changing the use of a commercial building, you’ll need to apply for planning permission first. However, there are instances where you can get away with not doing this; especially when the original use and the proposed new use fall under the same ‘use class’.

Feeling baffled? Here’s a brief explanation of how it works.


Changes of Use That Don’t Need Planning Permission

A1 (Shops)

A shop can, in theory, be changed into any other type of retail shop without planning permission. This also applies to internet cafes, hairdressers, funeral directors and retail warehouses.

Shops can also be changed into A2 premises without planning permission (financial and professional services such as banks or recruitment companies, for example), A3 premises (restaurants and cafes up to 150m2, with prior approval), D2 (assembly and leisure, e.g. cinemas, swimming baths or concert halls up to 200m2 – but only if the premises was A1 on 5th December 2013), or C3 (a dwelling house – subject to approval).

A3 – A5 (Premises selling food or drink)

There is a lot of flexibility between the use classes that cover food / drink premises (e.g. restaurants, cafes and take-aways). Generally speaking, changing use within these classes is straightforward and won’t need planning permission.

B1 (Business / offices)

A B1 premises can be changed into a B8 building without permission – B8 covers storage or distribution facilities. However, this is only for buildings up to 500m2.

B2 (General industrial)

This use class can be changed to either B1 or B8 (again, up to 500m2 for B8 use).

B8 (Storage / distribution)

As you might expect, B8 premises can be changed to B1 (offices). They can also be converted into C3 (dwelling houses), but this needs prior approval.

C3 (Dwelling houses)

Houses can be converted into C4 use (small house of multiple occupation, or HMO for short). Likewise, C4 properties can be converted back to C3 use without requiring planning permission.

Sui Generis (Casinos)

A casino can be changed into a D2 premises (assembly and leisure), A3 (restaurant or café) or C3 (dwelling houses).

Sui Generis (betting offices / payday loan offices)

These types of premises can be converted without permission into A1 and A2, C3 (up to 150m2) or D2. They can also be made into mixed-use premises, comprising a shop and up to two flats, for example.

Sui Generis (Agricultural buildings)

Agricultural buildings, providing they meet the list of criteria and have prior approval, can be converted to A1, 2 and 3, B1 and B8, C1 and C3, or D2 use.


Factors that May Affect This

There are certain other factors that may impact the process of changing the use of a building. For example, if the premises are situated in a National Park or recognised area of outstanding natural beauty, it’s likely that additional laws will be in place which restrict the nature of the building’s use. Likewise, if it’s a listed building, this may mean that you won’t be able to change its use so easily.

It’s also useful to know that some changes require prior approval from the local planning authority, which usually involves a fee.