The activity that you can use a property for is regulated. Various activities are categorised under headings, or "use classes." This page gives you an introduction to the different use classes for properties.
The allowed uses for commercial property are defined by The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987. When estate agents refer to properties as ''A1'' or ''B1'', they are referring to the use class of the property. When looking for a property, you will need to find premises that are in the appropriate class for your needs. Otherwise, you may need to apply for change of use.
Change of Use
You may find a property that is perfect, but is categorised under a use class that does not match what you want to do. In this case you may need to apply for "Change of Use".
You do not normally need planning permission to change between uses within the same class, and some changes of use between classes is also permitted. If you are considering changing the use of a property you should always refer to the local planning authority (LPA) – usually the district or borough council. Check with them whether you need to obtain planning permission for your intended change of use, and, if so, what your chances are of getting it approved.
The key use classes are listed below. Please note that this is a guide only; for full details about use classes and change of use, refer to the government's Planning Portal website at this address: http://www.planningportal.gov.uk
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The following list gives an indication of the types of use which may fall within each use class. Please note that this is a guide only and it's for local planning authorities to determine, in the first instance, depending on the individual circumstances of each case, which use class a particular use falls into.
A1 Shops - Shops, retail warehouses, hairdressers, undertakers, travel and ticket agencies, post offices (but not sorting offices), pet shops, sandwich bars, showrooms, domestic hire shops, dry cleaners, funeral directors and internet cafes.
A2 Financial and professional services - Financial services such as banks and building societies, professional services (other than health and medical services) including estate and employment agencies and betting offices.
A3 Restaurants and cafés - For the sale of food and drink for consumption on the premises - restaurants, snack bars and cafes.
A4 Drinking establishments - Public houses, wine bars or other drinking establishments (but not night clubs).
A5 Hot food takeaways - For the sale of hot food for consumption off the premises.
B1 Business - Offices (other than those that fall within A2), research and development of products and processes, light industry appropriate in a residential area.
B2 General industrial - Use for industrial process other than one falling within class B1 (excluding incineration purposes, chemical treatment or landfill or hazardous waste).
B8 Storage or distribution - This class includes open air storage.
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 3 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): 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.
D1 Non-residential institutions - Clinics, health centres, crèches, day nurseries, day centres, schools, art galleries (other than for sale or hire), museums, libraries, halls, places of worship, church halls, law court. Non residential education and training centres.
D2 Assembly and leisure - Cinemas, music and concert halls, bingo and dance halls (but not night clubs), swimming baths, skating rinks, gymnasiums or area for indoor or outdoor sports and recreations (except for motor sports, or where firearms are used).
Sui Generis - Certain uses do not fall within any use class and are considered 'sui generis'. Such uses include: theatres, houses in multiple occupation, hostels providing no significant element of care, scrap yards. Petrol filling stations and shops selling and/or displaying motor vehicles. Retail warehouse clubs, nightclubs, launderettes, taxi businesses, amusement centres and casinos.