The Use Class Order is an attempt by the planning system to categorise land uses into various groups. Similar uses are grouped together to allow changes between them without the need for planning permission.
There are also a range of ‘permitted’ changes between use classes. For instance an A4 (Drinking Establishment) can change to an A1 (Retail), A2 (Professional Service) or A3 (Restaurant) without the need for planning consent.
The Use Class Order is very useful, but it is not the be all and end all of assessing whether a change of use requires planning permission. If the proposed use is of a similar character then a material change of use still may not have occurred. This was summed up eloquently by a judge in a 2003 High Court case:
Although it may sound somewhat illogical…notwithstanding that this use may fall within Class C2 rather than Class C3, nonetheless planning permission may not be required if the change of use was not a material change of use. I am bound to say that if an Inspector is satisfied that the use falls within C2 rather than C3, then it would appear that there is prima facie a change of use. Nonetheless, the Inspector is entitled, as indeed are the local planning authority, to consider whether that change of use was material. It will only be material if, as a matter of fact and degree in the circumstances of an individual case, the change of use was material.
For advice and guidance on all of your change of use applications please feel free to contact us – email@example.com.