Planning issues: when should a Class A1 use change to become a Class A3 use?

We have noticed a significant increase in the number of clients enquiring about whether it is necessary to apply for a change of use for a Class A1 unit that is being used as a sandwich/snack shop, to a Class A3 use if they introduce seating and hot food.

Such enquiries are often made following an investigation of a business by a local planning authority’s enforcement team, who have claimed that the introduction  of seating and hot food constitutes a change of use and that planning permission is required. We are aware of a number of local planning authorities, such as the City of Westminster, who are particularly active with these types of investigations.

The solution to these investigations is to usually either accept the comments made by the local planning authority’s enforcement team and seek a change of use planning application or, if it is felt that the business genuinely does fall within a Class A1 use, then to apply for a certificate of lawfulness to demonstrate that the existing use is compliant with law.  However, many owners have often expressed a desire to operate from a Class A1 unit as it meets their specific business requirements.

Whether a material change of use has taken place is a matter of fact and degree and this will be determined on the individual merits of a case. Factors such as turnover, the character of the unit, the primary use and the percentage of the floor area covered in seating are all taken into account.  Consequently, at Plainview, we  advise our clients on whether we feel a change of use has occurred and when we do submit lawful development certificates, we always ensure that the documentation is presented clearly to demonstrate that the operating use is compliant by law.

If you require any advice or assistance with a change of use planning matter, please do not hesitate to contact one of our planning consultants at