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Change of use of commercial property - what's the process?

View profile for Brendon Lee
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In an ideal world, it would be possible to convert a commercial property from one type of business to another with minimal fuss and procedure. However, change of use often requires a surprising amount of paperwork and a firm grasp of the legal factors involved in order to comply with planning requirements.

So, what steps should you take if you’ve acquired a commercial property and want to change the purpose for which it is used?

Know your ABC

Under the planning system, all buildings, whether used for commercial or residential purposes fall will have an existing lawful planning use.  Commonly, such planning use will fall into various ‘classes’ defined in the in the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987.

Defined use classes within the Order include: A1 (standard shops); A2 (professionals services); A3 (food and drink); A4 (public houses); B1 (offices); B2 (general industry); B8 (storage and distribution); and C3 (residential housing).

If the current planning use does not fall within any defined use class, then it is known as sui generis.

Why are use classes so important?

A use class can determine whether permitted development rights apply. A good understanding of use classes can help to navigate the system and simplify the process of changing the purpose of a building without the need for a planning application.

How do I find out what my building classification is?

A full list of the defined use classes can be found on the government’s planning portal. However, it may take some degree of investigation to determine exactly which use class (if any) a building falls into, especially if it has had a variety of uses over the years. It is then important to check your own records, including deeds, land registry records and other official documents to determine the current classification. The local council planning departments may also hold records concerning the classification of your building.

Here to help

Our Planning Team at Buckles will be able to assist you in identifying the current planning use of your building and what permitted development rights are available. We can also assist you in making a planning application or prior approval notification for any proposed change of use. You can contact our Planning Team on 01733 888888.

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