Agenda item

Planning Reform: Changes to the Use Classes Order and Permitted Development Rights Announced July 2020

Report of the Director of the Built Environment.


The Committee received a report of the Director of the Built Environment setting out changes to the Use Classes Order and Permitted Development Rights announced in July 2020.


Officers clarified that this report was for information and was intended to update the Committee on changes that had already been implemented. They clarified that the two main areas of change set out were around the Uses Classes Order and how we manage changes of use between different land uses through the planning system and around Permitted Development Rights which involved the ability of developers to bring about certain changes without the need for specific planning permission. It was noted that, from the City Corporation’s perspective, changes to the Uses Classes Order were the most significant of the two as most Permitted Development Rights would be subject to various caveats and requirements around prior approval processes. Members were informed that the key change to Use Classes Order was that a new use class order ‘Class E’ had been introduced which combined office and retail (A1/A2/A3 and some other uses) into one super-use class. The effect of this change was that the City would no longer have planning control over the change of use between these various components within the new E class as this was no longer defined as development. This would affect how changes of use were managed within the City going forward, particularly in retail clusters and would clearly have implications for the City’s Local Plan. The Local Plans Sub-Committee would be asked to consider this in meetings throughout the Autumn and seek to adjust the Local Plan if necessary in order to take account of the changing planning controls arising from these changes in planning law. It was reported that there were also wider implications for other City Departments who relied upon the planning system to flag changes in use.


The Deputy Chairman commented that he felt that this would be a significant change that developers and property owners within the Square Mile would utilise frequently. Officers noted that the changes would take away some of our local planning powers to regulate changes of use within a building in the City. However, planning powers would still remain in place for applications concerning any sort of redevelopment (demolitions and reconstructions). Where there was a proposed change of use within a building – for example from an office to a shop or vice versa – this would normally be tested against the City’s plan to ascertain if this complied with planning policies – this test would no longer be relevant. There would therefore be much greater flexibility and volatility in the mix of land uses found in some of the City’s retail areas as they respond to market forces. Conversely, Members were informed that there were more restrictions than there had previously been on certain land uses with pubs and hot takeaway food premises being put into their own special class and requiring specific planning permissions. Officers underlined that other Local Authority controls would still apply with Licensing rules still in force and arguably even more important as a result of these changes.


A Member sought further explanation around the interplay on the Article 4 directions and its interplay with the Use Class Order changes. Officers clarified that Article 4 directions remove the ability of a developer to carry out development without a specific planning permission. However, it only applied to changes defined as development with a Local Authority able to take away a permitted development right under an Article 4 direction meaning that the developer would need to apply for a specific planning permission. In relation to the Use Classes Order, changes within the same use class that did not involve any development or physical changes to a building would not need planning permission and there was therefore no scope for applying an Article 4 direction.


Another Member commented that, previously, there had been a push to retain residential units within residential clusters and offices within business areas so that two were carefully distinguished. He questioned whether this would continue to be the case in light of these changes. Officers reported that they did not expect that there would be a dramatic shift in the overall balance of uses in the City. However, it was noted that there may well be a shift in the mix of commercial uses and where these were located given that this could happen without planning permission. Housing had remained unchanged in terms of Use Class Order meaning that the City still retained the same powers to influence this. It was noted that, within the report, there was reference to Permitted Development Rights and the ability to demolish, for example, a vacant office building and erect housing on the same site. There are a number of conditions attached to the new permitted development and a sieve map analysis had shown that there were few suitable sites within the City where this opportunity could be taken up.


RESOLVED – That Members:

·         Note the publication of the revised Use Classes Order 2020 which took effect on 1 September 2020;

·         Note the changes to the Permitted Development Rights published during July 2020 which took effect on 31 August 2020;

·         Note that Officers will report further on detailed implications once the National Planning Practice Guidance has been amended to reflect the policy intent of the new Use Classes Order, including the detailed implications for the existing Local Plan and the draft City Plan 2036.

Supporting documents: