Planning uses - find the use class for your property here, and information about changing to another use class

The Eye - building


Use this guide to find which Use Class your property is in and whether planning permission is required to change to a different Use Class.


Use Classes

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) puts uses of land and buildings into various categories known as 'Use Classes'.  It was amended following the 2015 Use Classes Amendment Order and further radical changes were introduced with effect from 1st September 2020.

The general rule is that planning permission is not required to move between uses within the same Use Class.  As the table below shows the 2020 overhaul therefore made it possible, without planning permission being required, to switch from a shop to an office but for a school to change to day nursery planning permission is now required.

Sui generis means of a kind on its own i.e. a property with sui generis use does not fall into any Use Class so planning permission is required to change the use.

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.

Table summarising Planning Use Classes in the UK

Old Planning Use (prior to 1/9/20)

New Planning Use (from 1/9/20)


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

Sui generis

Public houses, wine bars or other drinking establishments (but not night clubs).

A5 Hot food takeaways

Sui generis

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 dwelling 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 Medical and day nurseries


Clinics, health centres, crèches, day nurseries and day centres.

D1 Education and non-residential institutions


Schools, art galleries (other than for sale or hire), museums, libraries, public halls, places of worship and law court. Non residential education and training centres.

D2 Cinemas and entertainment halls

Sui generis

Cinemas, music and concert halls, bingo and dance halls (but not night clubs)

D2 Gyms and indoor recreation


Gymnasiums or areas for indoor sports and recreations (except for motor sports, or where firearms are used).

D2 Swimming skating and outdoor recreation / sport


Indoor or outdoor swimming pools and skating rinks.  Outdoor sports and recreation not involving motorised vehicles or firearms.

D2 Hall or meeting place


Hall or meeting place for the principal use of the local community.

Sui Generis

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.

Before you negotiate a lease or buy a property for your business, check whether you need to obtain planning permission for your intended use, and, if so, your chances of getting it.

Permitted development - change from commercial to residential

Since 2013 premises in office use (previously classified as B1(a)) can change to C3 residential use, subject to Prior Approval covering flooding, highways and transport issues and contamination.

The property has to have been either in use as an office before 30th May 2013 or if vacant at that date have been last used as an office.

Some local authorities have imposed restrictions known as Article 4 Declarations removing such rights.

There also permitted development rights in relation to converting industrial and retail property to residential, subject to Prior Approval.

Certificate of Lawful Use

If a property can be demonstrated to have been in residential use for a minimum period of four years it may be possible to obtain a Certificate of Lawful use which will confirm the property effectively has planning permission for that use.

For commercial properties, the period of time is ten years.

Important Note

The above summary is based on information at should not be relied on for legal purposes:  specific advice should be sought from a planning expert (who Gilmartin Ley can recommend).  No liability is accepted by Gilmartin Ley for the information in this article.

Further Advice on Planning Matters

If you require advice on planning matters please contact Gilmartin Ley on 020 8882 0111 and we will be pleased to refer you to one of our planning consultants.