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The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) puts uses of land and buildings into various categories known as 'Use Classes'. Planning permission is not needed for a change of use of land to a new use within the same class, unless restricted by a planning condition. Planning conditions can be found on the planning register held by the local planning authority.

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.

  • A1 Shops - Shops, hairdressers, undertakers, travel and ticket agencies, post offices (but not sorting offices), pet shops, sandwich bars, showrooms, domestic hire shops, dry cleaners and funeral directors.
  • 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 (excludes betting offices).
  • A3 Food and drink - For the sale of food and drink for consumption on the premises - restaurants, snack bars and cafes, drinking establishments and take-aways.
  • 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 - Use for storage or as a distribution centre. 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, used as sole or main residences – Dwellinghouses used as a sole or main residence and occupied for more than 183 days in a calendar year.  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 to allow for those groupings that do not fall within the C4 HMO definition to be provided for, e.g. a small religious community may fall into this category as could a homeowner who is living with a lodger.
  • C4 Houses in multiple occupation - small shared houses or flats occupied by between three and six unrelated individuals, as their only or main residence, who share basic amenities such as a kitchen or bathroom. For the purposes of class C4, a ‘house in multiple occupation’ has the same meaning as in section 254 of the Housing Act 2004 and does not include a converted block of flats to which section 257 of the Housing Act 2004 applies.
  • C5 Dwellinghouses, used otherwise than as sole or main residences – Dwellinghouses used otherwise than as a sole or main residence and occupied for 183 days or fewer. 
  • C6 Short term lets – Dwellinghouses used for commercial short-term letting not longer than 31 days for each period of occupation.
  • D1 Non-residential institutions - Clinics, health centres, crèches, day nurseries, day centres, schools, art galleries (other than for sale or hire), museums, libraries, halls, places of worship, church halls, law court, non residential education and training centres.
  • D2 Assembly and leisure - Cinemas, music and concert halls, casinos, bingo and dance halls, swimming baths, skating rinks, gymnasiums or area for indoor or outdoor sports and recreation (except for motor sports, or where firearms are used).
  • Unique Use - Certain uses do not fall within any use class and are considered a 'unique use'. Such uses include: theatres, hostels, scrap yards, petrol filling stations and shops selling and/or displaying motor vehicles, launderettes, taxi businesses, amusement centres and betting offices.

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.