It has become an increasingly popular practice in recent years for rural landowners to diversify by changing the use of redundant agricultural buildings to commercial uses, falling within Use Class B1 (office, research and development, industrial processes). Changes to planning use classes, which came into force on 1st September 2020, present an opportunity for further diversification.
Former ‘B1’ uses now fall within Use Class E – which encompasses a greater variety of potential uses, that can be changed between without the need for planning permission. This change not only allows existing tenants to rapidly adapt their businesses where required, it also enhances the appeal of the premises to a wider range of prospective end users, whose intended use may previously not have been permitted under B1.
This particular change was primarily intended to support town centres and high streets, though premises in more rural locations can also benefit from the greater flexibility offered by Class E.
It remains to be seen how local authorities will deal with the considerable variation between the impacts of differing uses on factors such as residential amenity, parking, vehicle movements and noise.
It is also worth noting that the introduction of the amendments to the Use Class order is the subject of a legal challenge at present in respect of the lack of an environmental assessment or appropriate public consultation process. The legal hearing is due to take place in October.
The General Permitted Development Order (GDPO) has not yet been updated to reflect the amended Use Classes Order. It is understood that changes to GDPO are likely to be introduced before 1 August 2021, and that in the mean-time between 1 September 2020 to 31 July 2021, the GDPO should be interpreted as it exists as at 31 August 2020.
The planning team at Strutt & Parker are, as always, happy to advise further on any queries relating to these updates, or any other planning matters.