We’ve got a number of clients who were looking to expand their operations, but didn’t realise that they had to make sure the business premises they wanted was in the proper usage category. It’s possible to change use classes, but it might require special permission from the local planning authority. We’d like to share our expertise with you so you know what you might have to deal with if you choose to move into a different usage category. The categories fall into retail & commercial (A), light industrial (B), and residential and leisure (C)
Class A establishments are split into five different categories:
The first category is for retail shops that you’d typically find on the high street. These include salons, pet shops, travel agencies, dry cleaners and showrooms, among others. These spaces can have a single flat above them if you choose to live above your business premises or rent out the space to generate more income.
Class A2–FINANCIAL and PROFESSIONAL SERVICES
The second category includes banks, building societies and professional services (not including health and medical–those are in a different class). If you are a retail clothing store looking to move into a space that used to be a betting office, for example, you could get permission for that. If you wanted to open a restaurant (which is A3) in a space that was previously a bank (A2), you’d have to look elsewhere for a space that is properly zoned.
Class A3–RESTAURANTS and CAFES
If your establishment serves hot food to be consumed on the premises, it would fall in category A3. It’s always best to check in with the local planning authority, but if you want to change that space to a lower class, it’s usually possible to do that without much of a problem.
Class A4–DRINKING ESTABLISHMENTS
Pubs, wine bars and other drinking establishments fall under this category, but nightclubs do not. If you want to turn a drinking spot into an A1, A2, or A3 business, you’d be able to get permission. Remember, you can usually go lower in A class, but not higher.
Class A5–HOT FOOD TAKEAWAYS
Similar to restaurants and cafes, spaces that were once hot food takeaways allow you to change the space into an A1, A2, or A3 space.
B1 businesses include offices that aren’t classified as A2, research and development of products and processes and light industry that would be appropriate in a residential area. You can switch a B1 space to a B8 space (storage and distribution), and vice-versa, as long as you’re not using more than 235sq m of floor space). B2 (general industrial) spaces can change to B1 or B8, but again, there’s a square footage limit.
Generally speaking, C-class establishments deal with lodging and housing. The first three C-classes do not permit any changes to usage. They encompass hotels, residential care homes, hospitals, secure residential institutions (including prisons) and single-family dwellings, among others. The only Class-C spaces that are permitted to change class are shared dwellings to single-family dwellings.
D-Class spaces cover health, education and leisure industries that don’t provide lodging. This includes clinics, health centres, art galleries, schools, museums, libraries, and places of worship. Cinemas, theatres, swimming pools, skating rinks, gymnasiums and other recreational establishments fall under the D-class as well. D-classes have no permitted changes.
Before you buy a property or negotiate a lease, be sure to research the likelihood of obtaining the proper planning permission first. Noble Harris can guide you through this process and help you find business premises that suits you best.