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Emma Jones

Emma Jones

Emma has over 20 years’ expertise supporting clients to find creative and commercial town planning solutions.

A Guide to Change of Use for Small Businesses

The various planning rules and regulations can be something of a minefield to understand and implement. For this blog, I’m focusing on a common area for businesses to come into contact with the planning process – change of use.

As a town planner I can probably guess that town planning considerations do not feature heavily in your business plans. However, giving early consideration to some of the often overlooked planning requirements for businesses ensures your strategy is robust.

Land and buildings are categorised by the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended). Within and between these ‘use classes’ change of use can occur and planning permission or prior approval may be needed depending upon the circumstances of any proposed change of use, including building work.

When planning changes to business operations, it is crucial to know what use class your business falls within and whether planning consent might be required. You may be allowed to do more or less than you think within a particular use class. Some businesses even fall within a class of their own (‘Sui generis’).

You might know, for example, that planning permission is required for change of use from a shop (Use Class A1) to a drinking establishment (Use Class A4) – but do you have any inclination of how long that process takes or the type of information required by the local planning authority to make an assessment? It is likely to take a lot longer and involve more than you imagine. Clearly, important factors to take into account for a business strategy.

Another consideration is intensity of the various uses being undertaken. You probably know of a retail shop with a bar inside. Depending upon the intensity of the bars use, it could either be considered as incidental to the main use and not require planning permission or a mixed-use (sui generis) requiring planning permission. There is reams of case law around what constitutes an ‘incidental use’ and obtaining professional advice is always advisable.

Councils can also make an ‘Article 4 Direction’ to bring in restrictions across wide areas. A common Article 4 Direction in areas with high student populations is the removal of the permitted development rights that normally allow change of use from a residential property to a small house in multiple occupation for 4-6 people (HMO). This applies across Trafford, Manchester and parts of Salford.

It is also important to check for any property specific conditions. Permitted change of use, as well as other development normally allowed, may have been restricted under conditions attached to previous planning consents.

So, a final reminder, don’t forget about the town planning implications when proposing changes to the way your business operates. If you want to know more or have a specific query, I’d be happy to help you through the minefield. Please feel free to contact me on emma@acertownplanning.co.uk.

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