Change Of Use Classes On Commercial Property

Jun 7 2019

Darren Best

Under the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order of 1987, uses of land and buildings were grouped into various categories, known as “use classes”. Before you begin looking for commercial properties for your business, you will have conducted your own research on several factors, such as location, use classes and price.

It is common for those purchasing commercial property – particularly a D1 property (now referred to as use class F1, as well as some elements of use class E - read more about the new use class changes here) – to believe that changing the use of their commercial property will be easy. Unfortunately, this is not always the case as the change of use from F1/D1 to residential or any other use is often restricted. Therefore, it is always advisable to ensure that you understand whether a property has a restricted use class before making a purchase. Many people who fail to complete research are often faced with a property investment that they are unable to use.

This essentially means that some buildings are built for certain purposes only and the change of use class is prohibited. For instance, some properties may only be suitable for a hospital or medical practice, or there may be a clause in your contract that prevents using the property as a public hall.

There will also be planning restrictions if your property is a listed building, too close to residential housing, or if you are in a ‘designated area’ such as:

  • a conservation area
  • a National Park
  • an area of outstanding natural beauty

If you are still unsure, it is worth hiring a specialist for advice.

The change of use class on F1/D1 properties

F1/D1 use class, in particular, is classified as community use, and is usually afforded a “protected” status. This means that you are unable to change the use of the property without a full planning application being made, which is often a difficult and lengthy process.

It is worth bearing in mind that F1/D1 properties are considerably harder to convert than any other type of commercial property, as they have a protected status as community use spaces and most local authorities require the applicant to demonstrate that the property has been fully marketed for at least 12 months without the owners receiving any acceptable offers.

However, some exceptions to this are:

  1. When the applicant can demonstrate that the property is not fit for purpose – for instance, it does not comply with regulations for disabled access or fire escapes
  2. When the cost to reinstate the building would outweigh the return on investment (ROI)
  3. When the applicant can demonstrate that even if the property was to be marketed, there would be little chance of being able to secure a new occupier. (For example, a doctor’s surgery or school closing due to a lack of patients or pupils.)

The expert team at Savoy Stewart can provide any advice and assistance when marketing different commercial property types; do get in touch if you need any help with your F1/D1 property. We can also provide independent reports, to be submitted as part of a F1/D1 planning application, to explain the marketing efforts that have been carried out on behalf of the client.

Photo credit: Tony Baggett / Shutterstock 

The same rules apply to most commercial properties, although there are exceptions where the legislation does allow some changes between uses. For example, A3 uses can change to A1 uses without the need for planning permission. However, if you are proposing to change the use of a premises or land, you should always seek guidance from the local planning authority to confirm whether planning permission is required.

Please bear in mind that making any change to use classes is not a quick amendment with a fast turnaround – it can be a lengthy and expensive process. It is crucial to ensure you know what you are getting yourself into before going ahead with purchasing any commercial building if you are planning to change the use of the property.


Please note that this is a guide only and local planning authorities will determine each application on a case by case basis.


Feature image credit: Tony Baggett / Shutterstock 



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