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Review of the Planning Use Classes Order

Posted on 30th October, 2015

Under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, planning permission is required for the carrying out on land of any development.  Development is defined as the “carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under the land or the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land”.

Therefore, there is a basic requirement to obtain planning permission if there is a material change of use of any buildings or land.  This basic requirement is modified by the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (UCO 1987) which excludes certain material changes of use from the definition of development.

The UCO 1987 specifies 15 different classes such as class A1 (shops) and class A2 (financial and professional services).  A change of use within the same use class does not constitute development and therefore does not require planning permission. For example, planning permission is not required for a change of use from a post office to a hairdresser as both uses fall within class A1 (shops). However, alterations to the premises to facilitate the change of use may require planning permission.

The commercial (non-residential) use classes include:

Class Uses include Comments
Class A1 (shops) Retail sale of goods other than hot food; post office; travel agency; sale of sandwiches or other cold food for consumption off the premises; hairdresser; funeral director; display of goods for sale. The sale, display or services must be provided to visiting members of the public
Class A2 (financial and professional services) Financial services; professional services (other than health services); any other services appropriate in a shopping area. The services must be provided principally to visiting members of the public.  Examples include: banks; building Societies; estate agencies.
Class A3 (restaurants and cafés)  


Class A4 (drinking establishments) Public house; wine bar; other drinking establishment.  
Class A5 (hot foot takeaways) Sale of hot food for consumption off the premises The primary purpose must be for the sale of hot food off the premises.
Class B1 (business) Office other than a use falling within Class A2 ; research and development; industrial process. The use must be capable of being carried out in a residential area without detriment to the amenity of the area due to noise, vibration, etc.
Class B2 (general industrial) Industrial processes that do not fall within Use Class B1  
Class B8 (storage or distribution) Storage or distribution centre The class is defined by the character of use of the land, not the appearance or description of a building.
Class C1 (hotels, boarding and guest houses)    
Class C2 (residential institutions) Care home; hospital or nursing home; residential school, college or training centre.  
Class D2 (assembly and leisure) Cinema; concert hall; bingo hall; dance hall; swimming bath; skating rink; gymnasium.  

Sui generis uses

Uses that are not specified in the UCO 1987 are often referred to as sui generis ( The UCO 1987 provides a non-exhaustive list of sui generis uses.  Examples are:

  • Theatres;
  • Amusement arcades, centres or funfairs;
  • Launderettes;
  • Land or property for the sale of fuel for motor vehicles;
  • Land or property for the sale or display for sale of motor vehicles;
  • Taxi or vehicle hire businesses;
  • Nightclubs.

Generally, sui generis uses cannot be changed to any other use (including any other sui generis use) without express planning permission.

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