Change of use

Planning Permission

Generally, if it is proposed to change from one use class to another, you will need planning permission. Most external building work associated with a change of use is also likely to require planning permission. There are some exceptions that are covered in more detail below.

If you are proposing to change the use of buildings or land, we would always recommend that you seek advice from the local planning authority to confirm whether planning permission is required or not.

Additionally, before you lease or buy a property for your business, you should check whether you need to obtain planning permission for its intended use, and if so, your chances of getting it..

Changes of use not requiring planning permission

Changes within the same Use Class

Generally, planning permission is not needed when the existing and the proposed uses fall within the same 'use class'.

For example, a greengrocer’s shop could be changed to a shoe shop without the need for planning permission as these uses both fall within Use Class A1.

However, if building work is associated with the proposed change of use, planning permission may be required for that work.

Permitted development

Some changes from one use class to another are covered by 'permitted development' rights (meaning that planning permission is deemed to have been given).

For example, a restaurant (Use Class A3) could be changed to a shop (Use Class A1) without the need to make an application.

Some building work associated with changes of use is also covered by 'permitted development' rights.

However, to be eligible for any of these rights, the proposals must meet the specific limitations and conditions set by national legislation.

If your proposal meets the permitted development requirements but you still want proof that the development is lawful, you can apply for a lawful development certificate (LDC) for the proposed use. Find out more about Lawful Development Certificates.

The table below summarises the permanent changes of use covered by ‘permitted development’ based on the latest amendments to legislation, view full details below.

Please note: It presents a simplified overview of complex legislation and should be read as a guide only, and in conjunction with the additional information below it. Temporary changes of use are not included in the table.

From To
A1 (shops)
  • A2
  • A3 up to 150m2 and subject to Prior Approval 
  • B1(a) up to 500mand subject to Prior Approval
  • C3 up to 150mand subject to Prior Approval
  • D2 up to 200m2 and subject to Prior Approval and only if the premises was in A1 use on 5th December 2013
  • mixed use comprising an A1 or A2 use and up to two flats may also be permitted subject to meeting certain conditions
A2 (professional and financial services) 
  • A1
  • A3 up to 150m2 and subject to Prior Approval
  • B1(a) up to 500mand subject to Prior Approval
  • C3 up to 150mand subject to Prior Approval
  • D2 subject to Prior Approval and only if the premises was in A2 use on 5th December 2013 
  • mixed use comprising an A1 or A2 use and up to two flats may also be permitted subject to meeting certain conditions
A3 (restaurants and cafes) A1 or A2
A4 (drinking establishments) A4 (drinking establishment) with A3 (restaurants and cafes)
A4 (drinking establishment) with A3 (restaurants and cafes) A4 (drinking establishments)
A5 (hot food takeaways)
  • A1 or A2 or A3
  • B1(a) up to 500m2 and subject to Prior Approval
  • C3 up to 150m2 and subject to Prior Approval
B1(a) (business - offices)
  • B8 up to 500m2
  • C3 subject to Prior Approval
  • State-funded school or registered nursery subject to Prior Approval
B1(b) (business - research and development)
  • B8 up to 500m2
  • State-funded school or registered nursery subject to Prior Approval
B1(c) (business - light industrial)
  • B8 up to 500m2
  • C3 up to 500m2 and subject to Prior Approval
  • State-funded school or registered nursery subject to Prior Approval
B2 (general industrial)
  • B1
  • B8 up to 500m2
B8 (storage and distribution)
  • B1 up to 500m2
C1 (hotels) State-funded school or registered nursery subject to Prior Approval
C2 (residential institutions) / C2A (secure residential institutions) State-funded school or registered nursery subject to Prior Approval
C3 (dwellinghouses) C4 (small houses in multiple occupation)
C4 (small houses in multiple occupation) C3 (dwellinghouses)
D2 (assembly and leisure) State-funded school or registered nursery subject to Prior Approval
Sui generis (agricultural buildings) A1, A2, A3, B1, B8, C1, C3, D2State-funded school or registered nursery, all subject to meeting relevant criteria and Prior Approval. See notes below.
Sui generis (amusement arcade/centre) C3 up to 150m2 and subject to Prior Approval 
Sui generis (betting offices and pay day loan shops)
  • A1 
  • A2 
  • A3 up to 150mand subject to Prior Approval
  • B1(a) up to 500mand subject to Prior Approval
  • C3 up to 150m2 and subject to Prior Approval 
  • A mixed use comprising a betting office or a pay day loan shop, or an A1 or A2 use and up to two flats may also be permitted subject to meeting certain conditions.
  • D2 up to 200m2 and subject to Prior Approval
Sui generis (casinos)
  • A3 only if existing building is under 150m2 and subject to Prior Approval
  • C3 up to 150m2 and subject to Prior Approval.
  • D2
Sui Generis (launderette)
  • B1(a) up to 500mand subject to Prior Approval
  • C3 up to 150m2 and subject to Prior Approval 

Restrictions on permitted development 

The table above summarises the permanent changes of use covered by ‘permitted development’ but there are additional limitations and conditions that any such proposals will need to comply with to be eligible.

These will vary depending on the current/existing and proposed use of the land or building, and its location. Where proposals are not eligible, a planning application will usually be required.

The most common is where the land or buildings are designated or protected. For example, if the land may be in a Conservation Area or the proposals may affect a Listed Building. Each change of use covered by ‘permitted development’ will have a specific list of designations/protections where the rights do not apply. There may also be additional consents required such as Listed Building consent.

There are also often limits on the size of the proposed change of use (which may also need to account for any previous changes of use of the same type), these are summarised in the table above. Where the change of use creates houses, there may be limits on the size and type.

The change of use may also only be eligible for ‘permitted development’ based on the dates and time periods that the current/existing use took place.

If agricultural tenancies are (or have been) in place, then there are specific restrictions to ensure the tenants’ rights.

Removal of permitted development rights

Local authorities can remove permitted development rights in certain areas, meaning that you will require planning permission. Proposals should always be checked with the local authority before starting work.

Find out more about removal of permitted development rights.

Prior approval 

Some changes of use are subject to ‘Prior Approval’. This will require that an application is made to allow the local authority to assess the impacts and risks of the proposal.

You can apply for all types of prior approval online through the Planning Portal.

The impacts and risks to be assessed will vary depending on the current/existing and proposed use of the land or building, and its location. For example, these could include the design or external appearance, transport and highways impacts, or flooding risks.

All prior approval applications require a fee to be paid to the local planning authority, though there are exemptions for some specific circumstances.

Further information on permanent changes of use

Houses in multiple occupation

Larger houses in multiple occupation usually require a licence, find out more information and how to apply for a licence in the private renting section of Gov.uk.

Mixed uses 

Where a development comprises a ‘mixed use’ of retail uses classes, betting office / pay day loans shop sui generis uses then there are specific permitted development rights for changes of that mixed use. Proposals should always be checked with the local authority before starting work.

Mixed uses to residential

Where the proposal is a change of use from a mixed use to residential (Use Class C3), this is subject to limitations and conditions, including the need to apply for Prior Approval based on the:

  • transport and highways impacts
  • contamination and flooding risks
  • impact on the adequate provision of services and sustainability of the shopping area
  • design or external appearance of the building (where building operations are required)

See GPDO Schedule 2, Part 3, Class M (as amended).

Retail to restaurant/café

Shops (Use Class A1), Financial and Professional Services (Use Class A2), Betting Offices, Pay Day Loan Shops and Casinos (sui generis uses) are permitted to change up to 150m2 of floor space (including any previous changes under this right) to a restaurant/café (Use Class A3) use. This can also include specified building operations reasonably necessary for that use:

  • ventilation and extraction (including the provision of an external flue)
  • the storage of rubbish

This is subject to limitations and conditions, including the need to apply for Prior Approval based on the:

  • noise and odour impacts
  • impact of the storage and handling of waste
  • impact of the hours of opening
  • transport and highways impacts
  • impact on the adequate provision of services and sustainability of the shopping area
  • the design or external appearance of the building operations (where building operations are required)

See GPDO Schedule 2, Part 3, Class C (as amended).

Retail to assembly/leisure

Shops (Use Class A1), Financial and Professional Services (Use Class A2), Betting Offices and Pay Day Loan Shops (sui generis uses) are permitted to change up to 200m2 of floor space (including any previous changes under this right) to assembly and leisure (Use Class D2) use.

This is subject to limitations and conditions, including the need to apply for Prior Approval based on the:

  • noise impacts
  • impact of the hours of opening
  • transport and highways impacts
  • impact on the adequate provision of services and sustainability of the shopping area

See GPDO Schedule 2, Part 3, Class J (as amended).

Retail/takeaway to office

Shops (Use Class A1), Financial and Professional Services (Use Class A2), Takeaways (Use Class A5), Betting Offices, Pay Day Loan Shops and Launderettes (sui generis uses) are permitted to change up to 500m2 of floor space (including any previous changes under this right) to office (Use Class B1a) use.

This is subject to limitations and conditions, including the need to apply for Prior Approval based on the:

  • transport and highways impacts
  • impact on the adequate provision of services and sustainability of the shopping area
  • impacts of noise from commercial and retail premises on the intended occupiers of the development

See GPDO Schedule 2, Part 3, Class JA (inserted by amendment) (as amended).

Office to residential 

Offices (Use Class B1a) are permitted to change to residential (Use Class C3).

This is subject to limitations and conditions, including the need to apply for Prior Approval based on the:

  • transport and highways impacts
  • contamination and flooding risks
  • impacts of noise from commercial premises on the intended occupiers of the development

See GPDO Schedule 2, Part 3, Class O (as amended).

Light Industrial to residential 

Light Industrial buildings (not exceeding 500m2 floor space) are temporarily* permitted to change to residential (Use Class C3) use.

This is subject to limitations and conditions, including the need to apply for Prior Approval based on the:

  • transport and highways impacts
  • contamination and flooding risks
  • impact of the residential use on the sustainability of the area’s industrial services and/or storage and distribution services.

*This temporary right is time limited. The ‘prior approval date’ (the date that the developer successfully completes the prior approval process) must be before 1 October 2020.

See GPDO Schedule 2, Part 3, Class PA (inserted by amendment) (as amended).

Amusements/casinos to residential

Sui generis uses as amusement arcades/centres or casinos are permitted to change up to 150m2 of floor space (including any previous changes under this right) to a residential (Use Class C3) use. This can also include specified building operations reasonably necessary for the conversion to function as a dwellinghouse:

  • the installation or replacement of:
    • windows, doors, roofs, or exterior walls, or
    • water, drainage, electricity, gas or other services
  • partial demolition to the extent reasonably necessary to carry out building operations

This is subject to limitations and conditions, including the need to apply for Prior Approval based on the:

  • transport and highways impacts
  • contamination and flooding risks
  • the design or external appearance of the building (where building operations are required)

See GPDO Schedule 2, Part 3, Class N (as amended).

Agricultural buildings to residential

Agricultural buildings are permitted to change to a residential (Use Class C3) use. This can also include specified building operations reasonably necessary for the conversion to function as a dwellinghouse:

  • the installation or replacement of:
    • windows, doors, roofs, or exterior walls, or
    • water, drainage, electricity, gas or other services
  • partial demolition to the extent reasonably necessary to carry out building operations

This is subject to meeting certain limitations and conditions, including:

  • Creation of no more than five separate dwellinghouses (including any previously created under this right)
  • Up to three of the five can be ‘larger dwellinghouses’ (floor space of 100-465m2).
  • ‘Larger dwellinghouses’ can total no more than 465m2 of floor space (including any previously created under this right) and no single dwellinghouse can exceed 465m2.

This also includes the need to apply for Prior Approval based on the:

  • transport and highways impacts
  • noise impacts
  • contamination and flooding risks
  • location or siting of the building
  • the design or external appearance of the building (where building operations are required)

See GPDO Schedule 2, Part 3, Class Q (as amended).

Agricultural buildings to flexible commercial use

Agricultural buildings are permitted to change up to 500m2 (including any previous changes under this right) of floor space to a flexible commercial use, comprising A1, A2, A3, B1, B8, C1 or D2 uses.

This is subject to limitations and conditions, including (where the cumulative floor space of the change of use exceeds 150m2, including any previous changes under this right) the need to apply for Prior Approval based on the:

  • transport and highways impacts
  • noise impacts
  • contamination and flooding risks

See GPDO Schedule 2, Part 3, Class R (as amended).

State funded schools and registered nurseries

Agricultural buildings

Agricultural buildings (including land within its curtilage) are permitted to change up to 500m2 (including any previous changes under this right) to use as a state funded school or a registered nursery.

This is subject to limitations and conditions, including the need to apply for Prior Approval based on the:

  • transport and highways impacts
  • noise impacts
  • contamination and flooding risks
  • location or siting of the building

See GPDO Schedule 2, Part 3, Class S (as amended).

Other buildings and land

Buildings and land within B1, C1, C2, C2A and D2 uses are permitted to change to use as a state funded school or registered nursery.

This is subject to limitations and conditions, including the need to apply for Prior Approval based on the:

  • transport and highways impacts
  • noise impacts
  • contamination risks

See GPDO Schedule 2, Part 3, Class T (as amended).

There is also provision for a temporary change of use to a state funded school as detailed in the section below:

Temporary changes of use

State funded schools

Buildings or land, subject to limitations and conditions, can but used as a state funded school for up to two academic years if its current use is within a specified use class (other than A4 drinking establishments, including those with expanded food provision) and if it returns to its previous use when no longer required, or at the end of the second academic year.

See GDPO Schedule 2, Part 4, Class C (as amended).

Previously vacant commercial land

Vacant commercial land can but used as a state funded school for up to three academic years.

This is subject to limitations and conditions, including the need to apply for Prior Approval based on the:

  • transport and highways impacts
  • noise impacts
  • contamination and flooding risks
  • siting and design of the development

See GDPO Schedule 2, Part 4, Class CA (inserted by amendment) (as amended).

Temporary flexible use

Buildings (including land within its curtilage) with A1, A2, A3, A5, B1, D1, D2 or betting office or pay day loan shop (sui generis) uses are permitted to change use for a single continuous period of up three years to A1, A2, A3, B1 and D1 (a,d,e,f or g) uses.

See GPDO Schedule 2, Part 4 Class D (as amended).

Temporary use for commercial film making

Buildings or land are permitted to be used for commercial film making for a up to 9 months in any 27-month period. This includes provision of temporary structures, works, plant or machinery required for that use.

This is subject to limitations and conditions, including the need to apply for Prior Approval based on the:

  • dates of the filming periods and hours of operation
  • transport and highways impacts
  • noise and light impacts
  • flooding risks
  • siting and design of the development

See GDPO Schedule 2, Part 4, Class E (as amended).

Temporary use for the provision of takeaway food

Between 24 March 2020 and 23 March 2021, restaurants and cafes (Use Class A3) and drinking establishments, including those with expanded food provision (Use Class A4) can change to a use for the provision of takeaway food (Use Class A5 and/or any use for the provision of hot or cold food that has been prepared for consumers for collection or delivery to be consumed, reheated or cooked by consumers off the premises).

This is subject to the local authority being notified of the change of use, and the use reverting back to the original one at the end of the time period above, or earlier if the provision of takeaway food ceases.

See GPDO Schedule 2, Part 4, Class DA (inserted by amendment) (as amended).

Emergency development by a local authority or health service body

Until 31 December 2020, on land owned, leased, occupied or maintained by a local authority or health service body, change of use can occur for the purposes of:

  • preventing an emergency;
  • reducing, controlling or mitigating the effects of an emergency; or
  • taking other action in connection with an emergency.

This is subject to limitations, conditions and the local authority (if they are not the developer) being notified of the change of use.

The use must cease on or before 31 December 2020, and the land must be restored within 12 months.

See GDPO Schedule 2, Part 12A, Class A (inserted by amendment) (as amended).

Permitted development legislation

The following links provide the detailed legislation.

Main legislation

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (as amended).

Explanatory memorandum (PDF).

Amending legislation

Please note, this lists the amendments relevant to the information on this page, you can also view a full list of changes made.