Change of use

Planning Permission

Changes of use not requiring planning permission

Planning permission is not needed when the existing and the proposed uses fall within the same 'use class', or if The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (as amended) (GPDO) says that a change of use is permitted to another specified 'use class'.

For example, a greengrocer’s shop could be changed to a shoe shop without the need for planning permission as these uses fall within the same 'use class', and a restaurant could be changed to a shop or a estate agency as the GPDO allows this type of change to occur without requiring planning permission.

Whilst a change of use might not need permission, any external building work associated with a change of use may still require planning permission.

The table below summarises the permitted changes of use following the latest updates to legislation which came into force on 23 May 2017 (see links below). The table simplifies the complex legislation and should be read as a guide only, and in conjunction with the additional comments and restrictions below.

From To
A1 (shops)
  • A2
  • A3 up to 150m2 and 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 2 flats may also be permitted subject to meeting certain conditions
  • C3 up to 150m2 and subject to Prior Approval.
A2 (professional and financial services) when premises have a display window at ground level, but excluding betting offices or pay day loan shops
  • A1
  • A3 up to 150m2 and 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 2 flats may also be permitted subject to meeting certain conditions
  • C3 up to 150m2 and subject to Prior Approval,.
A3 (restaurants and cafes) A1 or A2
A4 (drinking establishments) AA
A5 (hot food takeaways) A1 or A2 or A3
AA (drinking estalishment with expanded food provision) A4
B1 (business) Up to 500m2 B8.
B2 (general industrial) B1
B2 (general industrial) Up to 500m2 B8
B8 (storage and distribution) Up to 500m2 B1
C3 (dwellinghouses) C4 (small houses in multiple occupation)
C4 (small houses in multiple occupation) C3 (dwellinghouses)
Sui Generis (casinos and amusement arcades/centres)
  • D2
  • A3 only if existing building is under 150m2 and subject to Prior Approval
  • C3 up to 150m2 and subject to Prior Approval.
Sui Generis (betting offices and pay day loan shops)
  • A1 
  • A2 
  • 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 2 flats may also be permitted subject to meeting certain conditions.
Sui Generis (agricultural buildings)

A1, A2, A3, B1, B8, C1, C3, D2, all subject to meeting relevant criteria and Prior Approval. See notes below.

Other restrictions 

The table provides a summary for the most common changes of use that apply in most circumstances, but there may also be further restrictions that do not allow you to implement the change of use. For example, if the property is within a Conservation Area, National Park, or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or if the building is a Listed Building or Scheduled Monument, within a site of special scientific interest, safety hazard area, or military explosives area.

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.

Local planning authorities can also remove permitted development rights in certain areas, meaning that you will require planning permission, so you should always check with your local council before you consider undertaking any works.

Some changes of use are also permitted, either only on a temporary basis, and/or subject to additional restrictions.

Prior approval 

Some changes of use are subject to a prior approval procedure with the local planning authority. This seeks approval of various matters, dependent on the nature of the use, but might typically include matters relating to parking and highways, flooding, and contaminated land. In the case of A3 uses, prior approval is required in respect of matters relating to noise, odour, waste collection, impact of the hours of opening, transport and highways impact, impact on existing shopping provision, the design of any external changes and a statement specifying the net increase in dwellinghouses proposed by the development.

All prior approval applications require a fee to be paid to the local planning authority.

Community assets 

There are some restrictions on the change of use of public houses (A4) where they have been designated or could be nominated as a “community asset”. If a public house has already been defined by the council as a community asset then there are no permitted development rights, and a planning application is required for any change of use or demolition. If the building is not a community asset, developers are required to give notice to the local planning authority at least 56 days in advance of the commencement of any works. If community groups are then interested in buying the property to retain it as a community asset, then permitted development rights are temporarily removed, and the community group must be given the opportunity to purchase the property. See Assets of Community Value (England) Regulations 2012.

Mixed use 

Where a development comprises a “mixed use” in the retail uses classes and betting office / pay day loans shop category then there are also some permitted development rights for changes of use of that mixed use, similar to the presiding use identified in the table above. Check with your local planning authority (See GPDO Schedule 2, Part 3, Class M).

Office to Residential 

Temporary permitted development rights currently apply in respect of the change of use of premises from a B1(a) office use to C3 residential use. This is subject to Prior Approval being sought in respect of flooding, contamination, highways and transport issues and impacts of noise from commercial premises on the intended occupiers of the development. For a property to benefit from C3 use, the use must begin by 30th May 2016 (See GPDO Schedule 2, Part 3, Class O) or for developments assessed against the post-6th April 2016 amendments (see SI 332 amendments in relation to change of use of offices to dwellinghouses), development must be completed within three years starting with the prior approval date.

Storage / Distribution to Residential 

Temporary permitted development rights also apply in respect of the change of use of premises from a B8 storage and distribution use under 500m2 to C3 residential use. This is subject to a number of criteria being met and subject to Prior Approval being sought in respect of air quality, transport and highways impacts, contamination risks, flooding risks, noise impact, and impact on the sustainability of adjoining uses. For a property to benefit from C3 use, the use must begin by 15th April 2018 (See GPDO Schedule 2, Part 3, Class P).

Temporary change of use 

Buildings with A1, A2, A3, A5, B1, D1 and D2 uses are permitted to change use for a single period of up two years to A1, A2, A3 and B1 uses. (See GPDO Schedule 2, Part 4 Class D)

Agricultural buildings 

Agricultural buildings under 450m2 are permitted to change to C3 use (dwellinghouses), together with some building operations necessary to facilitate the conversion. This is subject to meeting certain criteria, including no more than 3 dwellings within an agricultural unit.

It is also subject to Prior Approval being sought in respect of transport and highways impacts, noise impact, contamination risks, flooding risks, whether the building is suitable for a residential use, and the design or external appearance of the building (See GPDO Schedule 2, Part 3, Class Q).

Agricultural buildings under 500m2 are permitted to change to a flexible commercial use, comprising A1, A2, A3, B1, B8, C1 or D2 uses. This is subject to meeting certain criteria, and Prior Approval being sought in relation to uses over 150m2 in respect of transport and highways impacts, noise impact, contamination risks and flooding risks (See GPDO Schedule 2, Part 3, Class R).

Agricultural buildings within land under 500m2 are permitted to change to a state funded school or a registered nursery. This is subject to meeting certain criteria, and Prior Approval being sought in respect of transport and highways impacts, noise impact, contamination risks, flooding risks and whether the building is suitable for the proposed use (See GPDO Schedule 2, Part 3, Class S).

Light industrial to dwellinghouses

This change of use is set out in Class PA, introduced by The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) Order 2016.

It allows a change of use from B1(c) (light industrial) to C3 (dwellinghouses) subject to limitations and conditions including the prior approval of the local planning authority in respect of certain matters.

It is only applicable to applications received on or after 1 October 2017, for which prior approval is granted before 1 October 2020. Development must then be completed within 3 years of the prior approval date.

State funded schools and registered nurseries

Buildings and land within B1, C1, C2, C2A and D2 uses are permitted to change to a state funded school or registered nursery. This is subject to meeting certain criteria, and Prior Approval being sought in respect of transport and highways impacts, noise impact, and contamination risks (See GPDO Schedule 2, Part 3, Class T).

The following links provide the detailed legislation:

Changes of use requiring a planning application

Other than for the permitted changes of use listed above and changes where both uses fall within the same 'use class', planning permission is generally required for a material change of use.

Most external building work associated with a change of use is also likely to require planning permission, although the The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 does also allow some minor external changes.