Planning Direct Planning Direct

Change of Use

Planning Direct has a wealth of experience in securing straightforward and complex Change of Use Planning Permissions. With decades of experience and a strong team of experts on board Planning Direct will quickly assess what you need to do to get the right use class for your site or building. 

How do I get a Change of Use?

Applying for Planning Permission for a Change of Use is relatively straightforward and mostly simpler than making a new building application. It can, however, be problematic, (particularly where a premises has a current commercial or agricultural use class). Getting it right first time will save a lot of money and time.

Prior Approval

Sometimes Change of Use can be dealt with through a prior approval process rather than a Planning Application. This process is used when (in theory) a Change of Use is permitted but the council needs to confirm this and other associated details. Planning Direct has considerable experience with this and can get you permission quickly. Local authorities can (through an Article 4 Direction) require Planning Permission in certain areas regardless of Permitted Development rights.

When might I be enforced against?

Your Local Planning Authority (LPA) monitors the implementation of Planning Permission, investigating cases of unauthorised development and taking necessary action. If you breach planning control regarding the use of your property, your LPA may choose to enforce against you. You may have inadvertently not gained planning permission, or a change in circumstance may mean that you no longer comply with the existing permission, either way, it is not uncommon for this to occur.

What are the time limits for the council to enforce against me?

In many cases, development is protected from enforcement if no action is taken by your LPA. This means if you have changed the use of your property without seeking permission you may still be protected. This protection is time sensitive with two deadlines, classified as follows

The change of use four year rule

Incidences where the four year rule prevents you from being enforced against include

  • If your whole building, or part of your building has been used as a single residential dwelling for over four years
  • If you built a structure to use for a particular purpose in excess of four years prior to the enforcement (for example you built a garage to be used as an office to run a business)

The change of use ten year rule 

The ten year rule applies if

  • The current land or building use has been upheld for over 10 years, for example – letting out a property as House of Multiple Occupancy, HMO (C4 Use Class), rather than a residential dwelling (C3)
  • A limitation on planning permission or a relevant planning condition has not been complied with for over ten years.

Read more on Enforcement and the Change of Use Four Year rule | Change of Use ten year rule here

What is a ‘Use Class’

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) puts uses of land and buildings into various categories known as ‘Use Classes’.

Normally you will need Planning Permission to change from one use class to another. This is in order to control the use of buildings to ensure that sufficient buildings (to accommodate housing and employment, for example) are available and that these uses do not clash. Housing, for example, is normally not put within an industrial estate for obvious reasons.

There are many different use classes and permitted changes. Here are some of the most used class types.

  • A1 Shops
  • A2 Financial and professional services
  • A3 Restaurants and cafés
  • A4 Drinking establishments
  • A5 Hot food takeaways
  • B1 Business
  • B2 General industrial
  • B8 Storage or distribution
  • B8 Storage or distribution
  • C1 Hotels
  • C2 Residential institutions
  • C2A Secure Residential Institution
  • C3 Dwellinghouses
  • C4 Houses in multiple occupation
  • D1 Non-residential institutions


In September 2020 the Government introduced changes to the planning system enabling premises to move freely between various ‘Town Centre’ uses.  You may discover that there will be no need to apply for planning permission if you want to change your town centre premises from one use class to another. Click here to read more.

Click here for a full breakdown of each category

Common Changes of Use

A1 (Shop) to A3 (Restaurant)

This common Change of Use is permitted on a temporary basis for up to two years. Many clients however, choose to secure a permanent permission via a Change of Use Prior Approval before investing in the premises. This is relatively straightforward and need not be costly.

A1 (Shop) to A5 (Hot Food Take-way)

Hot Food Take-aways are considered by many local authorities to be a cause of traffic and anti-social behaviour. Some councils have policies preventing the spread of takeaways on health grounds. Hot Food Take-aways require planning permission for Change of Use from shops. These applications can be problematic and it is always important to get in touch with a Planning Consultant as early as possible to check whether your business will be allowed in the premises you have identified. Often clients will, at our suggestion and through Planning Direct, make a Change of Use Planning Application before signing a long lease. It can save £1,000s.

B1 / B8 (Business / Storage) to C3 (Dwellinghouse)

Since 2013 the conversion of B1/B8 commercial premises to a dwelling house is considered to be a permitted right. It does not therefore require a Change of Use Planning Application.

There are some exceptions but the B1 / B8 to C3 change of use can be obtained via a Prior Notification Application.

Agricultural building to C3 (Dwellinghouse) The Barn Conversion

Barn Conversions are permitted development. However, local authorities are generally very resistant to barn conversions. Read more from planning direct on barn conversions here:

Please note that this is a guide only. It is for local planning authorities to determine, in the first instance (depending on the individual circumstances of each case) which use class a particular use falls into, and therefore what is a permitted change.

If you are thinking about negotiating a lease or buying a property for your business, check whether you need to obtain planning permission for your intended use, and, if so, your chances of getting it.

Contact us now about your planning problem and we’ll give initial advice completely free of charge (if you already own or lease the property):

What our clients say about us:

Change of Use from B1 to D1

“Ipswich Vineyard Church is very grateful for all the help we have received from Andrew Cann at Planning Direct with our successful planning application for the change of use of a business premises to a place of worship here in Ipswich.

Andrew has shown both patience and perseverance; patience with us as a church and perseverance with the application process over the past six months.

Without the professionalism and unremitting optimism of Andrew we would not have succeeded in realising our plans and dream of having a home for our church for the next step in our growth and development.”

Paul Finn, Pastor, Ipswich Vineyard Church.

Change of Use from holiday let to residential:

“We are delighted with the services provided by Planning Direct. We were looking for support on a controversial change of use application; to identify the appropriate people to speak with in the Planning Department and at the District and Parish Council and to ensure the application addressed the appropriate planning issues. Claire guided us very effectively though the submission process, followed up with the planners promptly and was invaluable in helping us to understand what we needed to do to address the questions we received. We were delighted to have our application approved in full at the Planning Committee Meeting.” Sarah Evans, Focus Cross.

What Our Clients Say About Us

  • “Wonderful news. Thank you for your incredible support and professional assistance”.

    You should consider using a Planning Consultancy to apply for Change of Use. There are a number of angles which we can adopt in order to put forward a succinct and thorough proposal to your local council in support if your application.

    Read how we won this case here

    Contact us to discuss your case on 01473 407911.

    Planning Direct wins another Change of Use Planning Application in London

  • “Amazing service, contact was kept throughout… always very helpful. All my questions were answered straight away… Absolutely I would recommend Planning Direct without a doubt”

    If you need to apply for retrospective Planning Permission, or indeed you need to appeal a decision Planning Direct can help you.

    Here’s how we helped this client – read more here

    Planning Direct wins retrospective planning appeal – “Amazing Service” says happy client

  • “I just want to thank your firm for the change of use you got us in Rush Green. Jamie has pulled it out the bag and sent us that good news today, he is so patient he just kept chewing at them until they said yes”.   

    If you have a  piece of land which you think could be developed Planning Direct could help you obtain the planning permission to realise its’ potential.

    Click here to read how we won this case.

    Is there room for a house in your garden?

  • “Andrew and Nikki worked hard and efficiently on our change of use application with a positive outcome and I believe this was all down to their expertise and experience, we would recommend them to anyone and would not hesitate to use them again in the future. Great work”.

    Are you looking to expand your business? Have you considered purchasing a neighbouring property and extending into it? Planning Direct can help you obtain Planning Permission for Change of Use.

    Read the full article here

    Suffolk business now able to expand thanks to Planning Direct

  • Thank you so much for your help with this – best investment I’ve made so far in engaging you – I thought your document to the Planning Inspectorate was first class and worth every penny.

    When our Planning Application was refused for the second time we felt the reasons for refusal were weak. We asked Planning Direct whether we had good grounds for appeal. Ben was extremely positive about the points of our case, he reviewed all of the documentation we provided him and also used his own extensive knowledge of other appeals and associated decisions.

    The result was an outstanding 15-page document that clearly set out the reasons for the Councils refusal along with the positive counter-arguments and references to precedent cases for presentation to the Planning Inspectorate.

    The end result…. our appeal was upheld and permission was granted. We would not be in this position without Ben’s fantastic attention to detail and his way with words in presenting the case.

    Mr K Swinburne, New Build Family Home

  • I just wanted to express my extreme gratitude to you for your help with our recent planning application to extend our home.

    From our first call, I was impressed with the way your handled our case and it was evident from the word go that you knew exactly what was needed to get our application granted.

    I especially appreciate your prompt and efficient service, considering the tight deadline that I gave you.

    I am sure that without the work that you did to support our original application and in response to the councils request to alter our application, we would not have been granted the planning permission for the size of extension that we wanted and would have had to settle for a smaller space that would not have worked for my family.

    Once again, thanks for your winning service.

    Tanvir Choudhury, Home Extension

  • With my sincere thanks to you Andrew for everything you done! No doubt I’ll be in touch again when this goes to committee. Best wishes, Leigh

    Leigh-Jane Miller, Gallions Point Harbour Ltd

  • Andrew worked tirelessly on documenting our objection statement and writing our respective three minute presentations for the Development Control Committee. Our sincere thanks go to Andrew Cann for his diligence, guidance, attention to detail and highly professional approach in helping Bardwell and Stanton Parish Councils with this planning application.

    Andrew Smith on behalf of Bardwell and Stanton Parish Councils

  • I want to place on record my thanks to you for all you have done to advise and assist Pakefield Opposing Tesco in our campaign to stop Tesco taking over the Tramway Hotel in Pakefield, Lowestoft.
    The reports you produced were professional, well researched and very knowledgeable about the processes and operations of local authority planning departments and development control committees.
    Your work made a major contribution to our campaign which has so far successfully prevented a much loved local building and community facility becoming just another retail store that the local community doesn’t want or need.
    Thank you for your work.
    Best wishes
    Bob Blizzard

    Bob Blizzard – Chair, Pakefield Opposing Tesco

  • I worked with Andrew when the Crossrail Bill, which at the time would have had a severe effect on rail freight, was being considered by the House of Lords. He is a canny operator (pun intended) and was quick to grasp the case and how best to present it to peers who were intelligent but ignorant of the facts. I would recommend him for a project management or strategic role in the ports or freight sector or in an equivalent industry.

    Angus Walker Partner / Head of Department at Bircham Dyson Bell



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