Why can’t I start a cafe in my back garden? or a cinema in an outbuilding?

What is the difference between my home and my gym?

Well it all comes down to Use Class, what function that the space or building currently fulfil.

Use classes are categorised via the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) legislation.

Whilst this is a legal concept it, the different Use Classes are an important part in achieving harmony in our neighbourhoods.

Otherwise eveyone will essentially do whatever they wished and whilst this sounds great in theory, it can only bring chaos.

Just imagine you wanted to start a relaxing spa business in your garden, but your next door neighbour decided to open a night club and a restaurant.

These seem like extreme cases but what about a next door neighbour who looked after a couple of children but due to incredible success needed to expand and decided to run a larger nursery right in her back garden?

The noise, the traffic and the intensive use of what is usually a quiet residential street will be enough to make the new pensioner couple wish to move home.

The Use Classes split the different uses of buildings and allow Local Planning Authorities to decide what should go where. For example in quiet residential roads, you will get private houses and flats, whilst on busy noisy roads you can businesses who will most benefit from high foot traffic.

So let’s get into it and understand the different Classes:

Class A – “The Highstreet”

Currently class A is split into 5 subcategories but essentially all fall into the same group – those businesses that thrive on the highstreet. They are characterised by needing a strong physical interaction with consumers who can drive by, park and pop in.

  • A1 – Shops – A1 starts us off with all shops, i.e those that purely sell goods and services physically. Some example will include Supermarkets, Clothing Stores, Dry Cleaners, Hairdressers and even your local post office.
  • A2 – Professional services – What if you can’t buy a physical product or service? That is where A2 comes in. Some examples of this class include Banks and Estate Agents and if you are lucky even a nice Architecture Practice.
  • A3 – Eat and Drink – Finally, I was getting peckish , A3 is establishment where the relationship between buyer and seller gets a bit closer. In A3 you can sit down (not accounting for Covid) with the purpose of having food or drink so the most prominent examples here are Restaurants and Cafes.
  • A4 – Drinking – Restaurants have the key function of providing food, whilst Cafes provide primarily hot beverages. Both target the earlier parts of the day and evening but what about the later parts of the evenings or nights. A4 includes Pubs, Bars and other businesses primarily providing Alcoholic drinks.
  • A5 – The Takeaway – And sometimes a business will wish to sell food but will not be able or wish to allow visitors to stay. This is A5 providing for takeaway selling hot foods to be eaten outside the store.

Class B – It’s Business Time

Guess what, as the letter suggests B is all about Business. That is spaces to be used for the purpose of allowing business to function.

  • B1 Business – B is essentially split into 3 sub-sub categories – (a) being Offices, (b) being R&D for products or services and (c) for Industrial processes.  The idea here is that this category should be able to exist within a Residential area because its noise levels, disturbance, and impact to neighbouring amenity will be so low that they will essentially not cause impact/detriment.
  • B2 industrial – Use for industrial process other than one falling within class E(g) (previously class B1) (excluding incineration purposes, chemical treatment or landfill or hazardous waste)
  • B8 Storage  – This class includes open air storage.


Class C – Living

Class C is not affected by the 1 September 2020 changes.

  • C1 Hotels – Hotels, boarding and guest houses where no significant element of care is provided (excludes hostels)
  • C2 Residential institutions – Residential care homes, hospitals, nursing homes, boarding schools, residential colleges and training centres
  • C2A Secure Residential Institution – Use for a provision of secure residential accommodation, including use as a prison, young offenders institution, detention centre, secure training centre, custody centre, short term holding centre, secure hospital, secure local authority accommodation or use as a military barracks
  • C3 Dwellinghouses – This class is formed of three parts
    • C3(a) covers use by a single person or a family (a couple whether married or not, a person related to one another with members of the family of one of the couple to be treated as members of the family of the other), an employer and certain domestic employees (such as an au pair, nanny, nurse, governess, servant, chauffeur, gardener, secretary and personal assistant), a carer and the person receiving the care and a foster parent and foster child
    • C3(b) covers up to six people living together as a single household and receiving care e.g. supported housing schemes such as those for people with learning disabilities or mental health problems
    • C3(c) allows for groups of people (up to six) living together as a single household. This allows for those groupings that do not fall within the C4 HMO definition, but which fell within the previous C3 use class, to be provided for i.e. a small religious community may fall into this section as could a homeowner who is living with a lodger
  • C4 Houses in multiple occupation – Small shared houses occupied by between three and six unrelated individuals, as their only or main residence, who share basic amenities such as a kitchen or bathroom.

Class D

Class D is revoked from 1 September 2020.

  • D1 is split out and replaced by the new Classes E(e-f) and F1
  • D2 is split out and replaced by the new Classes E(d) and F2(c-d) as well as several newly defined ‘Sui Generis’ uses.

It is included here for reference and use in specific situations where it remains valid (as detailed above).

  • D1 Non-residential institutions – Clinics, health centres, crèches, day nurseries, day centres, schools, art galleries (other than for sale or hire), museums, libraries, halls, places of worship, church halls, law court. Non-residential education and training centres
  • D2 Assembly and leisure – Cinemas, music and concert halls, bingo and dance halls (but not night clubs), swimming baths, skating rinks, gymnasiums or area for indoor or outdoor sports and recreations (except for motor sports, or where firearms are used).

Class E – Commercial

Class E is introduced from 1 September 2020.

In 11 parts, Class E more broadly covers uses previously defined in the revoked Classes A1/2/3, B1, D1(a-b) and ‘indoor sport’ from D2(e):

  • E(a) Display or retail sale of goods, other than hot food
  • E(b) Sale of food and drink for consumption (mostly) on the premises
  • E(c) Provision of:
    • E(c)(i) Financial services,
    • E(c)(ii) Professional services (other than health or medical services), or
    • E(c)(iii) Other appropriate services in a commercial, business or service locality
  • E(d) Indoor sport, recreation or fitness (not involving motorised vehicles or firearms)
  • E(e) Provision of medical or health services (except the use of premises attached to the residence of the consultant or practitioner)
  • E(f) Creche, day nursery or day centre (not including a residential use)
  • E(g) Uses which can be carried out in a residential area without detriment to its amenity:
    • E(g)(i) Offices to carry out any operational or administrative functions,
    • E(g)(ii) Research and development of products or processes
    • E(g)(iii) Industrial processes

Class F – Community

Class F is introduced from 1 September 2020.

In two main parts, Class F covers uses previously defined in the revoked classes D1, ‘outdoor sport’, ‘swimming pools’ and ‘skating rinks’ from D2(e), as well as newly defined local community uses.

  • F1 Learning and non-residential institutions – Use (not including residential use) defined in 7 parts:
    • F1(a) Provision of education
    • F1(b) Display of works of art (otherwise than for sale or hire)
    • F1(c) Museums
    • F1(d) Public libraries or public reading rooms
    • F1(e) Public halls or exhibition halls
    • F1(f) Public worship or religious instruction (or in connection with such use)
    • F1(g) Law courts
  • F2 Local community – Use as defined in 4 parts:
    • F2(a) Shops (mostly) selling essential goods, including food, where the shop’s premises do not exceed 280 square metres and there is no other such facility within 1000 metres
    • F2(b) Halls or meeting places for the principal use of the local community
    • F2(c) Areas or places for outdoor sport or recreation (not involving motorised vehicles or firearms)
    • F2(d) Indoor or outdoor swimming pools or skating rinks

Sui Generis – Everything Else…

‘Sui generis’ is a Latin term that, in this context, means ‘in a class of its own’.

Certain uses are specifically defined and excluded from classification by legislation, and therefore become ‘sui generis’. These are:

  • theatres
  • amusement arcades/centres or funfairs
  • launderettes
  • fuel stations
  • hiring, selling and/or displaying motor vehicles
  • taxi businesses
  • scrap yards, or a yard for the storage/distribution of minerals and/or the breaking of motor vehicles
  • ‘Alkali work’ (any work registerable under the Alkali, etc. Works Regulation Act 1906 (as amended))
  • hostels (providing no significant element of care)
  • waste disposal installations for the incineration, chemical treatment or landfill of hazardous waste
  • retail warehouse clubs
  • nightclubs
  • casinos
  • betting offices/shops
  • pay day loan shops
  • public houses, wine bars, or drinking establishments – from 1 September 2020, previously Class A4
  • drinking establishments with expanded food provision – from 1 September 2020, previously Class A4
  • hot food takeaways (for the sale of hot food where consumption of that food is mostly undertaken off the premises) – from 1 September 2020, previously Class A5
  • venues for live music performance – newly defined as ‘Sui Generis’ use from 1 September 2020
  • cinemas – from 1 September 2020, previously Class D2(a)
  • concert halls – from 1 September 2020, previously Class D2(b)
  • bingo halls – from 1 September 2020, previously Class D2(c)
  • dance halls – from 1 September 2020, previously Class D2(d)

Other uses become ‘sui generis’ where they fall outside the defined limits of any other use class.

For example, C4 (Houses in multiple occupation) is limited to houses with no more than six residents. Therefore, houses in multiple occupation with more than six residents become a ‘sui generis’ use.