Using commercial property for different purposes

Different uses of commercial property

What is the permitted use?

All commercial land and buildings have a particular “permitted use”. This can mean a use permitted by the lease. It can also refer to the use permitted under planning law. The lease often makes reference to the categories of use set out in planning legislation so it makes sense to consider permitted planning uses first.

Planning law – use classes

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) sets out various classes of use. Particular classes to note are:

• Class A1 – shops
• Class A2 - financial and professional services for visiting members of the public
• Class A3 – premises where food is sold and consumed on the premises
• Class A4 – pubs, wine bars or other drinking establishments
• Class A5 – sale of hot food for consumption off the premises
• Class B1(a) – offices
• Class B1(b) – research and development uses
• Class B1(c) – light industry suitable to a residential area
• Class B2 – other industrial uses
• Class B8 – wholesale warehouses, distribution centres and repositories
• Class D2 – sport and leisure.

There are rules about changing from one use class to another – sometimes planning permission is required, sometimes a change can be made without planning permission. The rules are considered in more detail in the following pages.

Permitted use clauses in leases

Permitted use clauses (sometimes called user clauses) in leases often make reference to the classes of use in the Use Classes Order. A lease may define the permitted use broadly, for example, “any use with class A1”. Alternatively, a lease may specify a very particular use, for example, “as a post office”, and require the landlord’s written consent to any other use.