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Changes to Planning Law


In August 2020, the UK government published a White Paper entitled, "Planning for the Future: planning policy changes in England in 2020 and future reforms."  The public consultation continued until 31st October.

A number of organisations sent in detailed responses, including Civic Voice (the national charity for the civic movement in England) and the London Forum (which represents the views and interests of over 100 amenity and civic societies in London and their members).  


This was the London Forum's response

The link to the White Paper itself is here. (It should open as a pdf when you click the link.)

For BRAG's view on this issue, please see below (in blue).

Change of Use Classes


Some planning changes are likely to impact on local residents, particularly in relation to how commercial premises are now identified in terms of "Use".  Under previous planning regulations, these Use classes were quite specific, and helped create a viable mix of uses within local neighbourhood centres. 


However, from 1st September 2020, class A1/2/3 & B1 will now be treated as Class E.

A1 used to apply to shops, retail warehouses, hairdressers, undertakers, travel and ticket agencies, post offices, pet shops, sandwich bars, showrooms, domestic hire shops, dry cleaners, funeral directors and internet cafes


A2 covered financial services such as banks and building societies, professional services (other than health and medical services) and including estate and employment agencies. It does not include betting offices or pay day loan shops - these are now classed as “sui generis” uses 

A3 used to be the "use" class for the sale of food and drink for consumption on the premises - restaurants, snack bars and cafes

B1 related to Business – Uses which can be carried out in a residential area without detriment to its amenity. This class was formed of three parts:

  • B1(a) Offices - Other than a use within Class A2 (see above)

  • B1(b) Research and development of products or processes

  • B1(c) Industrial processes

Class E (introduced in September 2020) covers a very wide range of commercial business and services.  

  • 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

Property owners now have much greater flexibility and some of these new uses may indeed have a negative impact on residents.  Camden's planners may still have to consider applications for physical works in connection with any changes, but the actual change of use will no longer require permission.  Use E now has an extensive breadth of use.

A recent example is No 4 Tavistock Place, previously offices (therefore classed as B1) which successfully applied for a certificate of lawfulness for any use permitted under Class E.  Residential neighbours could therefore, in theory, suddenly find an unwelcome business in operation next door.

BRAG's view on the Government's Planning White Paper (with thanks to Diana Scarrott)

We do not accept that changing planning processes will solve the housing shortage. The shortage results from lack of spending on public housing for several decades by successive governments.  Until investment in public housing resumes, we doubt whether developers will build it on any scale. Fundamentally, the proposals represent a shift of power to developers, from local communities and their elected representatives. It is dishonest to dress them up as anything else.


We reject the idea that ‘consultation is dominated by the few willing and able to navigate the process’ (Introduction, 1.3). In Bloomsbury, BRAG and other community groups work to protect the character of a conservation area and make sure that developments meet local needs appropriately. We recently drew attention to the impact of a high rise academic development on Gray’s Inn Road on the residential area behind it. We have similar concerns now about a large office development on Euston Road. None of our interventions have stopped affordable housing projects going ahead. The problem is that in this area developers choose to build offices or luxury housing for sale, when what the area needs is affordable rented accommodation.


Under the White Paper’s proposals, communities and councils would have less opportunity to scrutinise planning applications but more involvement in the development of local plans. But we need both. Communities need to be involved in strategic discussions about how areas should develop but they must also be able to scrutinise the development proposals which then come forward: how high will the building be, where will the lorries go that deliver the materials, and so on. There must be capacity in local councils to ensure that projects comply with local plans, that local plans are kept up to date, and that developers do not trample on local communities. If there is local distrust in planning processes now, in this area, it is because the developers seem to have too much influence, not too little.


We are also concerned that a standard formula for calculating housing requirements fails to take account of the unique problems of London and of areas like ours. In some areas with land capacity constraints, targets based on a standard algorithm will be unachievable, while in other areas the formula will produce targets below those in existing local plans. These top-down over-centralised proposals have been well analysed by the London Forum of Amenity and Civic Societies and we endorse their conclusions and concerns. (Reference could be added)


The new infrastructure levy proposals are also unhelpful for this area. It is completely reasonable that developers should pay something back to the community giving them permission to build, and that the payment should be in proportion to the benefit, not set at a standard rate. Development permissions in this area are much sought after, and the area’s need to invest in social housing is clear. Our representatives should negotiate for the best deal they can get, without being held back by another national formula. 

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