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News - 24 April 2005
Is it an A3, A4 or A5 premises?

Two new use classes added to food outlets

New planning legislation came into force on the 21st April which may make it more difficult for property owners to swap the designation of their restaurants, pubs, cafés and takeaways from one planning ‘use class’ to another

Planning use classes for the above currently fall into one of three categories: - shops in class A1, offices, banks and building societies in class A2, and pubs, restaurants, some takeways and cafes in class A3.

The government's new "Use Classes Order" divides the old A3 into two further divisions: - restaurants and cafés remain in class A3, drinking establishments make up a new class A4 and hot food takeaways fall into class A5.

The expansion of the old class A3 may cause confusion because businesses unacquainted with the change now face restrictions from changing the use of their premises. Most strongly hit by the change in law will be restaurant premises, which will be restricted from switching or extending their use to takeaway or wet-led operations without first obtaining planning permission.

The confusion will also extend beyond the business community until planning authorities debate and determine which businesses fall into which classifications. A restaurant, for instance, that only serves food at lunchtime and becomes a bar in the evening may struggle to find its place within the new definitions. In an effort to get round the anticipated ban on smoking in public places, coming into effect in 2007/08, some pubs will serve food only at weekends and be wet-led during the week. Their exact classification will be a subject of debate.

The decrease in flexibility that the new rules impose may well affect property values. Properties with flexible use definitions, such as the general retail businesses within class A1, are more valuable and easier to sell. For owners of property accommodating restaurants, pubs or takeaways, they risk difficulties selling to prospective buyers who will now face a tougher battle with the local council should their business plan differ from a premises' current operation.

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