In the UK, most commercial investment property will have its permissible use assigned to it by the local authority. Governing the type of business that can be conducted within a premises helps local government control an area’s development. There are usually ideas and plans for a town, village or city and controlling commercial activity will assist in the shaping of the area.

To restrict what is done or not done, classes of use for commercial property are applied and these cannot usually be changed without the agreement of town planners. Careful considerations will have been applied such as the available parking, noise levels, aromas, traffic problems, footfall and late-night activity. Pollution and environmental impact, issues surrounding health and safety, and historical buildings and existing businesses will also determine commercial use of properties. As the use of a property is pre-determined and not always very easy to change, anyone considering buying, selling renting or leasing a commercial property should understand the different classes and what they mean. The classes are broken down into A, B, C and D groups with subsections in each one.

Commercial Property Use Classes In The UK

Class – A1 is Shops

These properties can be used for any or all of the following: retail selling of goods, a post office, hairdresser or barber, the selling of tickets or a travel agency, the sale of cold food consumed off the site such as sandwiches, a display showroom for goods, a funeral director, dry cleaners and clothing repairs, internet cafes, and a hire centre for domestic or personal goods. The sale or display of the goods or the service on offer is for use by members of the public who visit the location. Premises are often but not always in a high street.

Class – A2 is Financial and Professional Services

A property with A2 classification can be used for the provision of financial services such as a bank or a building society, professional services such as estate agency – but not those connected to health or medical, or other services appropriate to a shopping area but excluding betting shops and pay-day loan services. The services should be primarily delivered to members of the public who visit the premises in person.

Class – A3 is for Food and Drink

These premises are categorised as places where food and drink are consumed on site, or for hot food taken away for consumption off site. These properties will be cafes, restaurants, and snack bars in general.

Class – A4 classified as Drinking Establishments

These are licensed premises such as pubs, wine bars and any other drinking places – except night clubs

Class – A5 Takeaways serving Hot Food

For the sale of hot, cooked food eaten away from the premises only, such as pizza takeaways, fish and chip shops, kebab shops etc.

The B classes for commercial property tend not to be premises where the general public visit as a matter of course. These are, in general, office spaces, industrial areas and storage or distribution warehouses.

Class – B1 Business use

These premises are used for all or any of the following: as office space (other than A2 use), for the research and development of processes or products, and a light industrial business that be would appropriate for a residential area taking into consideration noise levels, fumes, vibrations, smoke, ash, grit and dust.

Class – B2 General Industrial use

Commercial premises used for industrial processes that don’t fall under any other B classification. To exclude incineration, chemical treatment or hazardous waste purposes.

The following classifications are for specialised industrial use:

Class – B3 is for Special Industrial Use Category A

For work that needs registration under the Alkali Works Regulation Act and similar and doesn’t fall under B4 to B7 classes.

Class – B4 is for Special Industrial Use Category B

. For processes of smelting, calcining, sintering, reducing ores, minerals, mattes or concentrates.
. For converting, refining, annealing, melting, hardening, carburising, forging or casting metals other than for pressure die-casting.
. For recovering metals from scrap material
. galvanizing
. treating or pickling metal with acid
. chromium plating

Class – B5 is for Special Industrial Use Category C

. For processes such as the burning of bricks, pipes, dolomite or lime
. For producing cement, zinc oxide or alumina
. Heating, foaming, screening or crushing minerals or slag
. Processing pulverised fuel ash by heating
. Producing hydrated lime or carbonate of lime
. Producing inorganic pigments by way of calcining, grinding or roasting

Class – B6 is for Special Industrial Use Category D

. For processes of distilling, blending or refining oil – except petroleum products
. For using and producing cellulose or other metal finishes that are pressure sprayed – except when used in a motor repair shop for minor repairs.
. For the boiling of running gum or linseed oil
. For processes using hot pitch or bitumen
. For stoving with enamel
. For recovering rubber from scrap material
. Processes producing aliphatic esters of the lower fatty acids – except plastic moulding or shaping or producing plastic sheets, rods or tubes.
. Processes involving chlorophenols
. The manufacture of acetylene from calcium carbonate, and the manufacturing or recovery of pyridine, methyl or ethylamine.

Class – B7 Special Industrial Use Category E

This group covers, in general, the process relating to animal products such as:

. Anything incorporating the boiling of blood, chitterlings or soap
. Burning, boiling or grinding of bones
. Cleaning or boiling tripe
. Breeding of maggots using putrescible animal matter
. Treating and cleaning of animal hair, drying animal skins or preparing skins in any way
. Curing fish or the process of scraping fish skins
. Scraping guts
. Producing manure from bones, blood, offal, beans, hops or any kind of putrescible vegetable or animal matter
. Extracting, melting or refining tallow and fat
. Producing animal charcoal, glue, catgut, blood albumen or feeding stuff for animals that are in an offensive condition or involves processes that produce noxious or injurious effluvia.
. Dealing in rags and bones such as storing, sorting or receiving such items that are in an offensive condition

Class – B8 is for Storage or Distribution

This class for commercial property covers wholesale warehouses, centres of distribution and repositories and includes open-air storage facilities.

Class C

The C classification is used for premises with overnight facilities.

Class – C1 is for Hotels

It includes hotels, boarding houses and guest houses where care is not a part of the usual services.

Class – C2 is for Residential Institutions

These are accommodation with an element of care when needed such as care homes, nursing homes, hospitals, residential colleges and boarding schools.

Class – C2A is for Secure Residential Institutions

These are premises that offer secure accommodation such as young offenders institutions, prisons, custody centres, detention centres and secure hospitals.

Class – C3 is Dwelling Houses and it has three parts

C3a – use by a single person or family unit
C3b – use by 6 or fewer people living as a single unit and receiving care
C3c – use by 6 or fewer people living as a group as a single household

Class – C4 Households of Multiple Occupation abbreviated as HMOs

For use by groups of 3 to 6 unrelated individuals living together and sharing bathroom and kitchen facilities.

The D class of commercial property includes premises where individual come together for short periods of time to engage in activities or receive services.

Class – D1 Non Residential Institutions

These premises are for clinics providing health services, creche, day nurseries, day centres, museums, public libraries, exhibition halls, an art display space, churches, other places of worship, law courts and non-residential training centres.

Class – D2 for Assembly and Leisure

This is for buildings such as cinemas, bingo halls, dance halls, skating rinks, public swimming pools, gymnasiums, indoor sports arenas – excluding motorsports or firearms.

There are some commercial uses that do not fall under any of the above class uses. These are considered to be ‘Sui Generis’ which means ‘of its own kind’. There are a number of commercial premises that come under this classification, including theatres, hostels that do not provide any care services, scrap yards, petrol stations, nightclubs, launderettes, taxi businesses, casinos, amusement arcades, betting shops and payday loan shops. Some agricultural buildings will also come under this class. Change of use is permitted for these buildings via normal channels.

Some business activities will fall under more than one of the use classes for commercial property. It can be tricky to establish exactly which one fits the best. Other kinds of business may appear not to be covered at all. The above list is not exhaustive and there may be other factors to consider than those that are mentioned. It may be necessary to get legal advice to make absolutely sure of the correct classification of some businesses to ensure that errors are not made.

It may be possible to change the official classification of a commercial property, but it will be at the discretion of the local authority. Changes between some categories are much more simple than others, and in fact, some changes do not need permission as allowances have already been built into the classification.

By Eddy

Eddy is the editorial columnist in Business Fundas, and oversees partner relationships. He posts articles of partners on various topics related to strategy, marketing, supply chain, technology management, social media, e-business, finance, economics and operations management. The articles posted are copyrighted under a Creative Commons unported license 4.0. To contact him, please direct your emails to [email protected].