How will the Planning Reforms 2020 affect your GP practice premises?

In this blog/article, we will look briefly at the changes to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes Order) 1987, with a particular focus on GP Surgery premises.


In July 2020 the UK government introduced a range of planning measures as part of their pledge to reform the planning system. These included three sets of changes to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Order) 2015 (the “GPDO”) and one set of changes to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes Order) 1987 (the “Use Classes Order 1987”).

Changes to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes Order) 1987

The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 set out provisions in which planning permission was not required for the change of use of land or buildings provided that the change of use takes place within the same Use Class. The new Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 (“Use Classes Regulation 2020”) fundamentally changes the Use Classes within the GPDO through creating three new Use Classes and separating out some uses formerly grouped together. The new Use Classes are as follows:

– Use Class E (Commercial, Business and Service) – This now incorporates previous Use Classes A1 (shops), A2 (Financial and Professional Services), A3 (Restaurants and Cafes) and Class B1 (Business). It also now includes parts of previous Use Classes D1 and D2 for indoor sport, recreation or fitness, or for the provision of medical or health services or for a creche, day nursery or day centre.

– Use Class F.1 (Learning and non-residential institutions) – including non-residential educational uses, and use as a museum, art gallery, library, public hall, religious institution or law court; and

– Use Class F.2 (Local community) – which includes some further parts of former Use Classes D1 and D2.

Implications for GP Surgeries

The regulations take effect from 01 September 2020 and so from that date GP Surgeries in England will no longer sit within the D1 Use Class category but will instead come under Use Class E. This means that a Change of Use to other uses within the same category, such as an office or retail shop for example, will not in theory require planning permission. The same is therefore true for a change of use from a medical centre to another use within the same Use Class.

This broadening of uses to include the medical centre use with other uses including retail, professional and financial services and restaurants and cafes, is a significant shift in how the planning use designation of GP surgeries is perceived by the planning system. These regulations could therefore open up far greater potential opportunities for maximising value on GP premises through the identification of alternative uses that underpin and drive value in certain locations.

These regulations may also impact some Notional Rent assessments (particularly in areas where there are higher underlying commercial values) post September 2020 in that the assessment and application of alternative use values through creating a situation in which the specific GP Surgery use is now intrinsically linked to a far wider range of retail and commercial uses within Use Class E.

Notwithstanding the above, it must be borne in mind that existing planning permissions could limit the use of individual properties through the presence of planning conditions, and these may in turn take precedence over these regulations.


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