High Court upholds controversial changes to planning law

When the Prime Minister gave a press release on 30 June 2020, inviting us all to “Build, Build, Build”, it was based on the idea that planning law would be reformed to make it easier to change the permitted use of a property.

Various regulations were passed which, among other things, introduced 3 new use classes to the ‘Use Classes Order’.  One of these – the new Use Class E – includes a wide range of different property uses, making it much simpler for property owners to change the use of their properties quickly.

While many in the property industry consider this liberating, allowing property owners much needed flexibility in uncertain times, others find it controversial due to the breadth of potential use changes now allowed without full planning permission.

As a result of the controversy, the regulations have been subject to a judicial review claim, challenging their validity.  However, in its judgment of 17 November 2020, the High Court dismissed the claim, effectively upholding the regulations.

While the decision was very welcome for many in the property industry, it may be too soon to celebrate – the claimant has stated its intention to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal.  So it may be many months before the lawfulness of the regulations is finally determined.

This means that developers and occupiers in need of certainty around permitted uses will be left in the dark for a while yet.  The cautious approach would be to reckon with the Court of Appeal overturning the High Court’s decision, meaning the regulations would in fact be unlawful and the proposed flexibility would not yet be available.

If you would like discuss any issues arising from this article, please contact Artan Llabjani at or on 020 7288 4773.

Artan Llabjani

020 7288 4773
07741 151 418
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