Monday, 8 May 2017

More protection for pubs (?)

[Revised and corrected 10.5.17] In response to widespread concerns about the loss of pubs to redevelopment, even where pubs were trading profitably and remained a much appreciated local asset, a provision was incorporated in the recent Neighbourhood Planning Act which seeks to provide additional protection for existing pubs. But I have added a question mark to the title of this piece, because this legislation may not in practice give effective protection to the vast majority of pubs.

Section 15 of the Act was introduced by the government at a late stage in the Bill’s passage in response to a House of Lords amendment that had sought to amend the Use Classes Order by making a drinking establishment (“public house, wine‐bar or other drinking establishment”) a sui generis use, thereby abolishing Use Class A4. This amendment also purported to require the amendment of the GPDO, before the Bill was enacted (!), so as to remove permitted development rights for the change of use or demolition of drinking establishments.

The substituted clause (now section 15 of the Act) does not call for the amendment of the Use Classes Order, and so Use Class A4 is to be preserved, but (although it was wider in scope than the provision that has been enacted) the Lords amendment would not have achieved its purpose, because the vast majority of pubs were already serving food as an integral part of their business when the catering use classes were reorganised in April 2005, and all of these establishments, even though they could still be described as ‘pubs’, fell into the new A3 use class by reason that they were supplying food and drink and did not therefore fall within the new Use Class A4, which is confined to those establishments that serve only drink, with no more than a very limited amount of food (if any).

In any event (as explained below), quite a few of the premises that may originally have fallen into the new Class A4 in 2005 will already have changed their use from A4 to A3 by starting to serve food since then under what was formerly Class AA in Part 3 of the Second Schedule to the 1995 GPDO (now Class B in the 2015 Order).

As noted above, following the re-organisation of the catering use classes in 2005 (by cutting down the scope of Class A3, and introducing Classes A4 and A5), Use Class A3 still includes “the sale of food and drink”. Thus the current version of Use Class A3 embraces a range of uses in which the sale of drink for consumption on the premises may be a substantial part of the business.

Paragraph 12 of Circular 03/2005 pointed out that it is the primary purpose of the use which must be considered, but a use will still fall within Class A3 if the primary use is clearly “use for the sale of food and drink for consumption on the premises”; it is not simply a question of whether the sale of food or the sale of drink comprises more than 50% of the business. A primary/ancillary relationship between uses is not dependent on the proportion or ratio of one use to the other, either in terms of turnover, or in terms of the floorspace devoted to the respective elements of these uses, but is solely dependent on their functional relationship. (See Main v. SSE (1998) P&CR 300; [1999] JPL 195.)

The sale of food for consumption on the premises is likely to be ancillary to the sale of drink only if it is functionally dependent on the sale of drink. If it represents a substantial part of the business which is not dependent on the sale of drink as such (which it may well do in many licensed premises nowadays) it is likely to be an independent element of the use in its own right, even if it represents less than 50% of the total turnover of the business. In the absence of the UCO, this might well have been regarded as a ‘mixed use’, but bearing in mind that the definition in Class A3 refers to the sale of both food and drink, any business consisting of a substantial element of both types of sale, without one necessarily being functionally dependent on the other (i.e. without any primary/ancillary relationship between the two uses), would nevertheless appear to come within the current version of Use Class A3.

In my view, therefore, the amended wording of Class A3 introduced in 2005 is still wide enough to cover many public houses and wine bars where the service of food is a substantial part of the business, in circumstances in which it cannot realistically be said to be purely ancillary to the sale of drink. Such premises would therefore appear to come within Class A3 rather than A4.

For these reasons, I would disagree with the suggestion, formerly printed in paragraph 12 of Circular 03/2005, that in the case of premises which incorporate a restaurant use as well as a pub or bar use, it is necessary to determine whether the existing primary use of the premises is as a restaurant (A3), or as a drinking establishment (A4), or a mixed use. The paragraph went on to state that this would depend on such matters as “whether customers come primarily to eat, or drink, or both - it is the main purpose of that use that is to be considered”. However, this would appear to be a misinterpretation of the correct legal position, in light of the wording of Use Class A3 and the clear legal authority in Main v SSE.

Thus it would seem that Use Class A4 covers only a very narrow (and, in practice, now very rare) category of drinking establishments, where only a very limited quantity of hot food (if any) is served. Furthermore, such an A4 use may already have changed to Class A3, which (until 6 April 2015) was not subject to any restriction or condition (unless imposed in a planning permission or an Article 4 Direction), simply by starting to serve a significant quantity of food on the premises. As mentioned above, if the nature of the sale of food for consumption on the premises is such that it cannot realistically be said to be purely ancillary to the sale of drink, the overall operation may well be a use which in practice now falls within Use Class A3, rather than A4. It also follows that the post-2005 wording of Class A3 means that a use that involves the service of both food and drink cannot be a mixed ‘A3/A4’ use (and therefore sui generis), but will fall wholly within Class A3.

Bearing these points in mind, the protection intended to be afforded to pubs by section 15 of the Neighbourhood Planning Act, and by the amendment to the GPDO that has been made in accordance with that section, will in practice prove to be extremely limited (because it applies only to the very small number of premises that do still fall within Use Class A4).

What the latest amendment to the GPDO actually provides is that the permitted development right under Class A in Part 3 of the Second Schedule to the GPDO to change the use of various catering premises to use as a shop within Use Class A1 or an office within Use Class A2 will now apply only to Use Classes A3 and A5, but will no longer apply to premises falling within Use Class A4. This will protect a small number of pubs, but will not protect the vast majority of them, which actually fall within Use Class A3.

Similarly, the permitted development right under Part 3, Class B to change the use of a pub or take-away to use as a café or restaurant within Use Class A3 will now apply only to Use Class A5, but will no longer apply to premises falling within Use Class A4.

As a result of removing Use Class A4 from these provisions, the slightly complicated procedure as to notifications relating to listing or nomination as an asset of community value, have now been deleted from Classes A and B of Part 3. A pub that actually comes within Use Class A3 has never been subject to these restrictions in any event, although the other protections (such as they are) that apply to ACVs would still apply to such premises where those premises have been nominated or listed as an ACV.

There are, however, transitional provisions that preserve the existing PD rights under Part 3 Class A or B and under Part 4 Class C or D, where notification of proposed permitted development has been given in respect of a change of use of A4 premises (seeking information from the LPA as to any nomination of the building as an ACV). Where notification of the proposed development has been given, and the 56-day notification period [not to be confused with the 56-period relating to a prior approval application] has already expired before 23 May 2017, then the change of use permitted by these classes in Parts 3 and 4 can still be relied upon.

In addition to the changes explained above, the latest amendment to the GPDO introduces a new class of permitted development under Part 3. This is Class AA, which permits development consisting of a change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage from a use falling within Use Class A4 (drinking establishments) to a mixed use falling within Class A4 and Class A3 (restaurants and cafes). The resulting use is referred to as “drinking establishments with expanded food provision”. The converse change of use is also permitted by Class AA, from use “as a drinking establishment with expanded food provision” to a use falling within Class A4. No limitations, restrictions or conditions are placed on these changes of use under the terms of Class AA.

I can only assume that this is intended to address the potential problem identified above regarding the relationship between Use Classes A4 and A3. But it smacks of an attempt to shut the stable door long after the horse has bolted. This provision in the GPDO cannot reverse the position where pubs are already in use under Class A3, rather than A4. However, in future, bearing in mind that a change of use from A4 to A3 will no longer be permitted development under Part 3 Class B, the small number of pubs that are still with Class A4 can introduce or expand the service of hot food without falling foul of the new prohibition on a change of use from A4 to A3.

The drafting of Class AA appears to me to be extremely awkward, and refers quite unnecessarily to a mixed use embracing both Class A4 with Class A3. It would have avoided possible legal difficulties that may well arise from this wording if Class AA had simply provided that a drinking establishment within Class A4 can in future introduce or expand the service of hot food without this being taken to be a material change of use, so that (notwithstanding the introduction or expansion in the service of hot food) the use of the premises would remain solely within Use Class A4.

As a general rule, a mixed use is sui generis, although there are one or two statutory exceptions (e.g. Article 3(4) of the UCO, which allows for a use falling within both Use Classes B1 and B2 to be treated as a single class provided the extent of the B2 use is not substantially increased as a result). However, in the absence of any amendment of the UCO, there does not appear to be anything to prevent the change of use permitted by Class AA(a) in the GPDO from falling out of the UCO altogether, and being regarded as a sui generis use, notwithstanding the reference in Class AA itself to a change of use to “a use falling within Class A4 (drinking establishments) with a use falling within Class A3 (restaurants and cafes)”. The alternative interpretation (for the reasons stated above) would be that the use would in fact fall wholly within Use Class A3. This bit of drafting really hasn’t been properly thought through.

This change does, however, remove the ratchet effect of Class B, which does not in itself permit a change of use from Class A3 to A4, although the wording of Class AA(b) does suggest that it applies only to the reversal of the change of use permitted by Class AA(a), so that it would not appear (or is not intended) to permit a change of use of premises which serve both food and drink but which, for the reasons explained above, fall wholly within Use Class A3, to be changed to Use Class A4, i.e. to use solely as a drinking establishment. In practice, however, very few businesses (if any) are likely to want to make such a change from A3 purely to A4, because the effect of the reference in Class A3 to the sale of food and drink allows a licensed restaurant or café which sells drinks as a separate element of its business (but which, having regard to the overall nature of the business, falls within Class A3 rather than A4) to expand the ‘drinks’ side of the business substantially while remaining within Class A3, provided that the nature of the sale of food for consumption on the premises is not such as to be merely ancillary to the sale of drink.

Here too, there is a transitional provision. Where an Article 4 direction is in force immediately before 23 May 2017 which removes PD rights for the change of use of a building from Use Class A4 to Class A3, the Article 4 Direction will not have the effect of removing the change of use permitted by the new Class AA [see above] until 23 November 2018. [This is presumably in order to avoid compensation claims arising in relation to the removal by the Article 4 Direction of this new PD right.]

There are also consequential changes to PD rights for demolition under Part 11, but by the time I began to get my head round this bit, I was rapidly losing the will to live. Suffice it to say that these too apply only to the very limited number of buildings that fall within Use Class A4.

As I have sought to explain, the effect of these changes to the GPDO is extremely limited and, in practice, they will afford protection to only the very small number of premises that do actually fall within Use Class A4. For the reasons set out above, the vast majority of pubs and similar premises will continue to fall entirely outside the scope of this intended protection from changes of use or demolition. No amount of tinkering with the GPDO and/or the Use Classes Order will change this.

If it is intended to afford effective protection to pubs, separate legislation would be required that specifically provides that no development (as defined by section 55 in the 1990 Act) of any licensed premises in which drink is sold for consumption on the premises may be carried out without express planning permission, notwithstanding the provisions of the Use Classes Order or of the GPDO. This could involve the abrogation of certain existing use rights currently enjoyed by these premises, and so provision would need to be made for compensation where (within a specified period after this legislative amendment takes effect – probably one year) planning permission for development that could otherwise have been carried out as of right is refused. Frankly, I don’t believe the present government has any serious intention of affording effective protection to pubs from redevelopment (including changes of use), and so we are very unlikely to see legislation of the sort I have just described.

[UPDATE (10.5.17) : I have revised the text of this blog post following a very helpful note from Richard Lemon MRTPI, Director (Planning) at CBRE Ltd in London, who queried what I had written regarding possible continuance of the wider use rights under the pre-2005 version of Use Class A3 in light of paragraph 22 of Circular 3/2005. After I had prepared this revised version of my article, I also received a comment on the same lines from “Dinny S”, which I will publish with other comments below.

Richard made the point that the heading to the section comprising paragraphs 20 to 23 in Circular 3/2005 was “Unimplemented permissions”, and that paragraph 24 stated that, after the amended UCO came into effect, uses [under previously implemented planning permissions] that previously fell into the former A3 use class would then fall into one of the new classes: A3, A4 or A5. I have now had the chance to trawl through various texts, and whilst I have not found any judicial authority specifically on this point, I have identified an apparent consensus as to the effect of the UCO (and amendments to it) which differs from my previous understanding of the position.

To put it briefly, the starting point is the rule that once a planning permission for change of use has been implemented it is ‘spent’ (Cynon Valley BC -v- SSW (1987) 53 P&CR 68). It is well settled law that the initial use could only be for the purposes expressly described by the permission (e.g. as a restaurant) (see Wilson v. West Sussex CC [1963] 2 Q.B. 764). But then (in the case of a planning permission implemented before 21 April 2005), by virtue of section 55(2)(f), the use could later have been changed to any other use within the broad A3 use class that existed prior to April 2005. If such a change of use had been made, it would have been lawful and, following the change in the UCO in April 2005, the actual use will then have fallen into the appropriate use class applying after that date – A3, A4 or A5. However, I now accept that whilst the use might lawfully have been changed to a pub or to a hot-food take-away before 21 April 2005, if no such change of use had been made before that date, the lawful use of the premises would thereafter have been restricted to the new, narrower A3 use class.

This does not alter the general thrust of my article, which (taking on board the point discussed above) is that most pubs would have been within the new A3 use class from the outset in April 2005, if they were then selling both food and drink for consumption on the premises, or that they have subsequently changed use from A4 to A3 under what was formerly Class AA in Part 3 of the Second Schedule to the 1995 GPDO (now Class B in the 2015 Order) by starting to serve food since April 2005.]



  1. I've long held the view that many familiar pub/restaurants fall within both class A3 and class A4 at the same time.

    As you say, A3 includes use for the sale of both food and drink, and I don't think there is anything in law which dictates that the use of a building can only fall exclusively within one and only one use class, or that the use classes are by definition discrete.

    (Obviously the original concept of the use classes order was logically to provide discrete categories, and this was for many years the tradition that was maintained, but I think the drafting of the A3/4/5 split dropped the ball.)

  2. I would have to disagree with Richard W on one point. A use cannot fall into two different use classes at the same time. If one element of a use would, in itself, fall into one use class (for example B1), and another element would fall into another use class (e.g. B8), this would be a mixed use, and would therefore be classed as a sui generis use. You cannot have a “B1/B8” use (even though estate agents sometimes use this as convenient shorthand to describe a mixed use comprising those elements). Such a mixed use falls entirely outside the scope of the Use Classes Order.

    Similarly, there is no such thing as an A3/A4 use, but in this case (as I have explained), this is saved from being a mixed use (and therefore sui generis) because the definition of a use within Use Class A3 is wide enough to embrace what might otherwise be described as “an A3/A4 use”. Hence my criticism of the latest amendment to the GPDO, introducing Class AA to Part 3 of the Second Schedule to the Order, which is frankly a nonsense in relation to its description of the resulting use of the premises.

    The other point that must be clearly kept in mind is that the vast majority of pubs have been existence for yonks, and so they still enjoy the much wider use rights that applied before 2005. These establishments do not fall within Use Class A4, even if they serve no food.

  3. "You cannot have a “B1/B8” use" - This point had alluded me. I suspect it may have alluded one or two of my colleagues too. Why don't they run this stuff past you before signing it into law? (Likewise the Brexit debacle, but enough about that...)

  4. Hi Martin,
    In reference to your comment relating to para 22 of the Circular 03/2005 and suggestion that this means that any pubs which were in existence prior to 2005 enjoy the wider use rights associated with the previous Class A3 use. I understood para 22 as applying only to unimplemented planning permissions for A3 use which may be implemented post 21st April 2005.

    Para 24 of the same circular states that 'after the amended UCO comes into effect, uses that previously fell into the former A3: Food and Drink use class will fall into one of the new use classes'. Therefore I understood that any pubs operating prior to the UCO coming into effect, which would have been A3 at that time, would have been reclassified as A4 following it coming into effect. I am particularly thinking here of historic pubs which have been in existence for many years.

    I would be interested in your further comment.

    Thank you

  5. I was involved in the 2005 Use Classes Order changes. The aim of ministers was to separate out A4, where the purpose was to separate premises where the primary use was for the consumption of alcohol from those (primarily) selling food for consumption, in the light of concerns about binge drinking.

    There had been, following the 1987 changes to the Use Classes Order, concerns about premises which, having received permission as a restaurant or cafe, were changing seamlessly into premises primarily selling alcohol. Initially there were strong concerns in Westminster because of social impacts, but pressure grew elsewhere about A3 uses drifting into drink, and changing the mix/diversity of uses in local centres.

    The 2005 definition of A4 has proved robust, but special pleading has now produced a more complicated and confused situation, which is perhaps the opposite of what was intended. Perhaps the Government should learn to keep it simple.

  6. This is fascinating discussion and I am grateful for all the comments and Martin's original post. One question arises (and I have been working in both licensing and planning in this area for many years)- is anyone actually aware of a planning permission being granted for an A4 use or for a change of use into that class?

  7. @ Gareth H: You should find several examples of permissions for change of use to A4 if you Google "change of use from A1 to A4" (with quotation marks). You can, of course, substitute A1 for A2 or A3 in your search.

  8. I was just looking through earlier comments on this thread, and I see that my comment of 8 May has so far been left uncorrected, notwithstanding my update of the main blog post on 10 May.

    Contrary to what I wrote on 8 May, a pub that was purely used as a drinking establishment before 22 May 2005, and where the service of food (if any) was only a minor ancillary or incidental part of that use, would then have fallen into Use Class A4 with effect from 22 May 2005. The potentially wider A3 use to which the premises could have been put before 22 May 2005 could no longer be enjoyed. The identity of the Use Class into which the premises fell with effect from 22 May 2005 depended entirely on the actual use to which they were being put on 21 May 2005.