The Government's plan to make yet more changes to the Use Classes Order looks likely to have big implications for operators intending to change the use of their premises.
If the planned changes go through, then the current A3 category, a catch-all for all food and drink outlets, will be restricted to just restaurants and caf‚s. A new A4 category will be created for pubs and bars, with a separate A5 category for hot-food take-away restaurants, while another new class, D3, will cover late-night leisure uses such as nightclubs and possibly casinos.
Under the existing Use system, it is possible to change the use of a property without planning permission, as long as the new use is in the same Use category. Hence the planned changes will have a big impact on the process, as operators will now require planning permission to turn, for example, a pub into a restaurant or a take-away.
Lesiure specialist Davis Coffer Lyons is advising operators of businesses that include both a bar and a restaurant to class themselves under the A4 category for pubs and bars, as this will be the most difficult planning consent to get - and having it will add value to the property.
Details of the D3 category remain vague, and the point at which a pub or bar will be classed as D3 and not A4 is a grey area. And as Trevor Watson of Davis Coffer Lyons points out, with longer licensing hours likely to result from the upcoming changes to the licensing laws, this area will become "particularly pertinent".
The proposals are still under review, but Watson warns that the Government could introduce them within 12 months.
He adds: "Operators and landlords should be alive to these changes, and the potential impact on the values of their portfolios caused by reduced flexibility of occupation."www.daviscofferlyons.co.uk