Planning consultation gives food for thought

An area of concern is limiting opening hours within A3 use

14 August 2018

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The Welsh Government (WG) is currently consulting on proposed changes to planning legislation which would revise the Use Class Order within the retail and leisure sector. The intention is to reflect disparities between uses currently falling within the same classes and also streamline the planning legislation in Wales for small and low impact development to reduce the burden on local planning authorities (LPAs).

The proposed amendments would separate Use Class A3 (Food & Drink) into three use classes: A3 (Cafe & Sandwich Bars, subject to opening hour restrictions); A4 (Drinking Establishments & Restaurants) and A5 (Hot Food Takeaways including Drive Through Restaurants). As part of the proposals the permitted development rights associated with the new uses would also be subject to change.  

Ben Davies, Associate with Cooke & Arkwright’s Retail & Leisure Agency said, “One area of concern is the limiting of opening hours within the A3 use. This contradicts the general consensus within the market - not just in Wales, but across the UK - that the potential for further night-time and evening trade provides a welcome injection to the economy at a time when the high street faces considerable challenges. We know a lot of these businesses do very well around 8.00pm and later. Any cafes or coffee shops trading after 7pm would fall within a different use class, requiring a new permission. The requirement for further planning permission would inevitably bring additional associated costs for businesses, which would affect both multi-national companies and aspiring new businesses alike.”

Lewis Conde, Senior Planner with Lichfields Planning Consultants commented, “Although the consultation is wide ranging, it is the proposed changes to Use Class A3 that is likely to attract the most attention, as these would result in more stringent controls on the use of commercial units. Contrary to WG’s broader aims, this is likely to result in an increased need for planning permission for town centre land uses and place a greater burden on LPAs. It also comes at a time when the high street is increasingly under pressure, justifying the need for fewer and not more obstacles to commercial enterprise.”

The proposed amendments are part of a wide-ranging planning consultation (running until 28 September) that is seeking to amend and consolidate the existing Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 and Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995.