15 July 2020

All classes of commercial real estate explained

Commercial properties to rent at Realla

To simplify planning procedures, the government categorised all commercial properties in the Town and Country Planning Order 1987. This legislation detailed several ‘use classes’ covering the various types of buildings used for business. Property owners and local authorities can now refer to the regulations when submitting and examining planning applications.

Certain business owners or developers may be able to change the ‘use’ of a building or complete work under existing ‘permitted development rights’, depending on the type of property. But you could need prior approval or planning permission before making changes to other buildings or their purposes.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the commercial property use classes can vary from country to country and have been amended over time. So, it’s always worth checking the regulations surrounding your building type before making any significant changes.

Overview of property use classes

The property use classes run from Class A to Class D, and each class has sub-categories. This thorough classification system makes it easy for building developers to find the exact regulations for their property.

As a guide, here’s a rough rundown of the classes and the types of businesses they refer to:

Class Type of property
Class A B2C businesses
Class B B2B businesses
Class C Businesses and properties that provide lodging
Class D Leisure and care businesses

There’s also a category for businesses outside of these classes or those with multiple functions. Sui Generis covers all other types of commercial buildings.

Property use classes in England

Below, you’ll find a full list of all the property use classes and the types of businesses operating within them.

Class A1 covers shops

Most shops and stores come under the A1 category. This class includes businesses selling cold food, except those with an on-site seating area. A1 also covers:

  • Hairdressing salons and barbers
  • Post Offices (but not sorting offices)
  • Pet shops
  • Showrooms
  • Retail warehouses
  • Ticket and travel agencies
  • Domestic product hire shops
  • Internet cafes
  • Dry cleaner shops
  • Funeral parlours

Retail properties for rent at Realla

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Class A2 covers financial and professional services

This section relates to businesses offering a service to the general public. It includes:

  • Finance organisations (including banks and building societies)
  • Professional service organisations (excluding health and medical facilities)
  • Estate agencies
  • Employment agencies
  • Betting shops

Class A3 covers restaurants and cafes

Any business selling food or drink to be eaten on-site falls under the A3 category. This section also covers outlets selling hot food to be taken away.

Class A4 covers bars

All drinking establishments are Class A4 businesses. This takes bars and pubs into account but excludes nightclubs.

Class A5 covers takeaway outlets

If a business sells hot food to be eaten off the premises, it’s an A5 property.

Class B1 covers business properties

This is a general category for businesses not covered by the classes above. It comprises:

  • Offices (excluding those used for financial or professional services in Class A2)
  • Businesses researching and developing products or processes
  • Businesses carrying out industrial processes (except those which can’t be completed in a residential area without negatively impacting it through noise, vibration, smells, fumes, smoke, soot, ash, dust or grit)

Offices to rent at Realla

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Class B2 covers general industrial properties

Class B2 represents properties used for industrial purposes outside of Class B1 and Classes B3 to B7 (below).

Classes B3-B7 cover the ‘Special Industrial Groups’

Any properties dealing with mining and quarrying, or chemicals, metals, acids, oils or animal products belong to the Special Industrial Groups. Many records of the property use classes lump these categories together, as the original planning order distinguishes each group with a complex list of specialist industrial processes. We’ve gathered some of the core classifications for each group:

Class B3 covers alternative industrial processes

Any work is registrable under the ‘Alkali etc. Works Regulation Act 1906’ and not included in Classes B4-B7 fall into Class B3.

Class B4 covers metals

  • Smelting
  • Reducing ores
  • Forging metals or alloys
  • Recovering metal from scrap
  • Treating metal in acid

Class B5 covers building materials

  • Burning bricks or pipes
  • Creating cement
  • Heating minerals or slag
  • Processing pulverised fuel ash
  • Producing inorganic pigments

Class B6 covers oils

  • Blending oils
  • Producing pressure sprayed metal finishes
  • Producing rubber from scrap

Class B7 covers animal products

  • Boiling blood or bones
  • Extracting fat
  • Curing fish
  • Cleaning animal hair
  • Drying skins
  • Making manure
  • Breeding maggots

Class B8 covers storage and distribution

Any storage or distribution centres, including those operating in an open-air setting, come under Class B8.

Industrial properties to rent at Realla

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Class C1 covers hotels and hostels

This classification is given to properties used for lodging purposes but excludes those which provide a high level of care for their guests. Such properties include:

  • Hotels
  • Guest houses
  • Boarding houses
  • Hostels

Class C2 covers residential properties

Class C2 buildings are properties offering accommodation, such as:

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Boarding schools
  • University halls
  • Residential training centres

Class C3 covers dwellings, houses, flats and apartments

This classification refers to buildings used as a home, rather than a business. It includes properties even if they’re not the person’s main place of residence, but excludes buildings where more than six people live together as a single household.

Class D1 covers non-residential institutions

Many public buildings come under the D1 category. This section covers:

  • Medical or health services
  • Children’s nurseries and day centres
  • Schools and other educational institutions
  • Art galleries (excluding those which lease or sell artwork)
  • Museums
  • Public libraries
  • Public halls or exhibition halls
  • Places of worship

Class D2 covers assembly and leisure properties

Entertainment, leisure and sports facilities are usually classified as D2 properties. This category refers to:

  • Cinemas
  • Music venues
  • Dance halls
  • Bingo halls
  • Casinos
  • Swimming pools
  • Ice rinks
  • Gyms
  • Other properties or outdoor areas used for sports and recreation (excluding those involving motorised vehicles or firearms)

Sui Generis covers all other properties

The Latin phrase ‘sui generis’ translates to ‘of its own kind’, so buildings that don’t fit neatly into any of the other use classes are put into this one. Often, properties which span two or more classes are given the ‘sui generis’ classification too – apart from buildings with B1 and B2 use. Some of the properties in this section are:

  • Houses in multiple paying occupations
  • Theatres
  • Launderettes
  • Amusement arcades
  • Nightclubs
  • Taxi firms
  • Shops selling or displaying motor vehicles
  • Petrol stations
  • Scrap yards and waste disposal facilities

Extra help

If you’d like to learn more, you’ll find information on a range of different subjects in Realla’s commercial property guides.