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Points to consider when applying for a change of use from A1 to A3

A question many people ask is “Will I get planning permission to change from A1 to A3” in a particular location.

You may have found your ideal premises and location and have big plans. However, you need to pause and ask yourself the question do I need planning permission to change from A1 to A3 and more importantly will I get it?

The answer is normally not that straightforward and involves the consideration of a number of issues.

The planning system is quite often shrouded in uncertainty and can be difficult to understand as such it can be easy to get things wrong.


What is an A3 Use?

The Town and Country Planning Use Classes Order 1987 defines A3 use as “the sale of food or drink for consumption on the premises or of hot food for consumption off the premises.”

Retail Policy pertaining to the property

Most councils within their Development Plan specify amongst other things how they will handle applications for A3 uses. Depending on the area some Councils will resist such uses within key designated areas where they seek to retain a predominance of A1 retail uses. Sometimes Councils may require a certain percentage of retail units to be retained.

Research i.e. a Case Review is normally required in order to determine whether or not a proposal is policy compliant.

An application submitted without undertaking fundamental research leaves itself vulnerable to being refused by the Council.



Ideally, A3 uses should be located in a commercial area with sufficient external space to accommodate refuse & recycling storage. There should be easy access for servicing and deliveries.


Arrangements will need to be made to handle and disperse cooking odours effectively through ventilation extraction equipment. Consideration will also need to be given to the visual impact of ventilation ducting on the surrounding area and the host building.

Types of A3 Application

There are different types of applications that can be submitted for A3 uses. It is important to choose the most appropriate one for the specific circumstances. It is very important that you adopt the correct strategy as this could determine the outcome as well as how long the process takes.

Prior Approval A3

Prior Approval – This is subject to a number of criteria including the gross internal floorspace being no more than 150 sqm. Importantly the use should not have commenced. The Council has to consider whether or not the following matters require their prior approval:

– Noise Impacts

– Impacts of Odour

– Transport and Highways Impacts

– Impacts of Hours of Opening

– Impacts of storage and handling of Waste

– Whether the change of use is desirable in retail terms

– Siting and design of external facilities

As such it is important for an application for Prior approval to be accompanied by reports that address the above issues in a comprehensive manner. Doing so will maximise your chances of success.

The Council fee for this type of Prior Approval application is currently £96 – £206.

The determination period for such an application is 56 days. Should the Council fail to process the application within this timeframe then the application will automatically receive deemed approval.


Temporary A3 use for 2 Years

Temporary A3 use 2 years – This is subject to a number of criteria including the gross internal floorspace being no more than 150 sqm, the use should not have commenced. There is is no Council fee payable for this type of application.

There is no formal determination date with the type of application. The benefit of this type of application is that you are able to start trading almost immediately.

Planning application This is the traditional type of application. The fee for this type of application is currently £462.

It normally takes the Council 8 weeks from validation to process such an application.


What do I need to submit with my application?

Each Council has its own Planning validation criteria, meaning there is a certain minimum level of information that they require in order to register your application. For example all Council’s will require a site location plan, scaled drawings showing the existing and proposed layouts etc.

Depending on the location you may need to provide a noise impact assessment. The purpose of this is to prove that the A3 use would not create undue noise disturbance for neighbouring occupiers, in particular local residents. It is invaluable to have a technical assessment of the potential noise impact of the proposal and any mitigation measures.

A Planning Statement that explains how the proposal complies with the Council’s policies is another document that could prove to be invaluable. It demonstrates that you’ve thought about your proposal and will give all interested parties reason to consider the nature of your operation.

The Planning Statement can cover important issues such as hours of operation which could be linked to noise disturbance.

We have had some Council’s request an Odour assessment. This essentially deals with odour mitigation measures. It will be important to demonstrate that there would be no adverse impact on the living conditions of neighbouring occupiers. That said, the odour aspects of the proposal can normally be dealt with my specifying the type of filtration system and filters to be installed along with associated management plan.

Transport assessment/ Parking Survey. In areas of high parking stress it may be necessary to address the issue of parking by commissioning a specialist report prepared by a Highways Consultant. The purpose of the report is to prove that there would be no adverse impact by way of parking etc.




If you would like to discuss your A3 restaurant proposals and planning permission then please call Gabriella Dyche on 020 8995 7848

Town Planning Consultant Gabriella Dyche will be dealing with a wide range of A3, A5 proposals for clients.