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Permitted development rights ('PDR') allow for certain forms of development to take place without the need to apply for planning permission. Planning permission is automatically granted through national legislation.

The Scottish Government is carrying out a review of PDR as part of its wider planning reform programme. The review is being taken forward in phases, with each phase looking at the potential for new and extended PDR for specific development types.

This passle is the first of a five-part series considering the proposed changes to PDR, as well as to the Use Classes Order. The current consultation is phase 2 of the Government review of permitted development rights.

  • The proposed permitted development right changes relate to:
  • Electric vehicle charging infrastructure;
  • Changes of use in centres and other locations; and
  • Port development.

The consultation runs until 3 August 2022.


This consultation proposes the creation of a "general town centre use class", which would – in broad terms – involve the establishment of a new class which would bring together a variety of uses which are commonly found in (or associated with) city, town and local centres but which currently sit in separate use classes. The effect of doing so would be that any changes of use within this broader, merged use class would not involve development, and hence a change of use within the use class would not require planning permission.

The Scottish Government recognise that any changes to the Use Classes Order ('UCO') or PDR need to complement the draft policies the NPF4 contains and the plan-led approach that it promotes.

Scotland's Fourth National Planning Framework ('NPF4') was published in draft by the Scottish Government in November 2021 for a period of public consultation, which ran until 31 March 2022. The Draft NPF4 contains several draft policies that are intended to support the resilience and recovery of Scotland's centres, in particular:

  • Draft Policy 24: Centres;
  • Draft Policy 25: Retail;
  • Draft Policy 26: Town Centre First Assessment; and
  • Draft Policy 27: Town Centre Living.

The consultation highlight that while there is potential merit with this approach, the Scottish Government are of the view that it does carry risks, most notably that it would not be possible for planning authorities to control or mitigate associated impacts of particular types of development (e.g. noise, transport) through planning conditions or obligations.

In light of this, the Scottish Government do not think it would be appropriate or desirable to include uses more likely to have significant negative impacts on those around them – also known as 'bad neighbour' uses – within the new merged use class.

Additionally, the Scottish Government are of the view that including Class 4 (Business) within this new use class could allow out-of-centre office blocks to change to retail use, which would undermine the emerging policy in the Draft NPF4, notably Policies 24 Centres and 25 Retail that seeks to strengthen the 'town centre' first approach for retail developments.

The Scottish Government suggest that this "general town centre use class" could bring together Classes 1, 2 and 3 into a single class and that certain uses in Class 10 (e.g. art galleries) and Class 11 (e.g. gyms) could also be included.

The Scottish Government are of the view that the key issues of creating the proposed combined use class would be:

  • The flexibilities offered by a new, expanded use class would apply in all areas – not just local, town and city centres.
  • The lack of planning control could lead to the loss of certain uses (e.g. retail) in particular locations, resulting in concentrations or clustering of uses rather than a diverse mix of uses.
  • Although other regulatory regimes would continue to apply, planning would not be able to control or mitigate impacts on existing premises that could arise where changes of use take place (e.g. where a retail unit located below a flat becomes a restaurant).

Like the new Class E in England, it is anticipated that a new "town centre use class" could bring greater flexibility which in turn could lead to more opportunities for landlords, occupiers, investors and developers by bringing the primary commercial uses into a single Class.

However, this will not replace the need for wider town centre regeneration and comprehensive, coordinated redevelopment of and reinvestment in Scotland towns to reflect changing attitudes and ensure the vibrancy and vitality of Scotland's towns.

The Scottish Government are accepting comments on the proposed "general town centre use class" until 3 August 2022. If you are interested in finding out more, or if you would like to understand better how the proposed new use class may relate to your commercial property interests, please do not hesitate to get in touch with any member of the Montagu Evans Planning team and/or visit our dedicated town centres sector page here.


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