- Tougher Rules on Article 4 Directions Introduced
Tougher Rules on Article 4 Directions Introduced
Tougher Rules on Article 4 Directions Introduced22nd July 2021 - Published by
As part of the Government’s initiative to increase housing numbers, through modifications to planning law allowing changes of use to residential, there has now been an announcement that Councils will have to meet a more strict test before being able to bring in a direction that removes these permitted development rights within their area.
What is an Article 4 Direction?
An Article 4 direction is a direction made under Article 4 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 by the local planning authority (LPA). The direction restricts the scope of permitted development rights within the LPA’s administrative area, either for a specific piece of land or geographical area or for a particular type of development.
Once an Article 4 direction is in effect, it does not mean that there may be no development, but that a planning application is likely to be required for development which would otherwise have been permitted development. Most commonly, they are imposed to protect and preserve an important characteristic of an area, although it should be noted that Article 4 directions are not necessary to protect listed buildings. Protection for listed buildings is by way of requiring an application for listed building consent which would cover all works that would otherwise be permitted development under the planning regime.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) provides guidance on when and how to make an Article 4 direction. It currently states at paragraph 53 that:
“The use of Article 4 directions to remove national permitted development rights should be limited to situations where this is necessary to protect local amenity or the well-being of the area (this could include the use of Article 4 directions to require planning permission for the demolition of local facilities). Similarly, planning conditions should not be used to restrict national permitted development rights unless there is clear justification to do so.”
Under this guidance, as long as the LPA can show that the article 4 direction was indeed ‘necessary’, then one may be put in place. Also noteworthy is the guidance around using conditions to restrict permitted development rights, which LPA’s will use in place of or as an adjunct to an Article 4 direction.
Changes to the NPPF
Once the changes are formally made to the NPPF, a new paragraph 53 will read as follows:
“The use of Article 4 directions to remove national permitted development rights should:
- where they relate to change from non-residential use to residential use, be limited to situations where an Article 4 direction is necessary to avoid wholly unacceptable adverse impacts (this could include the loss of the essential core of a primary shopping area which would seriously undermine its vitality and viability, but would be very unlikely to extend to the whole of a town centre)
- in other cases, be limited to situations where an Article 4 direction is necessary to protect local amenity or the well-being of the area (this could include the use of Article 4 directions to require planning permission for the demolition of local facilities)
- in all cases, be based on robust evidence, and apply to the smallest geographical area possible.”
For years, LPAs have been using Article 4 directions as a way of overcoming permitted development rights imposed at a national level. The Government has now acknowledged and addressed this by making it more difficult for LPAs to remove these rights and, it hopes, housing numbers will increase as a result.
The test of “robust evidence” has been imposed to justify the use, which is a higher threshold for the LPA to meet. In addition to this higher threshold, the new paragraph in the NPPF also restricts the geographical scope of the removal of rights; previously LPA’s would impose Article 4 directions over large areas of land – such as Manchester City Council’s wide ranging restrictions in respect of residential use to houses in multiple occupation or office to residential use. However, it should be noted that this change to the NPPF does not apply to changes between different residential uses and so will enable LPA’s to continue to restrict change of use from a single occupancy household to a house of multiple occupancy where that is necessary to protect local amenity of an area.
However, it is anticipated that as Article 4 directions become more difficult to justify, this will be met with an increase in the use of conditions to restrict changes under permitted development rights. This is in addition to the anticipated rise in conditions restricting permitted development rights imposed on permissions granting uses under class E. It is notable that there is no reference to the imposition of conditions restricting permitted development rights in the new iteration of paragraph 53; this is presumably to be addressed in the NPPF elsewhere or at a later date.
The Government continues with its now common refrain of supporting and reinvigorating high streets. Its intention is that by ensuring a higher threshold for making Article 4 directions, underutilised or vacant properties that may previously have sat within a broad swathe of ‘Article 4 land’ may now be converted from non-residential to residential use. The written ministerial statement of 1 July announcing the changes states:
“This [change] is important to support mixed and flexible high streets, to deliver additional homes more easily, and to support jobs in the construction industry, while increasing demand for local high street services through new high street homes.”
Industry professionals have already voiced concern over the soon to be introduced class E to residential permitted development irrevocably changing the character of the high street and this extra layer of protection to this right is likely to only increase this concern. However, property owners in areas that previously may have been subject to a withdrawal of their permitted development rights through a blanket imposition of an Article 4 direction may be pleased to see the Government attempting to stop LPAs circumventing nationally imposed legislation.