What is an Article 4 direction?

Article 4 directions can be put in place by Local Authorities to remove permitted development rights across their entire jurisdiction or a specific area.

That means development work, or a change of property use that would normally be allowed without the need for planning permission would instead require permission in order to be lawful development.

Why are Article 4 directions in place?

There are several reasons why Article 4 directions are used, including:

  • To limit development work that could threaten the character of an area, (e.g. requiring planning permission for any external works in Conservation Areas);
  • To protect the setting around heritage buildings, such as Listed Buildings;
  • To control the types of housing in urban areas, for example Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

Article 4 directions for HMOs

Some Local Authorities have Article 4 directions in place to control the quantity and quality of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in a designated area.

This could be due to the number of existing HMOs in that area and concerns over housing mix.

In an area with an Article 4 direction relating to HMOs in place, property investors are unable to convert a family house (C3 Use Class) into a small HMO (C4 Use Class) that is shared by between three and six unrelated people.

In non-Article 4 areas, switching between the C3 and C4 planning class can be done under permitted development, as afforded under Schedule 2, Part 2, Class L of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (as amended)

For larger HMOs (Sui Generis Use Class), shared by seven or more unrelated households, planning permission is required for change of use.

Property use classes explained

1. C3 class

The C3 planning class refers to single dwellings, used either by a single person or a group of up to six people that form one household.

2. C4 class

The C4 planning class refers to Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) that are shared by between three and six unrelated households, who share amenities like a kitchen or bathroom.

3. Sui Generis class

The literal meaning of Sui Generis is ‘in a class of its own’.

So, any property that doesn’t fall into an existing planning class is classed as Sui Generis – including larger HMOs shared by more than six unrelated households.

Updated 2021 guidance on Article 4 directions

While decisions on implementation of Article 4 directions ultimately with Local Authorities, the government does issue guidance on how plan-making and decision-taking should be conducted in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

This was updated in July 2021, with the government under pressure to meet ongoing housing targets and ensure the built environment is flexible in the post-COVID context.

Interestingly, the update referred specifically to changes in property use from non-residential to residential.

In the updated NPPF (2021), the government says: “The use of Article 4 directions to remove national permitted development rights should, where they relate to change from non-residential to residential use, be limited to situations where an Article 4 direction is necessary to avoid wholly unacceptable adverse impacts.”

The Platinum view

Platinum’s Planning & Sustainability Consultant Mahsa Khaneghah says: “What the updated guidance essentially means is that Local Authorities should only be introducing Article 4 directions removing the permitted development rights associated with non-residential to residential change of use where they are absolutely needed to protect the local context and service offering.

“The government is very focused on housing delivery and have introduced these permitted development rights for a reason, so they don’t really want these to be obstructed by Article 4 Directions unless absolutely needed as evidenced by robust reporting– and if they are needed, they’re keen for them to be brought in for specific geographic areas, rather than blanket Article 4 directions across entire jurisdictions.

“While the update does not directly apply to HMOs, this amendment surrounding guidance on Article 4 direction application really shows how focused the government is on meeting housing targets. This speaks to the value of HMOs, which generally make efficient use of land by providing much-needed affordable housing choice in otherwise under-occupied or under-utilised sites.

“This change is one example of further amendments made to the NPPF (2021), such as a greater emphasis on environmental resilience in the definition of sustainable development and a push for more ‘beautiful places’.

“The Planning world has seen huge shake-ups over the past few years to say the least. A big part of what we do at Platinum is keep our network up to date with the ongoing legislation changes and general shifts in national direction, identifying opportunities and risks in this fast-paced sector.”