What is an Article 4 Direction?

What is an Article 4 Direction?

As the last Government were on their way out, on April 6th 2010, they put in place a change to planning regulations which meant that for any property that had established use as a single dwelling house (Planning Use Class C3) where the owner wanted to use it as a small HMO (Planning Use Class C4) planning consent would be needed. The new Government quickly changed this, enabling local authorities to use this regulation if they felt that there was a need to do so, but only after consulting with property owners in the chosen area. They retained the split of residential property into two separate classes- Class C3 for dwelling houses and Class C4 for small HMO. As a result from 1 October 2010 a change of use from a dwelling house (Class C3) to a HMO (Class C4) and from a HMO to a dwelling house was once again possible and planning permission was not required unless the local authority had put an Article 4 Direction in place in that area.

They did this by allowing authorities to withdraw the ‘permitted development’ rights which would otherwise apply by virtue of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 as amended (the ‘GDPO’). An Article 4 Direction does not prevent the development to which it applies, but instead requires that planning permission is first obtained from the local planning authority for that development. In the case of conservation areas, this process allows for the consideration of the impact of the proposed development on the character and appearance of the conservation area.

The definition of different planning use classes are set out in the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended).

Many landlords confuse change of use with physical changes to the building and where an Article 4 Direction is in place one does not need to make any physical changes to the building this is simply about how the building is occupied. If the property is occupied by 3-6 people, sharing facilities, who are unrelated it is class C4. Larger HMO’s (7 tenants and more) must always have planning consent.

Some cautions

  1. Some local authorities are asking for proof of up to 10 years of established use as an HMO in order to avoid an Article 4 Direction and the need for a planning application while others accept a Tenancy Agreement, that was in place prior to the Direction coming into force, as proof of established use. This could mean that an established HMO is refused permission when the landlord cannot prove established use for the required time.
  2. If a property, that has established use as an HMO, changes use to a family home this will break the established use and will need planning consent to be used as an HMO again in future.
  3. If you are considering buying a property, for conversion, in an established student area check the local authority web site to see if there are any plans to put an Article 4 Direction in the area.
  4. If lenders become aware that there is an Article 4 Direction in place in an area where you are planning to buy, for conversion to an HMO, they may refuse to lend on that property.

What exactly is an Article 4 Direction?

Article 4 Directions are a means by which a local planning authority can bring within planning control certain types of development, or changes of use, which would normally be permitted development (i.e. not require an application for planning permission).

The effect of an Article 4 Direction is that a planning application is required to be made for the change of use of a building from a dwelling house (Planning Use Class C3) to a small HMO (Planning Use Class C4) in the designated area. In other words, this particular change of use of a building is no longer permitted development.

The purpose of the Direction is to give the Council more control over the location of HMO’s in the designated area.

The Article 4 Direction must be publicised for consultation and one year’s Notice must be given before it comes into effect.

Planning Use Classes

  • Use Class C3 (Dwelling Houses) – These generally include self contained houses or flats occupied by a single person, a couple or a family.
  • Use Class C4 (Small HMOs) – These include self contained houses and flats shared by between 3 and 6 unrelated people.

Bedsits and larger shared houses and flats, those occupied by more than 6 unrelated people, do not fall within a Planning Use Class. Planning permission is required for changes to these uses.

 Planning Applications for Change of Use


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