Article 4; Taking Back Control

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Further to our previous article (, which outlined a summary of revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the housing secretary Robert Jenrick has now confirmed several changes to Article 4 Directions which will be contained within the NPPF.  In a written ministerial statement (1 July 2021), the minister, as part of “on-going measures to improve the planning system” announced a new “higher threshold” for the use of Article 4 Directions.

As a reminder, an Article 4 direction is a direction under Article 4 of the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO) which enables the Secretary of State or the Local Planning Authority (LPA) to withdraw specified permitted development (PD) rights across a defined area.  Essentially, it provides LPAs with a mechanism to regain some control over where permitted development is considered inappropriate.  Due to the changes to the Use Classes Order, existing Article 4 Directions (under current Class O PD) would be set to fall away after 31 July 2021, the end of the “material period”.  However, a new transitional caveat of the GPDO grants automatic extensions of these until 31st July 2022.  This will include the permitted development rights afforded to Class E (former Classes A, D and B1).

The changes announced via the ministerial statement follow the raft of recent changes including the Use Class overhaul and the introduction of a new permitted development right; Class MA, which would allow the change of use from commercial, business and service use to residential without the need for a full planning application (due to come into effect from 1st August 2021 and subject to existing Article 4s). As an aside, Class MA has not been without controversy itself with the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), writing to the Prime Minister to warn that the government’s permitted development changes “present a risk for our nation’s town centres and small businesses”.

Nevertheless, the government is pushing ahead with their support of the enhanced permitted development rights including the new Class MA (Class E to Class C3) PD.  Jenrick said the ministerial statement “sets out measures I am taking to ensure that our policy on Article 4 directions is used in a highly targeted way to protect the thriving core of historic high street areas, but does not unnecessarily restrict the ability to deliver much needed housing through national permitted development rights. Our new policy will apply to all Article 4 directions”.

Whilst the changes to the NPPF would be introduced later in the year, it is noted that the change in policy should be taken into account by planning authorities with immediate effect.  The new paragraph 53 of the National Planning Policy Framework will read:

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.

To clarify, the change only applies to changes from non-residential to residential use, and does not apply to changes between different residential uses, enabling councils to continue to restrict houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs).

In advance of the NPPF changes, Jenrick is encouraging local authorities “to follow this new policy when they consider making new Article 4 directions so that they can assure themselves and their communities that the Article 4 direction is necessary and meets the higher threshold”.  This could come as a blow to many LPAs currently in the process of preparing new Article 4 Directions and it will be interesting to see over the next month ahead of the 31st July 2021 deadline which LPAs are successful in obtaining new Article 4s to disapply the Class MA permitted development right under the higher threshold approach.

In ensuring LPAs comply with the new changes, Jenrick added: “Local authorities are required to notify me about new Article 4 directions.  I will instruct my officials to look closely at all new Article 4 directions to check that they comply with the new policy, and I will consider exercising my power to intervene if they do not”.

If you have a query on the above changes and how this could impact any development sites you may have, please contact one of the Firstplan team and we would be happy to discuss further.

The full written ministerial statement is available at: