What is an Article 4 Direction? A Homeowner’s Guide

“Article 4 Direction” – Don’t Panic, It’s Not as Scary as it Sounds!

If you’re a homeowner in a conservation area, you’ve probably come across the mysterious term “Article 4 Direction” and wondered – what exactly does this mean for me and my property? In this guide, we’ll explain Article 4 Directions in plain English so there are no surprises down the road.

However an Article 4 Direction can be adopted by a Council to cover other permitted changes…

What is an Article 4 Direction?

An Article 4 Direction is a tool used under the Town and Country Planning Act to withdraw or restrict permitted development rights on specific properties.  Permitted development rights allow homeowners to make certain minor changes to their property, like replacing windows or doors, without needing full planning permission.

Local planning authorities can introduce Article 4 Directions to tightly control development and alterations within designated conservation areas or control the use of homes in a specific area.  Without Article 4 Directions, incremental changes over time through permitted development could erode conservation areas’ unique qualities and appearances or harm the balance of housing supply in an area.

Typical works that can be restricted include renovations, extensions, cladding/rendering, changes to windows/doors, and demolition of boundaries, change of use of homes etc.  The objective is to prevent unregulated changes that could be visually intrusive or out of keeping with the character of the conservation area.

In summary Article 4 Directions allow local councils to restrict certain “permitted development rights” on properties in specific areas;  Permitted development rights normally let homeowners make minor changes without needing full planning permission, or allow the change of use of a building without going through the planning permission process.  The purpose of an Article 4 Direction in conservation areas are to maintain the visual appearance and historic character that makes neighbourhoods special and desirable places to live.  Similarly, the purpose of an Article 4 Direction restricting the permitted change of use from C3 dwelling to a C4 Small Scale HMO is generally to protect the character of an area, and ensure family homes are retained.

What can an Article 4 Direction Restrict?

The most common Article 4 Direction throughout England is the restriction of permitted development rights for works to a home in a conservation area.  However, an Article 4 Direction can also be used to restrict changes of use to Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). Here are some key points about how Article 4 Directions relate specifically to HMOs:

  • Normally, changing the use of a residential property to a small HMO housing 3-6 unrelated individuals is permitted development that doesn’t require planning permission.
  • However, this type of change could significantly impact the character of a conservation area over time, as large numbers of traditional family homes are converted.
  • An Article 4 Direction can withdraw the permitted development rights that allow this change of use without approval within a specified area.
  • This means converting a conventional dwelling into an HMO would then require a planning application to be submitted and approved.
  • Councils consider factors like preserving community balance, preventing over-concentration of HMOs, and retaining original housing stock types when designating areas.
  • The goal is to manage HMO numbers and locations proactively, so character is protected while still allowing some conversions.
  • Reasonable applications are generally approved if the HMO scheme is well-managed and doesn’t detract from streetscape appearance.

Why is there an Article 4 Direction in place?

As property owners, we normally have quite a bit of flexibility to make minor exterior changes to our homes without going through the full planning process. The purpose of the adoption of Article 4 Directions in conservation areas is to maintain the historic character that makes our conservation areas so unique and appealing. Things like replacing original windows or rebuilding a front wall could gradually alter the streetscape over time.

 When it comes to property investing in HMOs, landlords naturally want to target areas with strong rental demand. But these high-potential locations are often the very areas where you’ll run into an Article 4 Direction – and that could end up derailing an otherwise appealing investment opportunity.  On the surface, it seems like a perfect match – buy a house in a bustling area with plenty of student renters or young professionals, then convert it to an HMO. Great cash flow, easy tenants, and strong capital gains down the line, right? Well, not so fast. If that area falls under an Article 4 Direction, turning the property into an HMO suddenly means jumping through extra planning hoops.  Local councils have valid concerns in such areas about over-concentrating certain housing types or disrupting neighbourhood housing balance.

In Summary

Article 4 Directions aren’t just used to restrict works to properties in conservation area, or the change of use of a home to a HMO, they can cover other works and changes of use.  Always check on your Council’s website for any Article 4 Directions which maybe in place.  Also contact your Council to confirm if there are any restrictions.  With some planning, Article 4 Directions need not stand in the way of improving your home or changing its use, it does however mean that planning permission will be required, and as such success is not guaranteed.

Related Content

Our Practical Guide Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) is available if you are considered a HMO development.

As well as a Practical Guide for HMO’s we also have one on Certificate of Lawfulness for existing uses or development (CLEUD) and one covering Certificate of Lawfulness for a proposed use or development (CLOPUD). You might also find our Practical Guide to Conservation Areas helpful.

More information for you is available in our series of eBooks and Practical Guides which cover everything from the very basics of town planning to application processes and what developers need to consider. And if you’re not sure if you need help from a Town Planner take a look at blog on When to Hire a Town Planner our download a Guide on How to Choose a Town Planner.

Article 4 Direction