RPS Planning was commissioned by the English Historic Towns Forum to undertake research into the use of Article 4 Directions by English local planning authorities. These are used to bring under control a range of works authorised under Article 3 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Orders of 1995 and 2008.
The EHTF 1992 report entitled 'Townscape in Trouble' highlighted the damage that has been caused to the character and appearance of individual historic buildings and entire areas by the many small-scale works that can be carried out without the need for planning permission. However, a local planning authority can restrict these 'permitted development' rights through the making of an Article 4 Direction which can cover one or more properties and they can restrict one or more classes of permitted development.
The effect of an Article 4 Direction is not that development within a particular category of development cannot be carried out, but simply that it is no longer automatically permitted under Article 3 of the GPDO, but instead instead must be subject to a specific planning application. This does not necessarily mean that an authority will refuse permission for the works but it does enable the authority to retain some control over the design and detailing of the proposed development and to grant permission subject to appropriate conditions.
Since 1995 a simplified procedure has been available to enable authorities to make Article 4(2) Directions for dwellinghouses in conservation areas, without the need for the Secretary of State's approval. The use of these Directions as well as the earlier 4(1) Directions which require the Secreatry of State's approval, for restricting works within conservation areas was specifically looked into by contacting 72 local planning authorities, spread across the whole of England .
The authorities consulted as part of the survey had between them designated 2,044 conservation areas, representing some 22% of the stock of conservation areas in England, and 81% of them had Article 4 Directions covering one or more of their conservation areas. In fact some authorities had Directions for every one of their conservation areas (e.g Hart District Council for its 32 conservation areas), though many had high levels of coverage (e.g. Brighton and Hove City Council with 84%, the London Borough of Enfield with 81% and Canterbury City Council with 47% coverage).
While 19% of authorities consulted had no Article 4 Directions for their conservation areas, notable amongst these being Leeds City Council with 65 conservation areas and Kirklees Metropolitan District Council with 59 conservation areas, many others with a large number of conservation areas had only a few Directions. (e.g. Stroud District Council with just 3 Directions for its 42 conservation areas).
Of the authorities consulted, the majority reported that the main type of property affected by the extra controls were dwellinghouses, but a number had used Article 4(1) Directions to bring under control 'permitted development' works to commercial properties and residential flats. Notable amongst these authorities Chesterfield Borough Council has introduced controls over the painting of the exterior of all properties within its Town Centre Conservation Area. A few authorities have used Article 4(1) Directions to bring under control permitted development works to agricultural and industrial properties within their conservation areas (e.g. Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council).
Of the Directions that have been made by the authorities that responded to the survey, 74% had applied the controls selectively within their conservation areas, but some 25% had made 'blanket' Directions, applying the additional controls to all properties within their conservation areas, irrespective whether they were listed buildings or buildings that were not dwellinghouses.
71% of the Directions made by the authorities that responded to the survey dated from after 1995 when the streamlined system was introduced; this reflecting the large number of Directions that are of the 4(2) variety; that is applying to dwellinghouses in conservation areas.
While the withdrawal of permitted development rights by an Article 4 direction can give rise to a claim for compensation if a planning application is refused or granted subject to conditions, none of the authorities consulted in the survey reported any claims for compensation being made against their authority.
An increasing number of local planning authorities are making Article 4 Directions as part of the management plans for their conservation areas and now with the extension of permitted development rights for works within the curtilage of a dwellinghouse that came into operation on 1st October, by the Amended GPDO 2008, authorities need to take action immediately if they are to avoid serious damage to our historic townscapes.
Andrew Dick, RPS