When a new government policy was introduced in May 2013 by the coalition government allowing for offices to be converted into homes without having to apply for full planning permission, the change was received positively by potential house hunters and local authorities who viewed it as a way to deal with the national housing shortage.
The aim of the policy was to provide much needed homes in local areas, create new jobs in the construction industry and help regenerate town centres overrun by empty offices in high streets. Although the initial plans have had a big impact – as proven by a survey carried out by Estates Gazette at the beginning of 2014, which found that there were more than 2,250 applications for a change of use from office to residential in the first six months of the policy, a handful of local councils are pledging for an Article 4 Direction to be put in place to make them exempt.
Oxford City Council has been granted the right to restrict permitted development rights in key employment areas commencing 28th March 2015, with any applications to convert offices to residential after this date subject to the mandatory planning process. The decision was made after the council experienced a high take up of applications from developers wanting to make the conversion, leading them to take action to remove the right in 40 key employment areas across the city.
What is an Article 4 Direction?
An Article 4 Direction is a planning regulation adopted by a Local Planning Authority to provide it with extra powers surrounding planning control in a particular location. The right to Permitted Development’ is removed from the developer, enabling the council to control any minor refurbishments or developments taking place to ensure that they tie in with policies, protect the character of a conservation area and don’t disrupt the visual amenities of other areas.
If a local council enforces an Article 4 Direction, then any office-to-home conversions require planning permission prior to any work, no matter how minor, being carried out on a building. If you are unsure on whether or not an Article 4 Direction has been imposed by your local council, you are advised to contact a representative before making plans to go ahead with redevelopment.
Which areas does the Article 4 Direction currently affect?
Currently a total of 17 local councils are exempt from the policy according to the Department for Communities and Local Government, including:
The City of London
The London boroughs of Camden, Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Lambeth, Wandsworth, Westminster, Newham, and Kensington and Chelsea
Manchester City Council
East Hampshire District Council
Ashford Borough Council
Sevenoaks District Council
Vale of the White Horse Borough Council
Stevenage Borough Council
Don’t miss the deadline
Although the majority of councils across the UK are still in support of the temporary policy, developers and self builders in areas such as Oxford and the south east of England are being urged to act quickly if they intend to convert offices into homes and contact their local council for advice if they are unsure about planning rights in a particular location.
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