Do you know what an Article 4 Direction is?
Have you heard of it before?
If you don’t know what it is then I will explain it in this post. As a property investor you really need to understand the different laws that apply in the areas where you operate. Article 4 Direction is one of those laws that applies to most areas across the country.
What is an Article 4 Direction?
This is basically a rule that restricts the changes that property owners’ can make to the front external side of their properties without obtaining the necessary planning permission. A property that is not subject to Article 4 Direction would not require planning permission to make some of these changes.
The purpose of an Article 4 Direction is to protect the appearance or special character of conservation areas. You will not have to pay a fee to apply for planning permission which is the required due to an Article 4 Direction. But you will need the planning permission to go ahead with any changes that you have planned.
Over the years the laws regarding planning permission have changed. Now property owners’ have a lot more freedom to make certain changes without the need for planning permission. You may have heard of this before under the term “permitted development”. Changes allowed under permitted development can often be wide-ranging.
The type of property that you own will dictate what you are allowed to do under permitted development. This will be different in the case of a house, a commercial building or a flat for example.
If your property is in a conservation area permitted development would typically allow the following:
- The replacement of doors and windows
- The removal of chimneys
- Using any colour to paint external walls
- Adding a porch to your property
- Knocking down fences, boundary walls at the front and railings which are less than 1 metre in height
- Erecting fences, boundary walls and railings which are less than 1 metre in height
- Changing the appearance of your front garden by applying a hard surface
- The installation of PV and solar panels on a roof slope or front wall
- The installation of roof lights in the front roof slope
If you were to make most or all of these changes it would probably significantly alter the appearance and character of the building in a conservation area, and is likely to detract from any listed buildings that are close by.
It is important for you to understand that if your property is in a conservation area then there are certain things that you cannot do without planning permission anyway. This would certainly include:
- Demolishing buildings
- Adding Dormer windows to any elevation
- The erection of boundary structures that are higher than 1 metre
- Installing satellite dishes on front elevations
What do you need to do in the case of an Article 4 Direction?
The first thing that I would say here is if your property is subject to an Article 4 Direction it does not mean that you cannot make any changes at all. What it does mean is that you need to think carefully about any changes you are planning to ensure that they will blend in with the conservation area surroundings.
So for example if you want to change your windows then you can only do this by using replica windows if the originals cannot be repaired. If you have purchased a property in a conservation area and changes have been made that contradict an Article 4 Direction, then you will probably have to replace these alterations and reinstate the original features and materials.
You can make an assessment of the type of materials and features that you need to reinstate by taking a look at properties that are in the same terrace or have a similar design near to your property. There is a good chance that properties nearby will still have the existing features and if there are any old photographs of your property available then this can be a big help as well.
Article 4 Direction Restricted Development
The Town and Country planning Act of England 2015 contains rules about permitted development. These rules are arranged into classes which specify the types of development which do not require planning permission.
I am going to get a bit technical here so please stay with me because this is very important for you to know. With Article 4 Directions there are classes of development as well. Within these classes there will be restrictions which relate to parts of a property which are visible from the front unless stated otherwise.
Important things you need to know
Article 4 Directions vary from one region to another so I urge you to find out what applies in your property area. To give you an idea of what the different classes of Article 4 Directions are and what they mean please take a look at the summary below:
Schedule 2 Part 1 – Single Dwelling House Changes
Class A – Alteration, Enlargement and Improvement
You will find that this class covers a wide range of alterations to a house that will include window and door replacement and the addition of external insulation. If your property is in a conservation area and you want to add external cladding (not insulation) on any elevation of your property then you will certainly need planning permission for this.
You must use traditional materials when making changes. So for example if you want to change doors or windows then you must use the correct wood. If your house is fairly modern then it is usually permissible for you to use aluminium or PVC replacement doors and windows as these are considered appropriate.
If your house is in a terrace then you will need to maintain the appearance and character of the front of you property so that it remains uniform with the other houses. Failure to do this can result in a fine and an order to remove any incompatible changes.
Class C – Roof Changes
In this class the restrictions refer to changes that apply to the roof of your house and in particular the use of different roofing materials. If your house has slate or clay tiles then you must use these in any repairs or changes. For a modern house the use of concrete tiles and metal sheeting would normally be considered appropriate.
Again if your house is part of a terrace where there is clear uniformity in the materials used for roofing you must maintain this with any changes. When your house is in a conservation area you will not be permitted to install dormer windows without prior planning permission.
Class D – Porch Construction outside of an External Door
If your property already has a porch installed, and so do other properties nearby, then repairing this or reinstating it should not be a problem under an Article 4 Direction. But if you want to install a new porch that is not in keeping with the terrace or surrounding properties then you are unlikely to be granted permission to do this.
Class F – Hard Surface Paving of Gardens etc
In a conservation area where there are gardens everywhere at the front of properties it is unlikely that you would be allowed to pave your front garden over. The view here is that these front gardens positively affect the appearance and character of the area and should remain.
Class G – Chimneys
Before you make any changes to your chimney you need to check the Article 4 Direction restrictions on this. Chimneys are seen as providing a positive contribution to the appearance of properties due to their ornate and prominent features.
Schedule 2 Part 2 – Minor Changes
Class A – Walls, Gates and Fences
In conservation areas most streets have fences, boundary walls or railings which are used to enclose the front garden area and provide character to the property. You will need to maintain these and not use inappropriate materials and designs.
As always it is about sustaining the uniformity and character of the buildings in the area. If you want to re-paint your railings or re-paint your railings then this would be classified as a minor change and you would not need planning permission for this.
Class C – Exterior Painting
If you want to paint the exterior of your house in a conservation area then you will probably have to use the correct colours to ensure that you stay within the terms of an Article 4 Direction. For example if your property is really old then it is very unlikely that blue or green colours would have been used before.
The local council should have an advisory booklet for you to refer to when it comes to exterior colours. If your property has decorative brick detailing then you are likely to have to maintain this. With joinery most people would want to use traditional colours and if you want to deviate from this then planning permission is likely.
Schedule 2 Part 11: Demolition and Heritage
Class C – Demolition Restrictions
There is almost certainly going to be a demolition restriction relating to the boundary structures of your property. A boundary structure that fronts the road less than 1 metre tall and a boundary structure that doesn’t front the road less than 2 metres tall are probably going to have restrictions.
Schedule 2 Part 14 – Renewable Energy
Class A and Class J – Solar Installations
This is an interesting one. The view here is that the installation of solar panels in a roof slope for example, can negatively impact the appearance and character of a conservation area whether these are at the front or rear of the house. People can see these panels from many different vantage points.
OK so what I have provided you with here is a good overview of Article 4 Directions and what they can mean to you. If you have a property in a conservation area then you need to contact the local council and find out what the rules are regarding permissible changes.