Article 4 Directions

Edward Green

The introduction of conservation areas in the UK, under the provisions of the Civic Amenities Act 1967 (now section 69 of the Listed Buildings Act and Section 61 of the Scottish Listed Buildings Act 1997), reflected public concern about not only the loss of historic buildings, but also the importance of their settings, be it the busy Georgian town centre or the late 19th century model village.

There are now more than 9,000 conservation areas in the UK. Each is defined as being ‘of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance.’ The Act recognised the need to arrest the amount of unsuitable development and the pace of change affecting post-war Britain’s built environment.

Within a conservation area the demolition of any building requires consent, whether or not it is listed, as does the alteration of any listed building. However, non-listed buildings within a conservation area can be subjected to radical detrimental alterations without contravening planning laws. For example, if owners of a non-listed building within a conservation area wish to reface the exterior of their property with artificial stone cladding, obliterating its natural stone or brick surface, there is nothing to stop them doing so, relying on their ‘permitted development’ rights.

These rights apply to dwelling houses, but not to flats or commercial buildings. As far as houses are concerned, these rights allow certain minor works to be carried out with permission granted automatically by the Town and Country (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 – such as external painting and the replacement of doors and windows.

Exercising these rights could also result in the replacement of wooden sash windows with uPVC frames and diamond-shaped panes, the removal of a chimney stack, or the replacement of roofing materials such as slate with heavier concrete tiles. A small alteration to a particular property may in itself have little impact on the character of the conservation area, but in recent decades the pace of change has been immense. As the number of minor works accumulate, these small changes over time have had a devastating impact on the character of conservation areas.

A conservation area may include, as well as listed buildings and buildings which are of local interest (the old Grade III specification), many more humble old buildings. Careless alterations to these could detract from the character of the conservation area, particularly if they happen to be next door to a listed property.

In order to counteract the detrimental effect of these many small changes to unlisted buildings, a local authority can make an Article 4 direction, which usually does not require the approval of the Secretary of State. This measure results in increased control over such alterations to unlisted buildings by wholly or partly removing permitted development rights.

The intention of such a direction is to stop the loss of significant features within a conservation area. Such a direction is particularly appropriate where the property to be protected is adjacent to a listed building or fronts a relevant location such as a footpath, highway, railway, waterway or open space. It is also most useful in the case of a terrace of houses, which may not in itself be of enough historical importance to merit listing, but where any slight alterations to one house will have an effect on the appearance of the whole terrace.

Article 4 directions can be sub-divided into two categories:

• Article 4(2) directions – removing certain permitted development rights within all or part of a conservation area
• Article 4(1) directions – removing permitted development rights in other cases.

Article 4(2) directions are the most common. They require specific planning permission to be obtained for certain categories of work in specific conservation areas, taking away permitted development rights. The scope and extent of an Article 4(2) direction may vary between conservation areas. Typical examples of permitted development rights removed by such a direction relate to:

• replacement or insertion of windows and doors
• erection, replacement or removal of boundary walls, fences and gates
• cladding, rendering and painting of building facades
• replacement of roofing materials and rainwater goods
• alteration of roofing alignment and insertion of roof lights
• installation of a TV aerial or satellite dish
• erection of a small box porch
• erection of structures in gardens, including sheds and greenhouses
• creation or alteration of hard standing areas.

Where an Article 4 direction has been made, typically ‘like for like’ replacement of original details is encouraged, as that is not even ‘development’ at all. Changes to windows or doors must be of the same materials, details and types of decorative finish as the originals.

The implementation of an Article 4 direction is not retrospective. The removal of such rights to carry out minor works does not mean that such works cannot be carried out, but simply that a planning application needs to be submitted – which enables the authority to have control over how they are carried out.

Planning applications for such work can be submitted free of charge. No compensation is paid to householders for the removal of their permitted development rights; but if permission is refused, compensation may then be payable. It is important to check whether a property in a conservation area is affected by an Article 4 direction before commencing alterations.

Householders and developers who make unauthorised alterations to a property covered by such a direction could face enforcement action brought by the local planning authority.


Recommended Reading

Mynors, Charles, Listed Buildings, Conservation Areas and Monuments, 3rd edition, Sweet & Maxwell 1999


The Building Conservation Directory, 2005


This article was prepared by EDWARD GREEN with the help of CHARLES MYNORS, barrister and author

Further information


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