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Government Planning Policy for revitalising high streets and town centres

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has set out measures to ensure that article 4 directions are used in a ‘targeted way’ to protect the ‘thriving core of historic high street areas’ but do not restrict the delivery of housing through permitted development rights (PDRs).

In a written statement, he says the policy will apply to all article 4 directions in England.

“As part of our ongoing measures to improve the planning system, increase housing supply on brownfield land, stimulate investment in urban areas and sustain jobs, we have in recent years introduced new permitted development rights which allow the change of use to residential without the need for a full planning application,” he states.

The new paragraph 53 of the National Planning Policy Framework will read:

The use of article 4 directions to remove national permitted development rights should:

  • Where they relate to change from non-residential use to residential use, be limited to situations where an article 4 direction is necessary to avoid wholly unacceptable adverse impacts (this could include the loss of the essential core of a primary shopping area which would seriously undermine its vitality and viability, but would be very unlikely to extend to the whole of a town centre).
  • In other cases, be limited to situations where an article 4 direction is necessary to protect local amenity or the well-being of the area (this could include the use of article 4 directions to require planning permission for the demolition of local facilities).
  • In all cases be based on robust evidence and apply to the smallest geographical area possible.

This change does not apply to changes between different residential uses, only to changes from non-residential to residential use.”

Through the measures, Jenrick explains that a “significant” contribution has been made to housing supply by developing brownfield land.

In specific circumstances, local authorities are able to issue article 4 directions to suspend permitted development rights, which must be backed by evidence.

Jenrick writes: “This written ministerial statement sets out measures I am taking to ensure that our policy on article 4 directions is used in a highly targeted way to protect the thriving core of historic high street areas, but does not unnecessarily restrict the ability to deliver much-needed housing through national permitted development rights. Our new policy will apply to all article 4 directions.”

The measures were subject to a consultation earlier this year.

From this, Jenrick will make other changes to the National Planning Policy Framework later this year. For now, he explains that he wanted to announce the article 4 policy so local authorities and communities can “take it into account from today when they consider bringing in any new article 4 directions”.

Our aim is to support high streets and by ensuring a higher threshold for making article 4 directions relating to change of use to residential we will maximise the potential for underused buildings to be converted to an alternative use,” says Jenrick.

Read the full written ministerial statement on the UK Parliament website.   This statement has also been made in the House of Lords.