Article 4 Directions in Hertsmere's Employment Areas
We have confirmed two new Article 4 Directions that will take effect from 25/05/2023, to remove permitted development rights allowing conversion or redevelopment of business premises within employment areas to residential use in Hertsmere.
Changes of use from commercial, business and service uses to residential
Demolition of a commercial building or block of flats and replacement with residential
The existing Article 4 Direction that restricts the permitted development rights allowing for conversion of storage or distribution premises (use class B8) to residential is unaffected and remains in place.
Class P (B8) Article 4 Direction
Scroll down for more information and Frequently Asked Questions.
The government has introduced new regulations that broaden the range of premises that can be converted or demolished and replaced by residential use without the need for a planning application. This is known as ‘permitted development’ (PD).
These new regulations mean that we need to update the measures we have already put in place to protect our employment areas from loss of commercial premises and the introduction of residential uses. Our employment areas are designated in the Local Plan.
We are introducing two new Article 4 Directions, which is a planning tool that can be used in local areas to remove ‘permitted development’ rights for a particular type of development.
We originally introduced Article 4 Directions in our designated employment areas, following consultation with all affected premises, in 2020. As a result, anyone wanting to change the use of offices, light industrial or storage / distribution buildings to residential in these areas needs to submit a formal planning application.
Since we introduced these original Article 4 Directions, the government has made further changes to permitted development rights, meaning that we need to update our Article 4 Directions affecting Employment Areas under Classes MA and ZA.
The Article 4 directions will take effect from 25/05/2023 having completed the public consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are you proposing to introduce new planning controls to stop some buildings being converted into homes?
Planning permission is normally required to change the use of or to redevelop a building. However, sometimes a planning application is not required because of what is known as permitted development (PD) rights, which are set out in national legislation.
In recent years, the government has amended the regulations covering PD rights to enable business premises to be converted or redeveloped into residential units, subject to certain conditions and limitations, without the need to submit a planning application.
The changes were intended primarily to boost the supply of housing but also to help regeneration through reuse of vacant office space.
What is an Article 4 Direction?
An ‘Article 4 direction’ is a planning tool that can be used in local areas to remove PD rights for a particular type of development. They are used in exceptional circumstances where there are local concerns about the impact of a specific PD right. In Hertsmere, for example, they have been widely used to avoid unsympathetic extensions to houses in conservation areas which would otherwise not require planning permission. A legal process, including public consultation, has to be followed in order to introduce an Article 4 direction.
What is the difference between these new Article 4 directions and the Article 4 directions confirmed in 2020?
Following amendments to the national regulations on which existing Article 4 Directions are based, we need to introduce some further changes to the current restrictions. This will enable us to continue protecting both the operational integrity of Hertsmere’s Employment Areas and the standard of residential accommodation available to our residents. Two key changes were made to the regulations by the government:
- New PD rights now permit, subject to meeting certain technical criteria, the demolition of vacant (for at least six months) commercial buildings which in March 2020 were in use as an office, for research and development or for light industrial use and their replacement with residential development. The new Article 4 directions cover this category of PD under Class ZA of the General Permitted Development Order.
- The planning system groups uses of land and buildings into various categories known as Use Classes; changes within Use Classes can occur without planning permission. Offices, light industrial and storage distribution activities, already covered under the existing Article 4 directions, now form part of a much broader Commercial, Business and Service Use Class which includes, for example, retail, restaurants and GP practices. The previous PD rights for converting business premises into residential use have been reclassified in line with the updated Use Classes to cover this broader range of commercial uses. This category of PD rights is now under Class MA of the General Permitted Development Order and our Article 4 directions needs to be amended to reflect this.
Why are you continuing with Article 4 directions when the government has increased PD rights in relation to business premises?
We are responsible for the effective planning of the area and with almost 80% of the borough designated as Green Belt, we want to maintain a balance between housing and employment within our built up areas. We also want to ensure that new homes are delivered in the most appropriate locations.
The conversion or redevelopment of business premises into new homes can create land use conflicts by siting residential development next to employment land. We are unable to apply our usual planning policies which aim to retain good quality commercial premises and industrial estates, as well as ensuring new homes have sufficient indoor living space, gardens and car parking and securing a proportion of affordable housing. Under the prior approval process, a developer need only show that a proposal is acceptable having regard to a limited range of technical criteria.
The prior approval process is known to have displaced existing businesses and research has shown that we have lost more office and employment floorspace than any other part of Hertfordshire.
What will be the impact of the updated Article 4 Directions?
The Article 4 directions would, together with our Local Plan policies, continue to provide us with control of change of use applications within the selected areas. However, it will also enable us to require a full planning application to be submitted for proposals to redevelop vacant commercial premises for residential units.
This will help protect our industrial estates and business parks which have been identified as being of particular importance to the functioning of our local economy, both now and in the future. It will also allow the consideration of other planning matters such as affordable housing or gardens to be properly considered which would not be possible with the permitted development rights.
Do the Article 4 directions affect the whole borough?
No, the Article 4 directions will only affect important industrial estates and business parks already identified in our Local Plan. For Class MA, these are:
- Employment Areas – Elstree Way and Stirling Way, Borehamwood; Cranborne Road and Station Close, Potters Bar; and Otterspool Way, Bushey;
- Key Employment Site – Centennial Park, Elstree; and
- Locally Significant Employment Sites – Wrotham Business Park; Borehamwood Enterprise Centre and Theobald Court, Borehamwood; Lismirrane Industrial Park, Elstree; Hollies Way, Potters Bar; Beaumont Gate, Radlett; Farm Close, Shenley.
As permitted development rights under Class ZA cannot be used within 3km (1.86 miles) of an aerodrome, the Article 4 direction relating to Class ZA only affects the following industrial estates and business parks due to the proximity of Elstree Aerodrome:
- Employment Areas – (1) Elstree Way and (2) Stirling Way, Borehamwood; (3) Cranborne Road and (4) Station Close, Potters Bar;
- Locally Significant Employment Sites – (1) Wrotham Business Park; (2) Hollies Way, Potters Bar; (3) Farm Close, Shenley.
The Article 4 direction maps are available to view above.
Outside these areas, PD rights allowing a change of use or redevelopment of business premises to provide new homes, subject to a prior approval, will remain.
Why does one of the Article 4 directions describe business uses as Class B and the other Article 4 direction describe business uses as Class E?
The new PD rights differentiate between the conversion of commercial buildings for housing – which apply to all activities within Class E including retail and restaurants – and the redevelopment of some vacant commercial buildings for housing, which only applies to a narrower range of business activities which were previously in Class B - offices, research and development, light industrial and storage and distribution activities. The PD regulations specifically identify this narrower range of business activities by stating that they only apply to premises which were in use for Class B1 prior to the regulations changing in 2020. For this reason, there are different Article 4 directions covering the conversion of commercial buildings (Class E) and the redevelopment of commercial buildings (Class B).
When was the decision taken to make an Article 4 direction?
Our Executive first agreed in March 2019 that officers should make an Article 4 direction that would remove PD rights and associated prior approval process. This was followed by a period of public consultation.
Have other councils introduced similar Article 4 Directions?
Yes, many councils across England have introduced directions to control the conversion and/or redevelopment of commercial premises into residential accommodation. This includes neighbouring councils such as Watford, Three Rivers and Barnet. A report published by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors in 2018 assessed the impact of extended PD rights across England and recommended that councils should pro-actively respond to their potentially significant impact by introducing Article 4 directions.
How has the government responded to councils introducing new Article 4 directions in response to the expansion of PD rights?
National planning policy acknowledges that local planning authorities may use Article 4 directions to remove national PD rights. There has been an increase in Article 4 directions being introduced in response to expanded PD rights and the government has since clarified that such measures must be limited to situations where it is ‘necessary to avoid wholly unacceptable adverse impacts’ or ‘to protect local amenity or the wellbeing of an area’. In all cases, it should ‘be based on robust evidence, and apply to the smallest geographical area possible’. We think there is sufficient evidence to justify measures to protect identified employment areas which cover very specific locations; business premises outside of the designated employment areas would continue to benefit from expanded PD rights.