RPS Examines Use Of Article 4 Controls

12.02.09

An increase in permitted development rights has been signalled by the Government as being a priority for changes to the planning system. In October 2008 the amount of development that can be carried out, without planning permission, in residential curtilages was significantly extended under the revision of householder development rules.

The Government is due to respond to the recommendations of the Killian-Pretty review which proposes giving permitted development rights to shops, businesses, schools and hospitals. While such changes may be helpful in the current economic climate, these relaxations of planning controls may potentially pose threats to our historic environments.

Local planning authorities have been able to bring under control small-scale works that can damage the character and appearance of conservation areas by issuing Article 4 directions. The extent to which authorities make use of these controls to protect conservation areas – and the deterrents to their greater use – was the subject of a research project undertaken by RPS P&D for the Historic Towns Forum.

The RPS research, carried out during August and September 2008, established that just 15% of conservation areas designated by the authorities consulted have Article 4 directions – with 79% of these involving the removal of permitted development rights for development within the curtilage of dwelling-houses. The principal deterrents cited by Local Authorities for not making directions was a lack of suitably qualified staff and a fear of having to pay compensation arising from the refusal of planning permission for works that were previously permitted development. Interestingly, no instances of claims for compensation were reported by any of the Local Authorities consulted.

The research results prompted great interest from local planning authorities seeking guidance on making directions, from amenity societies seeking to prompt their authorities to do more on this front, and from grant awarding bodies keen to ensure that their funds are targeted at areas where there are safeguards to ensure that historic environments are not being degraded while they are investing money in the reinstatement of period features.