Offices To Residential – Article 4 Direction

Certain types of extensions to buildings and changes of use of buildings do not require full planning permission from the council. These forms of development are called permitted development.

The Planning Portal provides a useful summary of the permitted development and provides links to the legislation which need to be referred to. It also sets out the Use Classes Order and permitted changes of use.

An Article 4 Direction is a special planning regulation adopted by a Local Planning Authority in all or part of their borough. It operates by removing permitted development rights from whatever is specified in the Article 4 Direction.

The effect of these Article 4 Directions is that planning permission is required for these developments that would otherwise not require an application for planning permission.

This enables the council to consider these developments through the planning process so as to ensure that they accord with its policies to improve the local environment, protect businesses or any other issues.

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What are the effects of Article 4 Directions?

Once an Article 4 Direction has been made planning permission becomes necessary for specific changes as set out in the Direction.

There is no fee for any application which is necessary only because of an Article 4(2) Direction.

Offices to residential – Article 4 Direction

What is changing? Since 30 May 2013, new government planning rules has meant that the conversion of offices to houses or flats does not require planning permission.

In Merton we are concerned about the impact this will have in the area’s ability to retain existing businesses and jobs, attract new businesses and jobs, and provide services locally for Merton’s residents, workers and visitors.

Therefore we have decided to use an Article 4 Direction to reintroduce the need for planning permission for the conversion of offices to houses or flats in Wimbledon town centre and Merton’s industrial estates.

Consultation took place on this proposal between December 2014 and January 2015. The overwhelming majority of respondents supported the proposed Article 4. The Statement of Consultation (see document link below) summarises the responses received.

Merton Council resolved to confirm this Article 4 Direction at their meeting on 02 April 2014 so it will come into effect on 03 April 2015.

What will be affected?  Form 03 April 2015, in the areas listed below, proposals for existing offices to change to residential will have to seek planning permission (not prior approval) before making the change:

  • Wimbledon town centre
  • Willow Lane industrial estate, Mitcham
  • Garth Road industrial estate, Lower Morden
  • South Wimbledon [Morden Road] Business Area
  • Durnsford Road industrial estate, Wimbledon Park
  • Dundonald Road industrial estate, Wimbledon
  • Plough Lane industrial estate, Wimbledon Park
  • Prince George’s Road industrial estate, Colliers Wood

If a property in any of the areas above becomes an office in the future, the rules will also apply to that office.

What happens if I have already sought prior approval to change an office into residential in any of the above places? Where prior approval has already been granted or is not required to convert offices into residential use for buildings within Wimbledon town centre or Merton’s industrial estates, applicants must have redeveloped the office to establish residential use by 03 April 2015, and not government’s current date of 30 May 2016.

I own or occupy another type of business, shop, house or flat in this area; will I be affected? No, you won’t be affected by the proposed Article 4 Direction.

I own or occupy an office elsewhere in the borough, will I be affected by this Article 4 Direction? No, you won’t be affected by the proposed Article 4 Direction; only offices within the areas listed above will have the permitted development rights withdrawn.

Article 4 and 4 (2) Directions in Merton’s conservation areas

Even in conservation areas certain kinds of development and alterations that you may wish to carry out to your property, do not require planning permission. These works are after referred to as ‘permitted development rights’.

Consequently, many small scale alterations such as replacement of windows and doors, changes to roof coverings, removal of boundary walls, loss of architectural features etc, do not require permission.

Individually many of these changes may appear fairly minor but added together they can begin to have a significant effect on the character and appearance of conservation areas.

This resulted in a national problem where the character and appearance of many conservation areas was being compromised by the cumulative effect of a series of small changes.

In order to address these concerns, the government introduced Article 4(2) directions to give local authorities the option of introducing certain specified additional planning controls. These replace earlier provisions for Article 4 Directions which required approval of the Secretary of State, therefore, Councils can now make these directions without referring them to the government.

Article 4(2) directions when implemented withdraw certain permitted development rights, as set out in the Direction. It does not affect any alterations which have already taken place. ‘Like for like’ exact replacement and repairs are unlikely to require permission.

In respect of dwelling houses in conservation areas Article 4 Directions generally only apply to the main elevations of a property facing a highway or public space. They also only apply to houses and not to flats (which do not benefit from the same permitted development rights as houses), or other commercial properties.

Government guidance suggests that the power should be used selectively and in relation only to development which is likely to threaten the character and appearance of the conservation area.

Merton Council has two old style Article 4 Directions, confirmed by the Secretary of State for the Environment, in place in the John Innes Merton Park and Wilton Crescent conservation areas.

As part of the process of preparing character appraisals for all the borough’s conservation areas the Council has assessed the need for additional planning controls.

As a result is in the process of be preparing a number of new Article 4(2) Directions as recommended in the character appraisals and two new directions have been made also in the John Innes Merton Park and Wilton Crescent conservation areas.

You can view or download the available character appraisals by visiting our conservation area pages

Directions are being prepared after initial consultation with residents and are made on a selective basis.

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John Innes Merton Park and Wilton Crescent Conservation Areas

Original Article 4 Direction (No 1) – 1986

Original Article 4 Direction (No 2) – Endorsed by Secretary of State, February 1990

Article 4(2) Direction – THE FIRST DIRECTION – July 2007

Article 4(2) Direction – THE SECOND DIRECTION – July 2007

Erecting Marquees in the Wimbledon area

There is also an Article 4 Direction in the Wimbledon area but this is not based on a conservation area.

This Direction is specifically linked to the annual Wimbledon tennis championships and involves the withdrawal of permitted development rights in respect of the erection of marquees on public or private land in the north Wimbledon area. It is only effective for the duration of the championships.

The area covered by this direction is bounded by the borough boundary to the north, Parkside to the west, High Street, Wimbledon Village to Wimbledon Hill Road as far as Wimbledon railway station to the south and the district line to the east until it meets the borough boundary in the north.

See a map of the area affected here (1.2MB)


Call us on 0345 370 1000 for more details.