Changing Planning Use - Article 4 Directions


If you need to amend, build or change the use of a building then usually you will need to have planning permission for it from your local planning authority. They will need to approve the work before it goes ahead, quite often adding specific conditions to make sure the work meets the building regulations for example.

However, if you have permitted development rights to for the specific change you want to make, then you do not have to ask prior permission from the planning authority. Permitted development rights effectively mean that Parliament has already pre-approved the work you want to do.

What is a change in use?

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 and its various amendments places buildings into various use classes that are linked by context. For example, buildings where the public are likely to purchase goods or services usually have a use class under Part A like shops (A1), restaurants (A3) and bars (A4). 

Where someone uses the property as a residential dwelling, then this will normally under the use classifications in Part C.

What are the planning use classifications?

For the private rented sector, the relevant use classifications are -

  • C3 Dwellinghouses - this covers residential dwellings where either a single person lives, or up to six people live in the home as a family. It also includes use by sharers where an element of care is provided (supported living) and use by groups of sharers who do not fall into the HMO category (like religious groups)
  • C4 houses in multiple occupation - where a property is shared by between three and six unrelated sharers

If you have a residential property that does not fit into the requirements for these categories, the property will be considered 'sui generis'; Latin for 'a class of its own'. For example, a HMO with seven or more people is too large to be classed as C4, so it must be 'sui generis'.

When do I need planning permission to switch from a family dwelling to a HMO?

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The rest of this guide is accessible once you have registered for an account on this site. It provides information on article 4 directions, local authority enforcement, what changes of use are permitted in England and Wales, and what sort of evidence you should retain to prove HMO status.

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