Co-Living Development

Are there Article 4 Restrictions in Wirral?

Article 4 Directions are a significant planning control tool used by local authorities across the UK to regulate development and maintain the character of specific areas. In this article, we’ll delve into the concept of Article 4, its implications for developing Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), and the current status and potential future of Article 4 restrictions in Wirral.

What is Article 4?

Article 4 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (GPDO) allows local planning authorities to withdraw specified permitted development rights across a defined area. Permitted development rights typically enable property owners to undertake certain changes and developments without needing to apply for planning permission. These can include small extensions, changes of use (for example changing a Dwelling (c3) to an HMO (c4)), and certain types of building alterations.

Article 4 Directions are implemented to control development that might otherwise occur without planning consent, which could negatively impact the local environment, heritage, and community. For instance, in conservation areas or neighbourhoods with distinctive architectural styles. Local authorities may use Article 4 to prevent unsympathetic alterations that could undermine the area’s unique character.

Over recent years, many Councils across the country have introduced Article for Directions specifically to combat the dramatic rise in HMOs. This is usually a political decision. Residents complain to councillors and MPs who will escalate the issue through local government.

 

Can you develop an HMO in an Article 4 area?

HMOs are properties rented out by at least three people who are not from one household but share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen. HMOs play a crucial role in providing affordable housing, especially in urban areas with high student populations or transient workers.

In areas covered by Article 4 Directions, developing an HMO often requires planning permission. Normally, converting a single-family home into a small HMO (accommodating between three and six unrelated individuals) does not require planning permission, as it falls under permitted development rights. However, an Article 4 Direction can override this, requiring landlords to seek planning permission before making such a conversion.

The purpose of this restriction is to manage the density and distribution of HMOs within a neighbourhood, ensuring that the local infrastructure can support the increased population and that the character of the area is not adversely affected by an overconcentration of rental properties.

Sidenote: If your HMO has 7 or more bedrooms it will ALWAYS require planning permission regardless of whether or not it is in an Article 4 area.

 

Are Article 4 Directions good or bad for property developers?

At Portus Lets Ltd, we manage a range of HMO properties from 4-12 bedrooms across Liverpool and Wirral. Some of them are inside Loiverpool’s Article 4 area and many of them are outside of Article 4 (for example Wirral).

What we find is, without Article 4 Directions, there is a free market and you see flocks of Landlords buying up 3-5 bed terraced houses for conversion to HMOs. This is all well and good while the demand for rooms is high and the supply of HMOs is low but, inevitably, the more HMOs that are created, the the more the supply outstrips demand. It may take 5-10 years to happen but once an area becomes saturated with HMOs, rents start to go lower and lower as Landlords battle to secure tenants.

We always advise our clients that, in a saturated market, the cream always rises to the top and so it is very important to make sure that your property is developed to a high spec and managed by a good agent who specialises in HMOs.

Take Wallasey in the Wirral for example. Tenant demand in the area has not drastically changed in the past 5 years. If a new employer pitches up in the area and creates thousands of jobs then of course demand for local housing will increase but that just isn’t happening. On the other hand, the supply of HMOs has increased massively in the same period. This was partly exacerbated by the introduction of Article 4 Directions in Liverpool which caused lots of would-be Liverpool developers to choose Wirral instead. What we end up with is a supply:demand imbalance, rents slowly getting lower and the void period slowly getting bigger.

Sidenote: can we all stop creating new HMOs in Wallasey, please? Thanks

 

Are there any Article 4 restrictions in Wirral?

As of now, there are no Article 4 Directions in place within the Wirral restricting the conversion of a dwelling (c3) to an HMO (c4). This means property owners in this area still enjoy the standard permitted development rights. They can convert properties into HMOs, build certain types of extensions, and make other changes without needing to seek planning permission, provided these changes fall within the scope of permitted development.

The absence of Article 4 restrictions offers flexibility for property owners and developers, potentially fostering a more dynamic real estate market. However, this also means there are fewer controls in place to manage the impacts of rapid development or changes in property use, which can sometimes lead to issues such as overdevelopment, strain on local services, or changes in neighbourhood character.

Is Article 4 coming to Wirral?

While there are no Article 4 Directions currently in place in Wirral, local planning policies are subject to change. The introduction of Article 4 Directions typically follows a period of consultation and evidence gathering by the local planning authority. This process involves assessing whether certain types of development are having a detrimental impact on the area and whether removing permitted development rights is justified to mitigate these impacts.

There has been no official announcement regarding the implementation of Article 4 Directions in Wirral. However, we often hear (unqualified) whispers about it being in the offing. We won’t quote the source, but someone ‘in the know’ once told us that it would never happen as it’s “too political”. I certainly wouldn’t hang my hat on that presumption as, if enough residents become disgruntled with the uprise in HMOs, it will inevitably escalate up the political chain.

The introduction of Article 4 in Wirral could be driven by several factors, such as:

1. Community Concerns: If there is significant community concern about the impact of HMOs or other types of development on neighbourhood character, local authorities may consider introducing Article 4 Directions. Resident associations and local campaign groups often play a pivotal role in bringing these issues to the attention of planners.

2. Planning Policy Changes: Changes at the national or local level in planning policy can prompt the introduction of Article 4 Directions. For example, national policy shifts aimed at increasing housing supply might lead to an upsurge in HMO conversions, prompting local authorities to impose Article 4 Directions to manage this growth.

3. Evidence of Impact: Local authorities need to demonstrate that certain types of development are causing harm to an area. This might include issues such as increased noise and traffic, strain on local services, or negative effects on the character and appearance of a neighbourhood. Collecting and presenting this evidence is a critical step in justifying the introduction of Article 4 Directions.

4. Strategic Planning Goals: As part of broader strategic planning goals, local authorities may seek to use Article 4 Directions to achieve specific objectives, such as promoting family housing, protecting conservation areas, or supporting balanced community demographics.

 

Conclusion

Article 4 Directions are a vital tool for local planning authorities to control development and preserve the character of specific areas. While there are currently no Article 4 restrictions in Wirral, this situation could change if there are growing concerns about the impacts of certain types of development, particularly HMOs.

Property owners and developers in Wirral should stay informed about potential changes to planning policies that could affect their rights and obligations. Engaging with local planning consultations and keeping an eye on council announcements can provide valuable insights into the future direction of development controls in the area.

For now, the flexibility offered by the absence of Article 4 Directions allows for dynamic development opportunities, but with it comes the responsibility to consider the broader impacts on the community and environment. As Wirral continues to evolve, the balance between development freedom and controlled growth will be a key consideration for planners and residents a like.

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