Aside from other regulatory services controlling and licensing houses in multiple occupation (HMO), in April 2010, an amendment to the Town & Country Planning (Use Classes) Order split the C3 (dwellinghouses) class, into two separate classes:

 1. Class C3: Dwellinghouses – this class is formed of 3 parts:

  •  C3(a): those living together as a single household as defined by the Housing Act 2004 (basically a ‘family’);
  • C3(b): those living together as a single household and receiving care, and
  • C3(c): those living together as a single household who do not fall within the C4 definition of a house in multiple occupation.

2. Class C4: Houses in multiple occupation (3-6 occupants) – in broad terms, the new C4 class covers small shared houses or flats occupied by between 3 and 6 unrelated individuals who share basic amenities.

Large houses in multiple occupation (those with more than 6 people sharing) remain unclassified by the Use Classes Order. In planning terms they are described as being sui generis (of their own kind). In consequence, a planning application will be required for a change of use from a dwelllinghouse to a large house in multiple occupation or from a Class C4 house in multiple occupation to a large house in multiple occupation where a material change of use is considered to have taken place.

Section 55 of the Town & Country Planning Act defines “development” and this includes a change in the use of land or buildings, either between different Classes in the Use Classes Order or through a material intensification in the present use, or by subtly altering the present use to a point where the changes amount to development.

Permitted Development Rights

Also in April 2010, a change to the Town & Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order gave permitted development rights to changes of use from C4 to C3, thereby allowing a change of use from a small-scale HMO to a dwellinghouse without the need for planning permission.

A further amendment to the General Permitted Development Order in October 2010 gave permitted development rights to changes from C3 to C4, thereby allowing a change of use from a dwellinghouse to a small-scale HMO without the need for planning permission.

As with most permitted development rights, local authorities can use powers in the form of Article 4 Directions to remove these rights and require planning applications for such changes of use in defined areas.  Other changes to legislation reduced local authorities’’ liability to pay compensation where they choose to make Article 4 Directions.

So where a local authority gives twelve months advance notice of a direction taking effect there is no liability to pay compensation.

Effects of the Changes

As a result of these changes, over recent months we have seen a number of Article 4 Directions coming into effect, particularly towns with large student populations.

As well as Directions covering the change of use to small-scale HMO’s, extra guidance is then required in order to determine these extra applications for planning permission consistently.  This has resulted in a number of authorities drafting Supplementary Planning Documents (SPD) or adding policies into Draft Local Plans, as development management tools, in order to assess and control the concentrations of HMO’s/Student Houses in identified areas.

Are you a local authority looking at producing supplementary planning guidance on this issue? Or a property owner, landlord, or local community group concerned about how this legislation affects you? Whatever your problem give us a call on 01282 872570, or email, and we will be happy to discuss your needs and provide expert advice. All our initial consultations are free.

©Kirkwells Town Planners and Sustainable Development Consultants based at the Lancashire Digital Technology Centre in Burnley
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