Norwich City Council has introduced an Article 4 direction in order to prevent the change of use of certain offices to residential within the city centre, unless planning permission is granted for it by the council.
The Article 4 direction was ‘made’ on 28 July 2021 and then modified by the Secretary of State on 10 February 2023 to cover a smaller area than originally planned. The modified direction came into force on 22 February 2023.
A copy of the letter received from the Secretary of State, and the modified Article 4 direction including a map of the area to which it relates, are available below.
What is an Article 4 direction?
An Article 4 direction is a direction under Article 4 of the General Permitted Development Order which enables a local planning authority to withdraw specified permitted development rights across a defined area. This means that any change of use from an office to residential within the defined area would require full planning permission rather than only needing prior approval.
Why did the council introduce an Article 4 direction?
Since the introduction of permitted development to change from offices to residential in 2013, there has been a significant loss in office floorspace with around 30% of the total office stock since 2008 being lost. This has significantly impacted upon the supply of available office space in the city centre.
Norwich City Council commissioned consultants Ramidus to undertake a review of office accommodation in Norwich which was published in July 2020 and this found that Norwich’s office market is in a fragile and vulnerable condition and concluded that an Article 4 direction is required urgently in order to safeguard offices of strategic importance.
Norwich City Council also asked Ramidus to provide a supplementary note to their report, giving their thoughts on the impact of the Covid pandemic on the office market, particularly in Norwich.
The supplementary report, which was published in May 2021, set out that the pandemic was unlikely to significantly impact upon the overall demand for offices in Norwich city. The report concluded by saying that there remains a requirement for an Article 4 direction in the city centre.
A six week consultation on the Article 4 direction took place from Thursday 29 July 2021 to Thursday 9 September 2021. All comments received were taken into account when deciding whether to confirm the direction and a summary of the consultation responses can be found within the 8 December 2021 Cabinet report. The council was satisfied that no issues were raised through the consultation process that should have prevented the council from introducing the direction.
Therefore based on the evidence and consultation responses, Norwich City Council confirmed the Article 4 direction on 15 December 2021. It was due to come into force on 29 July 2022.
Government feedback however meant that the council needed to review the geographical area to which the direction applies. The direction as ‘made’ applied to the majority of the city centre however the Government felt that it was not focused enough in order to meet the tests set out within the National Planning Policy Framework, Article 4 directions should apply only to the smallest geographic area possible. The council therefore worked with consultants Ramidus, to identify specific office buildings which should be protected in order to make the direction more geographically focused and the Government confirmed within their modification letter that the direction can come into force on the modified boundaries.
The Article 4 direction will not prevent all offices changing to residential, but instead it protects the most significant office locations within the centre of Norwich and enables the council to consider all material planning considerations including the impact that the loss of individual offices will have upon our economy as well as ensuring that housing is of good quality.
What area does the Article 4 direction apply to?
Documentation includes council committee reports and the evidence base:
- A Review of Office Accommodation in Norwich (Ramidus, July 2020)
- The impact of the Covid pandemic on the office market with reference to the city of Norwich (Ramidus, May, 2021)
- Sustainable Development Panel Report - 22 July 2020
- Sustainable Development Panel Minutes 22 July 2020
- Sustainable Development Panel Report - 1 October 2020
- Sustainable Development Panel Minutes - 1 October 2020
- Sustainable Development Panel Report - 22 June 2021
- Sustainable Development Panel Minutes - 22 June 2021
- Norwich City Council Cabinet Report - 7 July 2021
- Norwich City Council Cabinet Minutes - 7 July 2021
- Sustainable Development Panel Report – 16 November 2021
- Sustainable Development Panel Minutes - 16 November 2021
- Norwich City Council Cabinet Report – 8 December 2021
- Norwich City Council Cabinet Minutes - 8 December 2021
- Sustainable Development Panel Report - 14 June 2022
- Sustainable Development Panel Minutes - 14 June 2022
- Research to Support the Article 4 Direction (Ramidus, September 2022)
- Sustainable Development Panel Report - 15 November 2022
- Sustainable Development Panel Minutes – 15 November 2022
- Norwich City Council Cabinet Report – 14 December 2022
- Norwich City Council Cabinet Minutes – 14 December 2022