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Article 4 direction under consultation

Norwich City Council Article 4 direction relating to the conversion of offices to residential

Norwich City Council is currently consulting on an Article 4 direction which if brought into force will prevent the change of use of offices to residential unless planning permission is granted for it by the council.   

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 would require full planning permission rather than only needing prior approval.  

Why is the council proposing to introduce the 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 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. 

Since this piece of evidence was produced in July 2020, the office economy has largely been functioning with people working from home which has led to much speculation as to whether there is still a need for office accommodation. Norwich City Council therefore asked Ramidus to provide a supplementary note to their report, specifically looking at how things have changed since March 2020 and to give their thoughts on the impact of the pandemic on the office market, particularly in Norwich.

This updated evidence suggested that while the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated that people can work from home on a scale, and in ways, not envisaged by the mainstream before, it is not yet clear what the impact on physical footprint will be. The office has a key social function, not to mention areas such as training, mentoring, leadership, corporate ethos and so on. These needs have not disappeared. 

The supplementary report sets out that while the pandemic is likely to have a negative impact overall, it is difficult to foresee a structural change in the demand for offices in Norwich city as a direct result of Covid-19. The report concludes by saying that there remains a requirement for an Article 4 direction in the city centre. 
Based on this evidence, Norwich City Council has made an Article 4 direction. This will not prevent all offices changing to residential, but instead it enables the council to control it and 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 would the Article 4 direction apply to? 

The direction would apply to the majority of the city centre. Any land or premises which fall within the area outlined and hatched in red on this map would be affected by the Article 4 direction.

How can I respond to the consultation? 

The council would like to hear your views on whether an Article 4 direction would be appropriate. The council is consulting on this Article 4 direction for six weeks, starting from Thursday 29 July 2021

The council will consider any representations received before deciding whether to confirm the Article 4 direction. This confirmation must take place at least a year after making the direction to prevent the council being liable for the payment of any compensation associated with the removal of the permitted development right. As such, subject to consideration of representations, the direction will come into force on 29 July 2022. 

Any representations about this direction may be sent to or to Planning Policy, City Hall, St Peter’s Street, Norwich, NR2 1NH to arrive by 11:59pm on Thursday 9 September 2021

Consultation documents

Supporting documentation including council committee reports and the evidence base

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