The government has stated that, if boroughs are particularly worried about the loss of essential office accommodation in their areas, they may impose an “Article 4” direction to suspend the permitted development rights.
However, this is a cumbersome tool for boroughs which is not appropriate in all circumstances. In particular, applicants are entitled to claim compensation for the cost of applying for any development which would have been subject to permitted development for the first year after the direction is announced. This means that most boroughs that have implemented an Article 4 direction have done so with a year’s delay, during which time more office space and more potential affordable housing contributions were lost.
The government has also retained the right to modify borough Article 4 directions if they are considered to be ‘inappropriate’ or ‘disproportionate’. In the case of the London borough of Richmond, the Secretary of State modified the direction to exempt those premises that had already secured prior approval, which represented a significant proportion of the borough’s office stock.
In the London Borough of Islington, the planning minister announced his intention to cancel the Article 4 direction shortly before it was due to be implemented, on the grounds that it was disproportionate. This gave the borough little time to consider the impact of the cancellation before it was announced or to submit revised proposals, though an alternative agreement was subsequently reached with government to reduce the scope of the direction.