Article 4 Directions

What are Article 4 Directions and why are they used?

Householders can normally make minor alterations to their homes without requiring planning permission from the local planning authority, under ‘permitted development’ rights. However, Local planning authorities have the power to remove some of these permitted development rights by making an Article 4 Direction.

Article 4 Directions are introduced where there is a threat to the special interest, character and appearance of an area through the loss of form, features, details and materials that would otherwise be allowed under permitted development rights. This is usually in conservation areas or other areas of special interest. The aim is to protect the heritage significance of these important places by controlling small scale works that would individually or collectively erode or cause harm to it.

The placing of an Article 4 Direction does not necessarily prevent all alterations to the exterior the property. It does, however, ensure that proposed changes accord with the objective of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of the conservation area.

Article 4 Directions in force

Milton Keynes Council has issued two conservation related Article 4 Directions:

  • Olney Article 4 Direction Area – all dwellinghouses in this area are affected, but only in so far as any extensions or alterations, erection of porches, and the painting of exterior walls;
  • Wolverton Article 4 Direction Area – all dwellinghouses in this area are affected, but only in so far as extensions or alterations to elevations fronting a road (including side elevations on corner properties), creation of hard surfaces, and removal and replacement of walls at the front, and installation of satellite dishes on the front.

The precise extent of each Direction can be viewed using our online mapping tool.

Do I need to make a planning application?

Development requires planning permission. Development is defined as the carrying out of building works or engineering operations, or the material change in use of land or property. There are, however, exemptions which mean certain matters are not development. These include “the carrying out for the maintenance, improvement or other alteration of any building of works which do not materially affect the external appearance of the building”. Broadly speaking, this means if the changes do not cause a noticeable change to the appearance of the building, they are not development which requires permission. This would also cover repairs which repeat the detail and materials of the existing.

If you are unsure whether your proposed works materially affect the external appearance of the building, you should make an application for a Lawful Development Certificate. Such a judgement requires adequate detail to be provided. Alternatively, you may wish to satisfy yourself by considering the following questions:

  • When considering the existing eaves, verge, header, sill, string and plinth detailing on the property as a whole, are those features maintained?
  • Is the existing brick bonding pattern maintained?
  • Is exterior brick, slate and stonework maintained as existing and matched where replacement is required?
  • When considering replacement windows and fanlights, are the proportions and style of the existing windows maintained (i.e. are frame, casement, transom, mullion and glazing bars of similar thickness, width and colour to those which are being replaced, and is the existing material and opening method matched)?
  • When considering replacement doors, do glazing panels continue to feature where they already exist, in similar proportions to the existing; are similar fixtures (e.g. door knockers, letterboxes, etc.) installed; is the material of the existing matched; and does the overall appearance preserve the ‘age’ of the property?
  • When considering replacement rainwater goods, are they of matching material, colour, dimensions and shape?

If the answer to one or more of the above is ‘no’, then it is likely that the proposed works will require an application for planning permission unless permitted development rights allow for these works. As noted above, the extent of each Article 4 Direction varies, but in summary:

  • In Olney, permitted development rights exist for the creation or alteration of outbuildings and hard surfaces within the curtilage, as well as the erection of boundary walls and fences;
  • In Wolverton, permitted development rights exist for the creation or alteration of outbuildings and hard surfaces within rear gardens; extensions and alterations to rear elevations of the property (or side elevation where not fronting a road); the removal, replacement or erection of fences and walls to rear gardens; and the installation of satellite antennae to rear elevations of the property.

Where permitted development rights remain in place (i.e. not withdrawn by the Article 4 Direction), the works must satisfy the limitations and conditions set out in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015, as amended. These criteria are summarised in technical guidance issued by the government.

What is likely to be acceptable under a planning application?

If you need to apply for planning permission, you should consider a proposal which preserves and/or enhances the character or appearance of the area. Consent will not normally be given to replace traditional features with modern ones, or to use substitute materials such as uPVC or timber cladding unless they match the appearance and detailing of the original.

Where modern materials have replaced traditional ones in the past, the aim to enhance the character or appearance of the area means the local planning authority will, where appropriate, seek restoration of traditional materials at the earliest available opportunity unless material considerations indicate otherwise.


All the above constitutes guidance only, provided to assist in establishing the need or otherwise to make a planning application. It is not to be relied upon in establishing the lawfulness of proposed or existing works, which can only be provided by making an application for a Lawful Development Certificate.