Planning Concerns: explanatory notes

An explanation of recent planning history and planning classifications – 2017

In March 2012, an Article 4 directive was introduced across Nottingham City, which meant that from that date on, anyone wanting to convert a family home (classified as a C3), into a house in multiple occupancy (HMO – classified as a C4) would be required to apply for planning permission. This would apply to any property where 3 or more unrelated people were sharing the accommodation. It was accepted that, in areas where the number of C4 properties made up for 25% or more of the housing stock, permission would be refused.

Unfortunately, in the Lenton Drives and Lenton Triangle, and areas of Lenton from the Boulevard as far as the University, this Article 4 directive was too little too late, as saturation of HMOs was already well above the 25% mark.

As a result, this has led to many properties in our area being extended upwards, downwards and sideways. Some of these extensions may not look great, but depending on their type and size, unfortunately there may be nothing we or the Nottingham City Planning Department can do. If the work falls within ‘Permitted Development’, these rights are dictated by central government and are beyond the control of local planning authorities.

LDNRA’s Planning and HMO team have investigated whether an HMO property should be allowed permitted development rights with regard to extensions. The Planning Inspectorate consider HMO properties to still fall within ‘dwelling house’ category, and, as such, to be still entitled to the same rights as a C3 property.

A property converted to a house for 7 or more unrelated people has a class of its own – Sui Generis. There has always been a requirement for these properties to apply for planning permission. Any property that now adds rooms, whether the size of the extension falls within permitted development or not, would still require planning permission if it increases the bedspaces within the property to 7 or more.

The Local Planning Department currently refuse all requests to convert C3 properties into C4s in our area. They are also refusing many applications for extensions outside permitted development rights, citing the negative social and environmental impacts brought by the over-saturation of students and the cumulative increase in bedspaces. However, this does not guarantee that a landlord will give up trying. They may go to appeal where a Planning Inspectorate from anywhere in the country, with no knowledge of the issues we face in our neighbourhood, will make a decision, based on the independent facts of the case.

Unfortunately, there is a time limit on bringing a case against landlords who have not followed correct procedure. The current rule of thumb is that a property has to have been converted to an HMO within the last 4 years for the council to be able to act upon its unlawfulness. We are currently investigating case law to clarify whether the same applies for houses being used as Sui Generis, or if, in fact, the timeframe is actually the last 10 years.