Townscape Challenges: Article 4

In 1992 the EHTF's report Townscape in Trouble threw down a challenge to government and helped to change how we manage Conservation Areas. Sixteen years on there have been enormous changes in the challenges facing our sensitive townscapes, changes which the Heritage Protection Bill must address and which will be the focus of this year's Annual Conference, Focus on Townscape.

Townscape in Trouble can claim some credit for the introduction of restrictions to permitted development rights, enshrined in legislation as Article 4 Directions. However, adverse and avoidable changes are still occurring in Conservation Areas and other sensitive places despite this power. Directions are not used as widely as they might be: the process to introduce them is considered by some to be bureaucratic and their scope limited; there is also a belief that they can lead to Planning Authorities being liable to claims for compensation from property owners.

The Forum is working with RPS on a study to review the application of Article 4 Directions. Among the many questions to be asked are: How widely used are Directions? What are the principal features that they seek to protect? How many additional applications are received as a result of having the Direction? Has the Direction resulted in claims for compensation? How successful are they in achieving protection? What are examples of good practice? Is there a case for a blanket amendment to the GPDO in Conservation Areas?

Moreover, the study should also consider whether Article 4 Directions will continue to find favour in the emerging legal, policy and administrative contexts that will be set by the Heritage Protection Bill and the Killian Pretty Review.

Litchfield, a small Cathedral City with a major central Conservation Area is an ideal venue to consider the results of the study and reflect on whether townscape is still in trouble.

Brian Human, Vice Chair, EHTF