National restrictions are in place. Learn what this means if you live or work in Westminster.

Permitted development rights

You may be able to make minor changes to your property or undertake certain works without needing to apply for formal planning permission under a general planning permission granted by Parliament known as ‘permitted development rights’.

These rights are more restricted for properties in conservation areas. There are also different requirements for listed buildings.

For more information, please see the Planning Portal. In 2013, significant amendments were made to permitted development rights affecting houses, schools, offices, shops and other commercial and industrial buildings. Even if permission is not required you may still need to formally notify us or apply for prior approval before the development takes place in order to benefit from these new permitted development rights. You can access the forms here. 

Article 4 Directions in Westminster

An Article 4 Direction is a direction under Article 4 of the General Permitted Development Order which enables the local planning authority to withdraw specified permitted development rights across a defined area. This brings these types of development within the control of the planning process meaning a planning application is required. A list of Article 4 Directions in Westminster is set out below.

Change of use from office to residential 

We have made an Article 4 Direction to remove permitted development rights for changes of use from B1(a) (offices) to C3 (dwelling houses) in Westminster’s Central Activities Zone. 

Over 300,000 square metres of office space have been redeveloped or converted to residential properties in Westminster’s Central Activities Zone since 2010. This has led to an under-supply of offices, pushing up rents and affecting business activity and competitiveness.

In 2013 the government changed planning law to allow changes from office to residential use without the need for a planning application. This was subject to an exemption for the Central Activities Zone and was intended to lapse after 3 years. The government has decided to make this permitted development right permanent and to lift the exemption, meaning that to continue the current position the council will have to use its powers under article 4 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 to require full a planning application for this kind of development.

This Article 4 Direction is necessary so that the council can use its planning powers to protect mixed uses in the Central Activities Zone, to prevent a continuous loss of office floorspace in the area and to help maintain the zone’s competitiveness, striking a balance between both office and residential uses. 

Further background is given in the cabinet member report (PDF, 550KB) authorising the making of the direction.

Consultation on this Article 4 Direction ran from 20 February until 6 April 2018. The Article 4 Direction was confirmed on 15 February 2019 and came into force on 1 May 2019.

Confirmed Article 4 Direction and map - change of use C3 to B1a

Change of use from shops to financial and professional services

We have made an Article 4 Direction to remove permitted development rights for changes of use from A1 (shops) to A2 (financial and professional services) in the Core Central Activities Zone and the designated shopping centres throughout the city. While financial services like banks provide a valuable local service, this is necessary so that the council can use its planning powers to protect variety and prevent particular industries from dominating retail space in shopping centres. The consultation period on this ended on 14 December 2015. The Article 4 Direction was confirmed on 12 December 2016 and comes into force on 1 January 2017.

Article 4 Direction – change of use A1 to A2

Map of areas to which Article 4 Direction applies

Read more information about these new rules

Basement Development

We have made an Article 4 Direction to remove permitted development rights for basement development throughout the city. The consultation period on this ended on 11 September 2015. The Article 4 Direction was confirmed on 4 July 2016, and the direction came into force on 31 July 2016.

Basement direction

Minor alterations in certain conservation areas

We have removed permitted development rights in eight of Westminster’s conservation areas. In these areas planning permission is required for the specified minor alterations to ensure such alterations will conserve the character and appearance of these areas. The areas and permitted development rights removed are listed below:

Alterations to facades facing the highway (including parts not visible from street level); erection or alteration of gates, fences etc.; the erection or alteration of a building in the curtilage; painting of the exterior, except doors.

Date of direction: December 1969

Alterations to facades; erection or alteration of gates, fences etc.; the erection of a building or hardstanding in the curtilage; means of access to the highway; painting of facades.

Date of direction: May 1975

Enlargement or material alteration of dwelling house; construction of outbuildings or hardstandings, erection of means of enclosure, means of access to highway; painting of buildings.

Date of direction: September 1981

Enlargement or improvement of any part of the dwelling house or the erection or alteration of a building in the curtilage.

Date of direction: December 1984

Alterations to facades, visible from the highway; erection of a porch; change of roof materials or colour; erection of domestic oil storage tanks where visible from the highway; erection of gates, fences etc. visible from the highway; painting of the exterior visible from the highway (including boundary walls, fences, gates etc.); installation, alteration or replacement of a satellite antenna visible from the highway.

Date of direction: November 1992

Painting or repainting of the exterior.

Date of direction: January 1993

Enlargement, improvement or other alterations.

Date of direction: January 1993

Erection or alteration of the means of enclosure of the gardens.

Date of direction: August 1982

Last updated: 21 February 2020