Use Classes Order
Planning permission is required for material change of use of buildings
and land. Categories of use are defined by national Use Class Orders.
England & Wales are governed by the Town & Country Planning
(Use Classes) Order 1987 (HMOs belong to the same Use Class
as family dwellings, Class C3). Scotland
is governed by the Town & Country Planning (Use Classes)
(Scotland) Order 1997. And Northern
Ireland comes under the Planning (Use Classes) Order (Northern
A Review of the Use Classes Order in England was published
in September 2001, and in January 2002, the Department of Transport,
Local Government & the Regions issued a Consultation Paper inviting
comments on proposals to change the Use Classes Order. Leeds HMO
When the new Use Classes Order was adopted in Northern Ireland
in November 2004, The National HMO Lobby wrote to the Planning Minister,
Keith Hill, urging him to follow this lead [see below].
Again, on 20 December 2004, Alan Simpson MP (Nottingham South)
asked the Minister to amend the Order, and Keith Hill replied on
21 February 2005. The National HMO Lobby responded to this reply
on 3 March [see below].
However, the Ministry has persistently turned a deaf ear to campaigners'
arguments, and a blind eye to the inadequacy of its own legislation.
For in the mean time, on 21 January 2005, an amended Order was made,
Statutory Instrument 2005 No. 84, The
Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Order
2005. This Order amends Use Class A3, but makes no change
at all to Use Class C. Guidance is given in ODPM Circular 03/2005,
of Use of Buildings & Land.
On 21 April 2006, Roberta Blackman-Woods MP (City
of Durham) held a Sustainable Communities Seminar in Durham.
Following the Seminar, she agreed to raise the Use Classes Order
with the Minister for Planning, Yvette Cooper MP. Members of the
Lobby wrote to their MPs, urging them to support this initiative
Subsequent representations by the Lobby have pressed
for reform of the Use Classes Order, including From
Decent Homes to Sustainable Communities (September 2006)
and The Supply of Rented
Housing (October 2006).
In March 2007, the House of Commons Committee for
Communities & Local Government, no less, stated: "We recommend
that the Government examines whether local authorities need additional
powers to address the problems arising in areas with especially
large numbers of HMOs", clearly referring to the Use Classes
Order as one option (House of Commons, Communities & Local Government
Towns (HC 351) 2007, paragraph 46).
On 28 March 2007, the National HMO Lobby and its
members in Loughborough and Nottingham simultaneously 'mugged the
Minister', lobbying Phil Woolas, Minister for Local Government and
Community Cohesion, for amendment of the Order. Correspondence with
the Department for Communities & Local Government followed.
On 8 May, a delegation from Loughborough, led by Andy Reed MP, met
the Minister for Local Government. Following this meeting, Alison
Edwards (who has policy responsibility for the Order) wrote to the
Lobby: "Following on from this meeting, officials and Ministers
will have further discussions on the issue of HMOs and 'studentification',
including the role that the UCO can play, and I will feed the information
and views you and others have provided into those discussions"
(email, 8 May 2007).
Then, in the autumn of 2007, Simon Llewellyn, Head
of Private Renting and Leasehold at Communities and Local Government,
wrote "we fully recognise the difficulties that can arise with
large concentrations of dwellings with group occupation and recognise
that there may be a case for amending the Town and Country Planning
(Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended). We therefore propose to consult
next year on proposals to amend the Use Classes Order in relation
to HMOs." In a written
answer in the Commons on 15 January 2008, Planning Minister
Iain Wright reiterated this commitment: "We propose to consult
on possible amendments to the Use Classes Order in relation to HMOs
later in the year."
On 9 April 2008, "a new review aimed at improving
the management and conditions of people living in Houses in Multiple
Occupation (HMOs) was launched
by Housing and Planning Minister Caroline Flint." The Review
was in fact the subject of the HMOs Seminar
attended by the National HMO Lobby at CLG on the same day, 9 April.
This Seminar was the final phase of the preliminaries to the HMO
Review and to the consultation on the Use Classes Order. A Report
by the consultancy ECOTEC was published by CLG on 26 September,
Gathering - Housing in Multiple Occupation and possible planning
responses; the report attracted media attention, in the
Guardian, on Radio 2 and in the Mail on Sunday.
The National HMO Lobby responded the
On 13 May 2009, CLG published its consultation paper
in multiple occupation and possible planning responses: Consultation.
The National HMO Lobby launched its response process the following
day. The first phase consisted of preparing to respond, including
a number of Campaign Bulletins, raising questions about the consultation
proposals. The second phase decided on the Lobby's response to the
consultation, at a National HMO Seminar held in Birmingham on 12
June. Subsequently, the Lobby moved into phase three, submitting
responses to CLG. A delegation to CLG presented the Lobby's Response
to the CLG Consultation on Houses in Multiple Occupation and possible
planning responses on 30 July. Change to the Use Classes
Order was supported by most of the Core Cities and by the Planning
Officers Society, the Royal
Town Planning Institute, the Chartered
Institute of Environmental Health, the British Resorts And Destinations
Association, the Coastal Communities Alliance and the
National HMO Network, among others. Upon the close of the Consultation,
media coverage followed, including reports on The Sunday Times,
The Times and Channel Four's News at Noon; later
reports appeared in Planning, The Guardian and
On 27 January 2010, on a visit to Oxford East, Minister
for Housing & Planning John Healey MP announced
the government's intentions in the light of the HMO consultation
- namely, to agree to all three recommendations by the National
HMO Lobby. These were (a) a new planning definition of HMO, based
on that in the Housing Act 2004, (b) removal of HMOs from Class
C3 in the Use Classes Order to a new Use Class C4, and (c) amendment
of the General Permitted Development Order to permit return of HMOs
to Class C3 without planning permission. The Minister's announcement
included other proposals also, on licensing
and on a National Register of Landlords. The Minister presented
Ministerial Statement to the House of Commons. On the same day,
of Responses to the consultation was published (this showed
over 90% support for the Minister's decisions).
The two Orders were made on 8 March, Statutory Instrument 2010
No. 653 The
Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Order
2010 and Statutory Instrument 2010 No. 654 The
Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment)
(England) Order 2010. On 31 March, Communities & Local
Government published Circular
05/10: Changes to Planning Regulations for Dwelling Houses and Houses
in Multiple Occupation, as guidance.
Meanwhile, on 18 March, CLG published Introducing
a definition of houses in multiple occupation into the Use Classes
Order: Impact assessment, which endorses the Lobby's arguments
for HMO legislation. A week later, CLG also published Strategy
for seaside success: Securing the future of seaside economies
(25 March 2010), which drew attention to the value of the amended
UCO to seaside towns (p20).
However, David Cameron MP, Leader of the Opposition, and a number
of Shadow Ministers, tabled an Early Day Motion (no 1200) on 29
March, on TOWN
AND COUNTRY PLANNING (S.I., 2010, No. 653), which called for
the revocation of the Statutory Instrument. The Co-ordinator of
the Lobby and the Chair of NORA wrote jointly to the signatories,
expressing surprise and disappointment at this move. Many other
members of the Lobby also wrote. Grant Shapps MP, Shadow Housing
Minister, replied, and Co-ordinator and Chair replied jointly again,
criticising the justification by the Conservative Party of their
action. On 21 April, the Co-ordinator met Grant Shapps in Headingley
- who agreed to revise the Conservative response. On 26 April, this
revision was adopted, stating, "We will ensure that there is
no gap between Labour's new legislation (active from April 2010)
and any equivalent legislation introduced by a Conservative government.
We will consult again on any changes proposed by a Conservative
The new measures came into force on 6 April.
Following the General Election of 6 May, Grant Shapps
MP became Minister for Housing. On 10 June in the House of Commons,
he said, "we do not plan to overturn the rules [on HMOs] that
the previous Government introduced" (see Hansard).
But only a week later, 17 June, the Minister published a Written
Ministerial Statement: in itself, this seems innocuous,
but the accompanying Press
Notice reveals that the intent is in fact to revert to Option
3 of the consultation in 2009 - which was opposed by 99% of respondents
(it proposes the use of Article 4 Directions for local authorities
to opt in to HMO legislation). In response to a brief consultation
by invitation (which concluded on 9 July), the National HMO Lobby
submitted a Response,
which was widely supported by local authorities (including the Core
Cities), by MPs, by councillors, by NORA and by planning professionals
On 7 September, the Minister announced
that he was doing what he said he was going to do all along, and
laid before Parliament two Statutory Instruments, 2134
and 2135, respectively
amending the GPDO (making conversion of a house to HMO permitted
development) and the Compensation Regulations (relating to Article
4 Directions). SIs 2134 and 2135 came into force on 1 October. And
on 4 November 2010, CLG published Circular
08/10: Changes to Planning Regulations for Dwellinghouses and Houses
in Multiple Occupation, and Replacement
Appendix D to Department of the Environment Circular 09/95: General
Development Consolidation Order 1995, clarifying the
Meanwhile, two rearguard actions were under way.
On 14 September, Harriet Harman MP, Leader of the Opposition, and
a number of Shadow Ministers, tabled two Early Day Motions (nos
calling for the SIs to be annulled. This led to a consideration
of the SIs in the Delegated Legislation Committee on 16 November;
both were endorsed. This in turn was followed by a debate
in Westminster Hall on 18 November, and a meeting between members
of the APPG for Sustainable Communities and the Housing Minister
on 23 November - neither to any avail. In addition, members of the
Lobby from Bournemouth and Southampton met CLG officers on 30 November.
And on 23 September, Milton Keynes Council applied
to the High Court for a judicial review of the new legislation.
On 29 September, the Court asked the government to submit its defence
against the application. However, on 15 October, the Court refused
the application. On 22 October, Milton Keynes renewed its application,
and was granted an Oral Hearing on this application. On 20 January
2011, permission was granted, and the Review began at the High Court
on 30 March; it ran on to the following day. But the judgement on
11 April decided against Milton Keynes.
Subsequently, the government has published a number
of consultation papers, which in various ways have a bearing on
the Use Class Order. In November 2010, CLG published a consultation
for changes to planning application fees in England; the
Lobby responded, arguing that planning
applications required by Article 4 Directions should attract fees,
like any other application. [The results of the consultation were
on 3 August 2012: despite support for devolving fee-levels to local
authorities and for extending the range of fees, the government
resolved to make no changes, except to increase existing fees nationally
by 15%]. In June 2011, CLG published an Issues Paper on How
change of use is handled in the planning system; the Lobby
responded, in the light of its experience
of the Use Class Order. Then in July, CLG published the Draft
National Planning Policy Framework, which will replace
the various existing Planning Policy Statements; again, the Lobby
has responded. The Framework
came into effect on 27 March 2012.
On 10 May 2012, Unipol held a Seminar in London
on Students and Planning. Ostensibly, "the day will
review and discuss the progress of planning restrictions on houses
of multiple occupation being carried out under "Article 4"
powers taken by some 40 local authorities - mainly in areas of higher
education with most aimed specifically at students." In fact,
speakers represented only the views of students and landlords.
The issues paper on the Use Classes Order of 2011
was followed up by a consultation launched on 3 July 2012, titled
New opportunities for sustainable development and growth through
the reuse of existing buildings; but this has no bearing
Below may be found -
Planning (Use Classes) Order (Northern Ireland)
2004, representation to Minister Keith Hill, 29 Nov 2004
Use Classes Order, representation
to Minister Keith Hill, 3 March 2005
Parliamentary HMO Lobby, representations to
MPs, April 2006
Houses in Multiple Occupation, representation
to Minister Phil Woolas, 28 March 2007
HMO Review, representation to Minister
Caroline Flint, 10 April 2008
Representation on HMO & UCO,
presented to Communities & Local Government, 17 October 2008
From: National HMO Lobby
Date: 29 November 2004
You will be well aware that today the Planning (Use Classes) Order
(Northern Ireland) 2004 comes into effect. I am writing on behalf
of the National HMO Lobby to ask that in the light of this development
in one part of the UK, you re-visit the Use Classes Order as it
applies in England & Wales.
Members of the Lobby contributed to the consultation on the UCO
back in 2002. And at the beginning of this year, the Lobby contributed
to the consultation in Northern Ireland on their review of their
UCO. The key argument that we offered then was that the usage of
HMOs was entirely distinct from usage as a single household, and
also from usage as hotel/hostel/care home/guest house/etc, in several
ways, as follows -
# Occupancy in HMOs is high density,
much higher than family houses, and generally higher than homes/hostels/hotels;
this intensifies pressure on local services.
# Occupants are from a narrow age range (young
adults), unlike the wide age range normal in family houses
and homes/hostels/hotels; their lifestyle generates high levels
of noise, traffic and waste.
# Occupiers within HMOs lack government
(this is the implication of multiple households), whereas
houses and homes/hostels/hotels have a family or management structure;
this can make general behaviour and relations with tenants difficult.
# Occupation is short-term (especially
in the case of students of course), while families are long-term
residents and homes/hostels/hotels have long-term managers; this
leads to a very different level of commitment to the property and
Collectively, these four features make HMOs a quite distinctive
land-use, with a very distinctive impact in the locality.
This argument (along with many others, I'm sure) was successful
in Northern Ireland, and now the new NI UCO requires planning permission
for change of use to HMO (in fact, HMOs are entirely detached from
Class C, Residential Uses). At the same time, the Order adopts a
definition of HMO as "a house occupied by more than two qualifying
persons, being persons who are not all members of the same family"
(which is essentially the same as that adopted in our new Housing
Accordingly, in the light of the new UCO regime in Northern Ireland,
and also in the light of the new definition of HMO in England &
Wales, the National HMO Lobby urges a similar revision of the Use
Classes Order in this country.
This is certainly a measure we shall be recommending to the Student
Housing Project which you have just established (and this has become
all the more urgent in the light of the unfortunate Belfast incident
last week, and the need for new planning legislation was forcefully
presented in the two programmes on BBC Radio 5 yesterday).
Best wishes, Dr Richard Tyler, National Co-ordinator, National
From: National HMO
Date: 3 March 2005
Dear Mr Hill, you may remember that a year ago (12 Feb 04) you
met a delegation from Nottingham and the National HMO Lobby. One
of the topics we discussed was amendment of the Use Classes Order
to enable local authorities to tackle the problems caused for sustainable
communities by concentrations of HMOs. Alan Simpson (who arranged
the meeting) has forwarded to me your reply (21 Feb 05) to his letter
about the UCO (20 Dec 04). It seems to the Lobby that your letter
does not really address the issues.
After the formalities, para 1 points out that 'material change
of use' depends on 'degree, facts, circumstances' - that is, there
are no clear criteria. The notorious Barnes/Sheffield case in 1995
threw the definition of HMO in the air. What we have learned to
our cost is that we are dependent, not on objective criteria, but
on the whim of Planning Inspectors - some of whom accept the spirit
of what counts as HMO, some follow the absolute letter of what law
For contrary to para 2, the great majority of HMOs do not
'generally remain outside the scope of the order', and therefore
need planning permission. If the definition of HMO provided by the
new Housing Act is anything to go by, the great majority are un-touched
by the Order.
As para 3 says, the 'essential element' in determining a HMO is
the criterion of 'single household' - but this is not defined by
the Order. Indeed, in the accompanying Explanatory Note, single
household is contrasted with family, whereas they
are identified in the Housing Act.
Para 4 notes that in Northern Ireland [Planning (Use Classes) Order
(NI) 2004] 'dwellinghouse' includes family homes and care homes
(with not more than six residents). It does not
include 'people living together as a single household'. Section
3(4)f specifically excludes HMOs.
Para 5 is incorrect. The definition of HMO used in the Order is
actually that in Article 143(1) of the Housing (Northern Ireland)
Order 2003 (which amended the 1992 Order).
Accordingly, the final paragraph is incorrect. Single household
and family are not 'common' to the Orders in England and
NI. Both use these terms - but they mean something different. In
NI, family is the defining criterion for dwellinghouse;
if the occupants do not belong to the same family, then it is a
HMO. (One exception is allowed - a single household where care is
provided.) In England, this is not the case: a dwellinghouse can
accommodate both a family and a single household which is not a
family, and this can include what is quite clearly defined as a
HMO by the Housing Act (and by common-sense). It is therefore nonsense
to say that there would be no 'practical benefits' if the English
UCO was changed. A change would require all HMOs as defined by the
Housing Act (and by the NI Order) to seek planning permission, which
currently they do not.
If anything is 'largely academic' (in your letter's words) it is
the arguments in the letter - in the experience of the Lobby, the
points made are out of touch with the reality of the legislation.
Yours sincerely, Richard Tyler, Co-ordinator, National HMO Lobby
Parliamentary HMO Lobby
From: Leeds HMO Lobby [and other members of the
National HMO Lobby to their MPs]
To: MULHOLLANDG@parliament.uk, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Date: 23 April 2006
Dear Greg & John & Hilary
Last week, Roberta Blackman-Woods MP (City of Durham) organised
a Sustainable Communities Seminar - specifically to address
the damage to sustainability caused by studentification in Durham.
Community and council delegates at the Seminar emphasised to her
that current planning legislation undermined local authority efforts
to control the concentrations of HMOs which lead to studentification.
Roberta agreed to lobby the government to revisit the Use Classes
Order (only recently amended) in order (a) to redefine HMO (in line
with the Housing Act 2004) and (b) to require permission for change
of use to HMO (in line with the UCO in Northern Ireland). On behalf
of Leeds HMO Lobby, may I urge you all to offer her your support.
As you may also know, Grant Shapps MP (Welwyn Hatfield) has also
recently raised the vexed issue of student HMOs and Council Tax
- he calculates that residents pay an extra £80m in Council
Tax, due to shortfall in government reimbursement of local authorities
for student HMO exemptions.
These issues demonstrate a clear need for an effective cross-party
Parliamentary lobby on HMOs, to address the impacts of concentrations
of HMOs - which affect so many constituencies. May we urge you and
Roberta and other concerned MPs to urgently form such a lobby group?
Best wishes, Richard Tyler (Leeds HMO Lobby)
Houses in Multiple Occupation
From: National HMO Lobby
Date: 28 March 2007
I write to you on behalf of the National HMO Lobby, which as you
may know represents more than fifty community groups in some thirty
towns throughout the UK, all of whom are concerned about the impact
on their communities of concentrations of houses in multiple occupation
(HMOs). In particular, I write in support of our member group in
Loughborough, the Storer & Ashby Area Residents Group, who are
writing to you about Charnwood Borough Council’s SPD on Student
The Council’s SPD has failed in its attempt to manage concentrations
of shared student houses, or HMOs. A key problem in this planning
policy, as well as all others in England & Wales (and also Scotland),
is the fact that there are no effective powers to grant or refuse
planning permission for HMOs. This means that HMOs are able to proliferate,
regardless of the impact they have on the sustainability of the
communities where they multiply un-checked.
The Lobby and its members have pressed your Department and its
predecessors over many years now for effective changes in planning
legislation. Always we are fobbed off with answers which misunderstand
or misrepresent what we want. The Lobby would appreciate a considered
and informed response to what we actually seek. This can be simply
First of all, we request a revised definition of HMO
in planning law. On the one hand, the present definition (such as
it is) is not fit for purpose – for instance, it relies on
the concept of ‘single household’ which itself is nowhere
defined. On the other hand, there is a broad consensus in housing
legislation throughout the UK on a far more precise definition of
HMO. The latest instance was provided by the Housing Act 2004, which
dealt simply and clearly with all the problems which are usually
raised. It remains entirely incongruous that the notion of HMO is
different in housing and planning legislation.
Secondly, we request that the Use Classes Order is amended,
so that HMOs are distinguished from dwelling houses, and thus conversion
from one to the other constitutes change-of-use, and therefore requires
planning permission. Anyone with experience of HMOs knows full well
that their usage is quite distinct from
all three uses identified in Class C of the Order. Unlike hotels
or care homes (or family houses), HMOs are intensively
occupied, their occupiers are typically & narrowly
young adults only, their occupants have no internal management
structure, and their occupancy is short-term.
The cumulative impacts of concentrations of HMOs is now widely
documented, they have exercised the officers of many Local Planning
Authorities, and action has been called for, not only by ourselves,
but also by councillors, local authorities, Members of Parliament,
even University Vice-Chancellors.
Local authorities need powers to be able to limit concentrations.
These are now arising in numerous contexts – most severely
in university towns, for many years now in costal towns, more recently
in towns accommodating rural workers. Indeed, your Department’s
own House of Commons Committee, in its Second Report this month
on Coastal Towns has said “We recommend that the
Government examines whether local authorities need additional powers
to address the problems arising in areas with especially large numbers
of HMOs” (para 46).
We fail to understand why the Department is reluctant to act,
when the changes we seek have already been implemented in Northern
Ireland, where the housing definition of HMO is explicitly adopted,
and where HMOs have been classed sui generis in the local
Use Classes Order.
We fail even more to understand why a Government which is commendably
committed to the promotion of sustainable communities
is unable to provide local authorities with the powers they need
to sustain their communities.
We should very much appreciate consideration of our requests,
and action upon them.
Yours sincerely, (Dr) Richard Tyler, Co-ordinator, National HMO
From: National HMO Lobby
To: Caroline Flint, Minister for Housing
Date: 10 April 2008
The National HMO Lobby was very pleased to read yesterday of the
new Review of HMOs that you have launched. The problems associated
with HMOs, especially in concentration, have been the subject of
the Lobby's campaigns for the best part of a decade (please see
our website). May I raise a couple of points
about the Review, which I put to the successful HMOs Seminar arranged
by your officers yesterday.
First of all, you say quite rightly "It is not acceptable that
in too many areas people living in HMOs and local communities alike
are having their quality of life affected. We must have balanced,
sustainable communities where settled communities can live side
by side with those in HMOs." The News Release notes that "Concerns
have been raised about the so called 'studentification' of university
towns with over concentrations of HMOs ... An over concentration
of houses of multiple occupation in one area can have a negative
impact on the neighbourhood and local public services." This
is certainly the case. But it is by no means the only, nor even
the most important, consequence of student HMOs. Everyone is very
well aware of the current acute housing shortage - student HMOs
in fact exacerbate this shortage. The HMOs they occupy are parasitic
upon the basic housing stock, being always conversions of existing
stock - such conversions turn what should be first homes for families
into seasonal second homes for students (the issue is very similar
to second homes and holiday lets in rural areas).
Secondly, although students represent the largest market for HMOs,
and the principle driver of over concentrations, it is in fact incidental
that the occupants are students. All concentrations of HMOs cause
similar (not identical) problems - especially because their occupants
are nearly always transient. Concentrations also arise in coastal
towns (as noted in the CLG Commons Committee's report) and in market
towns (with migrant workers). Blackpool for instance is among the
top half-dozen towns for HMO Licensing. So this is a phenomenon
much wider than simply 'studentification'.
The National HMO Lobby looks forward to the progress of the HMO
Review, and to continuing to contribute to its development.
Best wishes, Dr Richard Tyler, National HMO Lobby
National HMO Lobby