Planning Portal

Planning Service Acts On Concerns About Houses In Multiple Occupancy

Published on Thu, 4 Nov 2004
Environment Minister, Angela Smith, today announced new legislation to tighten planning control on houses in multiple occupancy (HMO). This will be The Planning (Use Classes) Order (Northern Ireland) 2004.
The Minister said: “By tightening planning control over houses in multiple occupancy, this legislation will help address public concerns about the growth in the number of HMOs in certain areas of Northern Ireland and the impact this is having on local communities. The new Use Classes Order overhauls legislation that has been in place, with minimal change, since 1989, and is a further step in modernising planning processes.”
Angela Smith pointed out that when the Order comes into operation on 29 November 2004, anyone proposing to change the use of a dwelling house occupied by a single family or a single person to a HMO will need to obtain planning permission.
She said that the legislation would enable the Planning Service to consider policies for control over the density of HMOs in certain areas, either when drawing up new Development Plans or when addressing relevant objections to a draft Development Plan.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Planning (Use Classes) Order (Northern Ireland) 2004 groups in ‘use classes’ certain uses of buildings or other land and provides that changes between uses in the same class are not development. Those changes of use within the same class do not therefore require planning permission.
  2. The new Use Classes Order is one of the results of the Minister’s ongoing programme of Modernising Planning Processes (MPP). MPP recommended that a Review of the Use Classes Order should be carried out, including a public consultation. The main issue raised in that consultation was the conversion of dwelling houses to houses in multiple occupation using the Use Classes Order and without going through the planning application process.
  3. The new Use Classes Order includes these changes:
    • house in multiple occupation is more closely defined and it is stipulated that no class in the Order includes a HMO, therefore a change of use to a HMO will require planning permission;
    • research and development activities which do not have an adverse impact upon the environment are moved from the Light Industrial Class to the Business Class – this means that property used for offices can be used for research and development and vice versa without needing permission;
    • Call centres are included in the Business Class for the first time;
    • Community Centres are included for the first time, as are ‘After School Facilities’ for the care of school children over the age of four while their parents are at work. These new uses have been included in the same Class as medical or health services.
    • The Schedule to the Order has been restructured into four parts to make it more user friendly and easier to navigate, i.e.

      Part A – Shopping and Financial & Professional Services;
      Part B – Industrial and Business Uses;
      Part C – Residential Uses; and
      Part D - Community, Recreation and Culture.
  4. A Planning (General Development) (Amendment) Order 2004 is also being made which makes consequential amendments to the Planning (General Development) Order (NI) 1993 where there are permitted development rights approving change of use between use classes, subject to conditions.
  5. For further information please contact Brian Kirk, DOE Press Office Tel 028 9054 0013, or e-mail
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