Planning Law – Lawful Planning Certificates

An unusual feature of the UK planning system is that it is not unlawful to develop in most situations (with exceptions for listed buildings etc) and only becomes unlawful if an Enforcement Notice is served and takes effect (ie is not appealed or an appeal is dismissed).

Another special feature of planning law is that after either 4 or 10 years, depending on the type of development, immunity can be obtained:

the 4 year rule applies to building operations and a change of use to a single dwelling house;
the 10 year rule applies to all other development including the breach of conditions in a planning permission.
A key area of our work is obtaining Lawful Development Certificates for clients to prove that what has been done without planning permission is now lawful.

Two particular examples of where this has been achieved recently are:

a dwelling house freed from an agricultural tie, which is a condition that it could only be occupied by someone employed or last employed in agriculture; and
the use of a private dwelling house for the continued repair and maintenance of customers’ vehicles.
In both of these cases it was necessary to prove that the relevant activity had occurred for at least 10 years.

Sometimes the issue leads to the service of an Enforcement Notice and results in a Public Inquiry and then not only the period of immunity comes into play but also the planning merits are relevant as it is also possible to appeal on the ground that planning permission ought to be granted retrospectively.

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