Time is ticking under the 4 year rule; what do the new planning enforcement rules mean for you?

18th April 2024

Some significant changes are coming into force on 25 April 2024.

A more stringent approach to planning enforcement is being implemented, affecting both property owners and developers.

What is the current position?

Where there is an unauthorised ‘operational development’ of any part of a building, the Local Planning Authority has up to four years to bring enforcement action.

‘Operational development’ in this context means the carrying out of building, engineering, mining, or other operations in, on, over or under land. There are some exemptions in law, but generally, most of these activities require planning permission. If you don’t have planning permission, the Local Planning Authority can bring enforcement proceedings against you and require rectification of the planning breach. This can result in a criminal conviction if not complied with.

If 4 years have passed without enforcement proceedings being commenced, then the unlawful development becomes immune from enforcement proceedings, and you can apply for a Certificate of Lawfulness.

What’s changing?

Changes to the enforcement regime will come into force on 25 April 2024 from the Planning Act 2008 (Commencement No.8) and Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023) Commencement No. 4 and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2024.

The changes extend the time that local planning authorities can take enforcement action against an unauthorised operational development from 4 years to 10 years.

However, transitional provisions will also apply where an ‘operational development’ is “substantially completed” before 25 April 2024. If this is the case, these properties have the benefit of the four-year rule.

To benefit from these transitional provisions, good documentary evidence must be produced to show that the breach of planning control first occurred and was substantially completed before 24 April 2024. This may consist of statutory declarations, photographs, construction invoices, etc.

What does this mean for you?

If property owners and developers are not aware of the implications, these imminent changes can have a big impact.

These changes mean that property owners are accountable for planning violations for a longer period of time. This could affect a property’s value and marketability, as owners will now have to disclose any breaches of planning controls within the past 10 years. The changes intend to make property owners more aware and place greater emphasis on compliance with planning control.

As a developer, extra care must be taken to stay compliant with planning control as there will now be a longer window (10 years) to enforce against these breaches. Developers must also take extra consideration when they purchase a new development site to ensure they do not inherit a development that is not compliant with planning controls in the previous 10 years.

How we can help

Understanding whether a property is compliant with planning control is essential for both property owners and developers following the new changes.

If you are looking to purchase a new property or are currently in the redevelopment stage, we can advise on whether the new rules apply.

If you need to apply for a Certificate of Lawfulness we can help and put together the evidence to support the application.

If enforcement proceedings are commenced against you, we can help with your defence including appealing an enforcement notice which will delay it coming into force.

For more information please call Amanda Beresford on 01138494027 or by email at AmandaBeresford@schofieldsweeney.co.uk or Craig Burman on 0113 849 4072 or by email at craigburman@schofieldsweeney.co.uk.

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