Planning enforcement period extended to 10 years: what steps should you take?

read time: 2 min
Update: as of July 2024, various provisions have now been brought into force. Read our updated article here.

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Act (LURA) has received Royal Assent and there is an important change to planning enforcement and immunity periods. Any property owners with a  planning breach, such as a structure or residential use without planning permission, need to be aware of these changes, and take steps now to obtain a certificate of lawfulness.

What is the current position?

The period in which local planning authorities (LPAs) can take enforcement action for unlawful operational development, or a change of use of building to a single dwelling house, without planning permission is 4 years. Operational development is a broad concept and includes building, engineering, mining, or other operations in, on, over or under land. At the expiry of 4 years, and assuming the LPA has not commenced enforcement action, you may apply for a certificate of lawfulness confirming that the operational development or change of use is lawful.

What are the changes under the LURA?

The LURA extends the planning enforcement periods for operational development and change of use from 4 years to 10 years. At this stage, there is no timetable for when the enforcement period will be extended to 10 years. Nor is there any guidance on whether there will be any transitional provisions. Therefore, you should review any potential breaches and take steps now, rather than waiting for the changes to happen.

What steps should you take?

If a period of 4 years has accrued since the date of the planning breach and you wish to regularise either operational development, or the use of a building as a single dwelling house, then it’s prudent to seek legal advice on preparing and submitting an application for a certificate of lawfulness application as soon as possible.

The reason for the urgency is that if you don’t obtain a certificate of lawfulness before the enforcement period is extended to 10 years, then you will effectively lose your immunity from enforcement action. Furthermore, you will not be able to make an application for a certificate of lawfulness to regularise the operational development or use of a building as a dwelling house, until 10 years has accrued sine the date of the planning breach. 

Ashfords regularly advises clients on applications for certificates of lawfulness on residential, commercial and agricultural properties. If you have any queries on changes to planning enforcement and certificates of lawfulness, or would like to discuss a planning matter, please contact Gareth Pinwell or the planning team.

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