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Unauthorised Planning Permission: When Do The 4-year And 10-year Rules Apply?

When there has been a breach of planning regulations there are two rules which may be utilised to prevent the property owner from receiving an enforcement action.
The 4-year rule and the 10-year rule may be applied when considering either an unpermitted residential development or a change of use.

Your Local Planning Authority (LPA) On The Rules

Your Local Planning Authority (LPA) monitors planning breaches and will enforce the necessary action, if applicable. You may have unintentionally contravened planning regulations or your circumstances may have changed resulting in a breach of the existing permission.

In some cases, you may be protected from enforcement, depending on how long the new arrangement, or breach, has been in place.

The 4-year rule covers any breach of building or operations development which has not been challenged by enforcement action for the period of at least four years.

 

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What The 10 year rule covers

The 10-year rule covers any breach of use of land or buildings (excluding dwellings) which has not been challenged by enforcement action for the period of at least ten years. N.B. A ‘dwelling’ is deemed by planning law to be a class C3 in terms of use and is covered by the 4-year rule.

The 10-year rule also applies to a breach of any existing planning condition which has not been challenged by enforcement action for the period of at least ten years.

Planning Permission

If you think your planning contravention falls under either the 4-year or 10-year rule then you will need to apply for a certificate of lawfulness from your Local Planning Authority. This is a legal document which retrospectively grants permission for the unauthorised development or use of your property and authorises that this may be continued.

You can also apply for traditional planning permission but this will be a lengthy and more costly process.

It is worth noting that if you deliberately deceive your Local Planning Authority and/or conceal the planning breach then enforcement action is likely to be taken.

It is crucial that property and landowners observe the relevant planning laws. If the regulations are not complied with, there could be significant difficulty in selling or even remortgaging the property.

Applying for a certificate of lawfulness


Applying for a certificate of lawfulness is a complex process and is something that your London architect can help you navigate. You will need to provide a host of documents as evidence that the building has been developed or used as you claim. Depending on your situation, documents required may include tenancy agreements, utility bills, receipts of building works undertaken, to name a few. All will need to span the four or ten year period in question. Your architect will be able to advise you on what is required.

If your application is approved, the Local Planning Authority will provide you with a certificate of lawfulness. You can then be reassured that your property and its use complies with all the necessary regulations.

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Last updated | 18 Nov. 2021

Unauthorised Planning Permission: When Do The 4-year And 10-year Rules Apply?

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