Lawful development applications and appeals
A lawful development certificate can be as valuable to a landowner as planning permission. The Planning Authority can be asked to give a lawful development certificate stating that either
- an existing use of land, or some operational development, or some activity in breach of a planning condition, is lawful; or
- a proposed use of buildings or other land, or some operations proposed to be carried out in, on, over or under land, would be lawful.
These are some details about how the lawful development system works.
- For existing use. In 1991 the law changed to say that, if a use has been carried on for over ten years, without planning permission it no longer needs permission and is lawful. A certificate can be applied for to prove this and to protect the use from enforcement action by the Council. The usual period of time the land has to be in use is at least 10 years, but a certificate can be applied for after only 4 years if building or engineering operations have taken place, or the use is as a single dwelling-house. A certificate can apply if there has been a breach of a planning condition, or if there is a complete absence of planning permission.
The breach of an occupancy condition on a dwelling house, such as a condition requiring the property to be occupied at all times by an agricultural worker, is subject to the ten year rule. The failure to comply with the occupancy condition does not result in a “change of use to use as a single dwelling house” as the property has always been a single dwelling house and therefore the four year rule does not apply
To successfully apply for a certificate that existing use or development is lawful requires the right sort of evidence and we can assess this with you. The evidence is supplied to the Council and the planning officers (often with legal guidance as this is a complex area) will decide whether the case is proven. If so they will issue a certificate and the development is then established i.e. it cannot be enforced against. If they do not think the evidence shows the lawful use then the Council can turn the application down, in which case there is the right to appeal to the Secretary of State. We can advise you about an appeal and help you if you decide to make one.
- For proposed use. If you consider planning permission will not be required for a proposal, you can apply for a certificate to make sure. If the application is turned down, then you can consider an appeal. Again we can advise on the application and any appeal.
Such certificates can be very valuable. Where the development has already happened, or conditions have been breached, they protect against enforcement and give certainty if, for example, land is being sold. If development is proposed, it is beneficial to save the cost and hassle of application for planning permission and of course the risk that permission will be refused.