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New planning enforcement provisions coming into force on 25th April 2024

09 April 2024 11:35

Four-year rule or ten-year rule...

The awaited commencement provisions for changes to planning enforcement were published last week and bring into force a number of new regulations and powers within the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023.

Perhaps the most notable of these is the change to enforcement 'time limits'. Planning enforcement powers can normally only be exercised by a local planning authority within a specified timeframe, which has historically been either four years or ten years depending on the breach of planning control. The Levelling-up and Regeneration Act seeks to standardise the enforcement time limit for all forms of development to ten years.

We now know the details of the transitional arrangements for these changes. The Regulations primarily take effect on 25th April 2024, however the new time limits will only apply to any ‘new’ breach of planning control occurring from 25th April 2024 or later.

This means that any breach of planning control that has already occurred and would have previously been subject to a four-year time limit, can still benefit from immunity (and secure a certificate of lawfulness on this basis) after the 25th April 2024. For example, a four-year time limit for enforcement action will still apply to any dwellinghouse use that has already begun.

Time limits for acts of development that are already subject to a ten-year time limit will be unaffected.


Why do enforcement time limits matter?

Enforcement time limits play an important role in the planning system and immunity allows members of the public to regularise works or uses that have been ongoing for years without issue.

We regularly receive enquiries from members of the public who have discovered that their works or use of a building are in breach of a historic permission or other restriction, whether it’s a home they discovered was only approved as a ‘live/work’ unit, or a barn conversion that was started but not completed within the three years of their prior approval. In cases where no harm is arising and there is no public interest in the local planning authority taking enforcement action, these acts of development (that would otherwise have required planning permission) can be confirmed as lawful due to the passage of time.

In cases where a property owner has deliberately concealed a breach of planning control, the local planning authority can take enforcement action outside of the enforcement time limits.

If any of these matters are relevant to you then feel free to contact us for advice on 01273 413700.