Four Year Planning Enforcement Becomes Ten

Apex graphic to accompany new planning enforcement rules

A change in the length of time, from 4 to 10 years, that it takes for unauthorised developments to become lawful, could see an increase in enforcement action…

New Rules could Catch-Out Unlawful Developments

Historically, operational development (for example building an extension, or building a house and occupying it without planning permission) could take place and be completed and, after a period of 4 years, would become lawful, meaning the Council could not take enforcement action; whereas a change of use or non-compliance of a planning condition would need to have been ongoing for 10 years before it could be regarded as lawful.

However, the government has now changed this so that the 4-year rule is no longer arguable – operational development and changes of use are all subject to the 10-year rule. Whilst transitional rules mean those people who have already undertaken development without planning permission can still rely on the 4-year rule, unauthorised development undertaken or not substantially completed before 25 April 2024 will be subject to the 10-year rule.

Change to Planning Controls

The change in planning controls, which came into force last month, means that the four-year time limit for bringing enforcement action against unauthorised building or engineering operations and changes of use for all development that is not subject to permitted development rights has increased to 10 years.

Until now, applicants have been able to apply for a Certificate of Lawfulness, once an unapproved development has been in place for four years. But the change means that local planning authorities will be able to carry out enforcement action against unapproved developments unless they have been in place for 10 years.

The changes were made on 2 April 2024 as part of the Planning Act 2008 (Commencement No. 8) and Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 (Commencement No. 4 and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2024.

According to a government statement, the 10-year limit will apply “where alleged operational development was substantially completed on or after 25 April 2024, or where the date of an alleged change of use to a single dwellinghouse was on or after 25 April 2024”.

Under the new regulations, local authorities will be able to issue Enforcement Warning Notices (EWNs) for developments that breach the new controls and ask for regularisation applications.

The new rules have also restricted the ability to appeal against enforcement notices. The government states changes to when an appeal under ground (a) – where one contends that retrospective planning permission should be granted – can be utilised are now more limited.

Essentially, if the enforcement notice was issued:

  • after the making of a related planning application for planning permission,
  • and before the time limit for the local planning authority to determine the application

now, it is not possible to make an appeal on ground (a).

New Powers for Planning Inspectorate and the Secretary of State

In a bid to cut back on delaying tactics on appeals, power has also been given to the Planning Inspectorate to dismiss appeals against enforcement notices and certificates of lawfulness if the applicant is showing “undue delay” in progressing the appeal.

The Secretary of State has also been given the authority to determine the procedure for lawful development certificate (LDC) appeals.

It will be interesting to see how the new rules affect the due diligence process, and local planning authorities’ general approach to planning enforcement.

If you are in any doubt about the lawfulness of your extension, home build, or commercial or other development or change of use, please contact Apex Planning Consultants without delay.

Equally, if you would like to discuss your own new project with us, or just find out more about what we do, please continue to browse the website or drop us an email to: without obligation.