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Changes to Planning Enforcement Coming into Effect

What are the changes to planning enforcement coming into effect on 25th April 2024?

Planning partners, Chrisa Tsompani and Nigel Hewitson explain:

“Significant changes to the planning enforcement regime in England come into effect on 25th April 2024, when s.115 of the Levelling – Up and Regeneration Act 2023 (LURA 2023) is brought into force by virtue of the Planning Act 2008 (Commencement No.8) and Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act 2023 (Commencement No.4 and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2024 (“The 2024 Regulations”).

The key change is that Local Authorities will now have up to 10 years to enforce against ALL breaches of planning control. Currently (and until the 25th April 2024), the time limit for enforcement against unauthorised operational developments (i.e. building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land) and changes of use of any buildings to use as a single dwellinghouse is 4 years from the date that the breach occurred. Other unauthorised changes of use and breaches of condition are subject to a 10-year enforcement period. After the expiry of the enforcement period, any unauthorised breach is immune from enforcement action, i.e. no enforcement action can be taken and the development concerned is therefore lawful. The amendments in the LURA2023 change the time limit in relation to all breaches of planning control to 10 years.

Although it is anticipated that local authorities will welcome the new amendments, the prolonged period within which enforcement can be taken will increase uncertainty on lawfulness of developments and will have an impact on applications for Certificates of lawfulness of existing use or development (“CLEUDS”) where these applications involve developments subject, until 24th April 2024, to a 4-year enforcement period. CLEUDS are commonly used by developers/purchasers of land, after or closer to the expiry date of enforcement period, to ensure that certain developments are immune from enforcement. The longer enforcement periods applicable after the 25th April 2024 will clearly have an impact.

It is also interesting to see how the public will react to longer periods within which enforcement action can be taken. A lot of enforcement action is initiated by members of the public who raise concerns or complain to the local authorities about certain developments taking place unlawfully. It is possible that local authorities may find themselves dealing with an increasing number of complaints, which is time-consuming for the planning department officers. By the same token, owners who may have, perhaps unwittingly, breached planning control by, for example, building an extension larger than allowed under permitted development without planning permission will have to wait far longer for that extension to become lawful – probably rendering the property unsaleable in the meantime.

The 2024 Regulations include transitional provisions such that the four-year rule will continue to apply if the operational development was substantially completed, or the change of use commenced, before 25th April 2024”.

Chrisa is a planning and environmental law specialist with over 16 years’ experience. She is highly experienced in complex planning and environmental issues, having advised on planning and highway agreements, Biodiversity Net Gain, development control, enforcement, planning policy, s106 and s111 agreements as well as compulsory purchase orders.

Nigel Hewitson (Partner)

Nigel is an expert in planning law and listed buildings.  He co-wrote the leading authority textbook, “Listed Buildings and Other Heritage Assets” (6th Ed) and is a Member of the Legal Sub Panel for the Institute of Historic Building Conservation. He has advised on major planning projects including the Stonehenge/A303 Tunnel Public Inquiry and multiple public inquiries into tall buildings in London including The Shard. 



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