Property Owners - Beware of Possible Loss of Planning Immunity


What is the Issue?

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is currently having its second reading in the House of Lords.

The fortunes of the bill have been the subject of hot debate since it was first introduced to Parliament by Michael Gove in early May 2022.  We are now on our third Prime Minister since the bill was introduced and Michael Gove has been reinstated as the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Section 107 of the current draft of the bill proposes to extend the time limit for enforcement (in section 171B of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990) for breaches of planning control which relate to operational development and changes of use to a single dwelling to 10 years.  The effect of this will be to harmonise the time limit for gaining immunity for any breach of planning control at 10 years.

This will give under resourced and overworked planning departments more time in which to take enforcement action.

The bill is currently in the House of Lords, but is expected to be enacted soon.  It is not then known how long it will be before these provisions come into force.

If you have a property which has had a relevant breach of planning control for more than four years, but less than 10 years it is possible that any immunity that you have gained will be lost due to this legislation leaving you open to possible enforcement action.

What is the Solution?

If obtaining planning immunity is critically important, we suggest that you consider applying for a Certificate of Lawfulness as soon as possible.  At the moment there is no date when this legislation is going to come into force.  However, once Local Planning Authorities know how long it is going to take, they may start refusing otherwise sound applications due to the impending change.

Any appeal against a refusal of a Certificate of Lawfulness is likely to be conducted by written representations.  In October 2022 the mean time for a decision on a written representations appeal was 35 weeks.  If the law has changed by the time an inspector makes their decision, the Certificate of Lawfulness would be refused and the Local Planning Authority would not be penalised by an award of costs against them.  By deciding to refuse an application on this basis, an otherwise immune use or development may be vulnerable  to enforcement action at no risk to the Local Planning Authority.

To discuss this issue and the solutions to it please contact or

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