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Planning enforcement changes – deliberate concealment

04 April 2012

This month (April 2012) a new Bill comes into effect, bringing with it wide-ranging changes to time limits for enforcing breaches of planning control in cases of so called ‘deliberate concealment’.

Under present rules, any breach of planning control becomes immune to enforcement action after a fixed time. The limits are:

  • 4 years in cases of operational development (eg erecting buildings or creating a dwelling within an existing building)
  • 10 years for general changes of use of land or buildings.

It is possible to apply for a certificate of lawful existing use or development (known as a CLEUD). This will legitimise the unauthorised use, which then becomes exempt from enforcement action providing there is proof that the breach has been continuous.

The new law introduces a new section into the Town and Country Planning Act that will allow planning authorities to apply to the court for a planning enforcement order. This would give the authority a further year in which to take enforcement action, even if the initial 4- or 10-year period has expired.

Under this new section, the magistrates can only make a planning enforcement order if they are satisfied that the breach had been ‘deliberately concealed’ – thus capturing breaches dating back many years.

It appears that the aim, at this stage anyway, is to target worst offenders such as those in the case of the luxury home disguised as a barn (reported in Law News summer 2011).

However, the changes could affect current and potential property owners. We recommend that you seek our advice to remedy any potential breaches of planning control under the current legislation if at all possible. It goes without saying that applications to legitimise unlawful use will become subject to greater scrutiny in the future.

As always, if you need commercial and pragmatic legal advice, we’re here to help so please get in touch.

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Alasdair Garbutt LLB (Hons)
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Alasdair Garbutt
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