House Extension - Planning Permission Loopholes.
There is a general perception that the Planing system has certain loopholes that
can be exploited by people in trying to gain development rights or uses on their land an bypassing the normal
Planning Permission process. The main loopholes (if there is such a thing) usually relates to a time limit on
'getting away with it' but it is not without risk.
Without the intervention of the Local Planning Authority (LPA) within a certain time limit from the date of the
works or use immunity from enforcement action can be acquired after a period of time has elapsed. This is often
referred to as the Four Year Rule and Ten Year Rule and is applicable as follows:
Ten Years - change of use of land or breach of planning conditions.
Four years - development (i.e. building works) that is substantially complete or the use of a building, or part
of a building, as a dwelling house.
In most cases if four years have passed since construction, unless the change of use is by itself having an
adverse impact, the Local Planning Authority would not normally consider it expedient to take action provided they
are satisfied that the development or use has been continually in place for those minimum time periods but that is
up to them.
Now this does not mean that the situation has been legalised simply because you have got away with it for that
time period, it just means that the Planning Dept. are unlikely to pursue enforcement action against you.
This 'limbo' situation can cause problems in selling on the property to new owners who are invariably advised
about the potentially illegal use or structure and in today's risk adverse society, will probably result in a
failure to sell.
However, the fact that the site owner has been told by the LPA that they will not be taking enforcement action
should the Council find out about the illegal works or operation after those time limits is usually enough for them
to enjoy the property without any further gilt.
The only way to formally regularise the legality of the structure of use is to apply for a
Certificate of Lawful Development where you supply the proof & information to obtain a legal certificate that
its continued use or structure can be legally retained. However, unless you have secured a good paper trail that
can be established with written affidavit evidence from third parties such as neighbours etc. then you stand little
chance of the Planners legally endorsing your structure or use to continue. The onus of proof is always upon the
You should also remember that if the Council have found out about your illegal use or structure within the time
limits & have failed to take enforcement action within the time limits does not mean that you have got away
with it as they can now come back to you at anytime in the future to pursue enforcement action if needed. It may
not be expedient for them at the original discovery time but it soon can become expedient for the Planners to take
action if they are being rattled by a loud complaining neighbour or other high value source (Councilors, MP's