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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 applicant.

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 etc.)

 
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