Certificates of Lawfulness

What is a Certificate of Lawfulness?

Certificates of lawfulness can be issued to confirm that planning enforcement action would not be possible in respect of some existing or proposed use or development. Once an application is made to the local planning authority, the council's planning committee or officers must seek legal advice to determine whether enforcement against the development described would be possible and, if not, must issue a certificate describing the development as "lawful". This is not an opportunity for the Council to apply planning policies. It is a matter of fact and law: is it possible or not to enforce?

Interpreting Existing Planning Consents

Sometimes an application for a certificate of lawfulness will involve studying the existing planning consents to see whether an existing or proposed use or development is lawful.

Interpreting Evidence of a Breach of Planning Control

Other applications involve gathering evidence that an existing use or development that does not have planning permission or that is in breach of a planning condition has continued or been in place beyond the limitation period rendering enforcement impossible.

The CLEUd requisite period: 4 or 10 years?

Where a local planning authority has had the opportunity of enforcing against a breach of planning control for the requisite period, but has not done so, a certificate of existing use must be issued as the breach will be beyond enforcement. With a few notable exceptions, the requisite period is four years for operational development and engineering works and ten years for other breaches, including material changes of use and breach of planning conditions.

It pays to have expert legal advice in this complex area of law. Please call or email for more advice.