Certificates of Lawful UseMany sites have an interesting planning history. It is not unusual for uses to have changed, developed or grown over time without planning permission or, where there is planning permission, in breach of one or more of its conditions. If this use has continued for the requisite period, the use may be beyond enforcement. In such a case a certificate of lawful use must be issued to confirm this.
Difference from Planning Permission
For many purposes a lawful use certificate is equivalent to planning permission. However, there is a crucial difference: a certificate of lawfulness may be revoked without compensation. Luckily this may only happen in very limited circumstances. Consequently, local planning authorities rarely attempt to revoke, and even more rarely succeed. Nonetheless, even where the landowner is ultimately successful in retaining his or her certificate of lawfulness, the process can be protracted and full of stress and uncertainty.
Protection from Revocation
If your land is subject to a certificate of lawfulness and revocation is threatened, you need to seek specialist legal advice promptly. If you need to overturn a local planning authority decision to revoke, this needs to be done “as soon as possible”. In practice, this means you need to prepare your case and apply within six weeks of the decision.
Even where there is no immediate threat of revocation, where a certificate is based upon evidence of continuous use in breach of condition, it may be possible to avoid the risk of revocation completely by applying to remove the condition from the original planning permission.
Whatever happens, make multiple copies of all your evidence and keep it in a safe place, and try to stay in touch with witnesses in case you need to contact them again.
If you would like further advice on certificates of lawfulness or immunity from planning enforcement, please contact Rachel Rowles Davis email@example.com