Planning enforcement: changes announced for action and notice time limits

From 25 April, planning breaches in England must be able to demonstrate 10 continuous years to be outside the time limit for enforcement action, as the CLA’s Shannon Fuller explains

On 26 October 2023, The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill received Royal Assent, becoming the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act. This legislation seeks to ‘boost productivity, spread opportunities, improve public services, restore a sense of community and empower local leaders and communities’.

The Act provides the framework for the UK Government’s many levelling-up missions. As such, it seeks to introduce various measures of planning reform such as the introduction of new national development management policies, speeding up the preparation of local plans, changing how breaches of planning are dealt with and how planning applications can be amended.

Despite the Act receiving Royal Assent in October, the planning system did not change overnight. There is a framework for more detailed legislation to be prepared. Some proposals for planning reform are being consulted whilst others are in the process of having secondary legislation prepared. However, for the proposals relating to breaches of planning in England, legislation has now been finalised and will be implemented on 25 April 2024.

The latest planning enforcement legislation

Prior to the Bill becoming an Act, the maximum period to take enforcement action varied between four or 10 years depending on whether the breach of planning involved physical development work or was for certain changes of use. This has now been amended to a single maximum period of 10 years, regardless of the type of development or change of use.

From 25 April 2024 onwards, any breach of planning must be able to demonstrate 10 continuous uninterrupted years in order to be outside the time limit for enforcement action. This change does not apply where any operational development or a change of use to a dwelling was substantially complete before this deadline. In these cases, the four-year rule applies, providing you can demonstrate four years of substantial, suitable and continuous evidence. The evidence that we recommend members supplying if they are seeking to obtain a Lawful Development Certificate includes utility bills, dated photographs or google aerial photographs or sworn statutory documents.

Updates to planning enforcement notices

In addition to the change in time limits for enforcement action, amendments have also been made to the duration of temporary stop notices and enforcement warning notices. In addition, the restrictions on appeals for enforcement notices have been amended.

From 25 April, temporary stop notices will increase from 28 days to 56 days, if the notice was issued after this date. Local planning authorities will also obtain the power to issue enforcement warning notices. These notices will welcome the regularisation of breaches of planning via the submission of retrospective planning applications. This could mean the avoidance of enforcement action by applying for planning permission for development or change of use that has already taken place.

Appeals on enforcement notices are also due to become slightly more restricted. The circumstances in which an appellant can appeal an enforcement notice will change if an attempt to regularise a breach of planning has already been attempted via the submission of a planning application. This is only applicable on those enforcement notices issued 25 April 2024.

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Key contact:

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Shannon Fuller Planning Adviser, London