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Property Lawyers Beware: Changes to the Limitation Period for Planning Enforcement Will Likely Catch Property Lawyers Off Guard
April 26, 2024

As of Thursday 25th April, a change to the limitation for period planning enforcement stands to potentially catch out property owners, developers, and property Lawyers. The change will see in a much harsher approach to planning enforcement, so make sure to update your firm as soon as possible.

What is the new law: when there is an unauthorised ‘operational development’, the local authority has up to ten years to commence enforcement action. ‘Operational development’ covers operations (building, mining, engineering, etc.) on, over or under land, such as construction or extension projects. Most activities of this kind would typically require planning permission (though some exemptions do exist) and failing to obtain it can lead to enforcement proceedings and potentially criminal convictions if the breach is not dealt with sufficiently.

The adjustments to the law are now officially in place and are a continuation of the Planning Act 2008, Commence Number 8, and Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023, Commencement Number 4, and Transitional Provisions, Regulations 2024. Please note that these changes to the law apply only to England and not Wales.

Transitional provisions apply to operational developments completed before April 25th, 2024. Any work that comes under this category will be subject to the initial four-year enforcement period. Prior to the Regulations, there had been a degree of anxiety over the need to obtain Certificates of Lawfulness before the provisions came into play. Many believed that breaches that were lawful may become unlawful again if they fell between the four and ten-year period. However, this is incorrect. Please note that provided any unauthorised change of use or operational development is substantially completed by the 24th of April 2024, then they will become lawful after four years, i.e. by the April 24th, 2028, if not enforced against by the local planning authority. Only breaches that take place from the April 25th, 2024, onwards are subject to the new ten-year period, i.e. until April 25th, 2034, or after, to become lawful, if not enforced the local planning authority.

Property owners must be able to provide sufficient documentary evidence that clearly demonstrates that planning breaches occurred and were substantially completed before April 24th, 2024, in order to see any benefit from these transitional provisions. Sufficient documentary evidence may consist of construction invoices, statutory declarations, photographs, or any other relevant documentation that can prove the breaches occurred and were completed before the aforementioned date.

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Get in Touch with The Strategic Partner

We at the Strategic Partner will always do our utmost to provide you with as much information as possible on important changes to the law as soon as they occur. Keeping your firm as up to date as possible is one of the best means for lessening the chance of making the kind of mistakes that come with serious consequences. 

TSP are always at hand to provide tailored guidance to help you make the most informed and beneficial decisions. Helping you understand the recurrent regulatory shifts and working with you to provide solutions to any problems that may occur as a result is something we are both equipped and prepared to assist you with. With our team of professional specialists and our renowned legal expertise, we can work with your firm to always ensure you are never left unprepared in the wake of legal changes.

For more information on how we can help, call our consultants on 0203 911 9710 or email us at  info@thestrategicpartner.co.uk

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