This one might not be the best route to get a planning application. But it may be necessary during a sale of a property where a development which was unpermitted took place but you’re trying to make it right.
In previous blog posts, I noted that projects sometimes occur without prior planning permission.
After specific periods of time have elapsed, unauthorized work or use may become lawful.
For building work and other operations, the period is four years from when they were completed—but in the case of using a house as your main home (as opposed to renting out rooms), this extends back by an extra two years since that’s how long you’ll probably be living there.
For all other types of development—for example, if you do not comply with a planning condition on a previously granted planning permission—the period is ten years from when the breach first occurred.
If the unauthorized development breaches an enforcement notice, it does not become legal after any specific time period. Where a council can show there has been deliberate concealment of the development—and this is proved to be accurate, rather than simply suspected on the grounds that are not supported by evidence or facts—it can take enforcement action beyond standard time periods.
Construction work is relatively easy to establish, although there can be uncertainty over when the work is deemed complete. Users are much more complicated because they must remain consistent throughout the period in question.
When using a building as a residence, it must be considered whether or not it is classified legally as a dwelling-house—a ruling that can exclude some structures not readily recognisable as such.
If a mixed-use building contains a residential portion, the time limit is ten years rather than four. If someone lives in a mobile home on land that they own, this constitutes living in or occupying the property and therefore falls under the ten-year rule.
Where a property is used in breach of a planning condition, any significant gaps in that use can reset the clock and start the ten-year countdown again.
An owner whose development has been deemed unlawful by the council can apply for a lawful development certificate once time has passed and prove that the work is now beyond regulation.
After the relevant time period has passed, the owner can apply for a lawful development certificate to show that the development is now legal and should no longer be subject to any council action.
In order to obtain a certificate, the evidence must be submitted that proves what took place and when.
Again I would personally try avoiding this route if this is something you want to do from the outset. It’s going to be difficult and you may never know if its going to be approved or found within the period limit. Which in any case will require you to demolish the development.