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Chartered Town Planner

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Lawful Development Certificates

What is a lawful development certificate?

The purpose of a Lawful Development Certificate is to establish whether a proposed or existing development is lawful.

If you want to be certain that the existing use of a building is lawful for planning purposes or that your proposal does not require planning permission you can apply for a "Lawful Development Certificate" (LDC).

It is not compulsory to have an LDC but there may be times when you need one to confirm that the use, operation or activity named in it is lawful for planning control purposes.

There are 2 types of lawful development certificate. A local planning authority can grant a lawful development certificate confirming that:

(a) an existing use of land, or some operational development, or some activity being carried out in breach of a planning condition, is lawful for planning purposes under section 191 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990; or

(b) a proposed use of buildings or other land, or some operations proposed to be carried out in, on, over or under land, would be lawful for planning purposes under section 192 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

How is an application for a lawful development certificate determined?

A local planning authority needs to consider whether, on the facts of the case and relevant planning law, the specific matter is or would be lawful. Planning merits are not relevant at any stage in this particular application or appeal process.

In determining an application for a prospective development under section 192 a local planning authority needs to ask “if this proposed change of use had occurred, or if this proposed operation had commenced, on the application date, would it have been lawful for planning purposes?”

A local planning authority may choose to issue a lawful development certificate for a different description from that applied for, as an alternative to refusing a certificate altogether.

The difference between a  Certificate of Lawful Existing Use (CLEUD) and a Development and a Certificate of Lawfulness of Proposed Use or Development (CLOPUD) is that the former confirms that an existing use is lawful, whereas the latter seeks to ascertain, from the local authority, whether a certain proposed use is permissible.

Planning law is intricate and can have pitfalls for the unwary so applicants are advised to discuss the situation with the planning officer before applying for either.

In what circumstance might I apply for a CLEUD?

You might be concerned that the use of a piece of land or a building is not in accordance with a valid planning consent, or that it could be in contravention of conditions that have been attached to a consent. To set your mind at rest, you can apply for a CLEUD; if granted, this regularises the use.

One reason for doing so is the possibility that the local planning authority may take enforcement action against a particular use.

However, while a local authority can serve an enforcement notice in the event of a piece of land or a building being used for a purpose which is not lawful but it has to do so within prescribed time frames because the law imposes a strict time limit. The relevant periods are four years for most residential properties and 10 years in other cases.

Thus, once the time limit is past, a non-conforming use, work done without planning consent and a breach of a condition attached to a consent all become legal.

The process of applying for a certificate of lawful use is similar to making a planning application, with the same need to pay a fee and opportunity to appeal if refused by the LPA.

The application should be precise in defining the land that is the subject of the application and in describing the existing use of the land.

If consent is granted on the basis of an application containing a materially false statement, then the local authority may revoke the Certificate of Lawful Use and the applicant will have committed a criminal offence.

The authority can serve an enforcement notice on the non-conforming piece of land or building and require it to be put back to a pre-existing condition.

Letters of Objection

You have the right to object to any Planning Application.  

In most circumstances this will be in the form of a written submission although if the Planning Application is scheduled for determination by the Planning Committee there is also the potential to object in person or by appointing a representative at the committee meeting.

Any objection must be based on valid planning grounds and this can be most effectively accomplished by appointing Professional Planning Consultants.

Planning Consultants