The Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023 (LURA) received Royal Assent in October 2023 with the various changes, which it sought to introduce, then pending secondary legislation (which would then set out how and when the changes were to come into effect).  This means, therefore, that for several months, we have been waiting to know how, and when, changes may start to affect clients and existing sites – particularly in relation to enforcement timescales and retrospective consent.

The changes to enforcement have now been confirmed as coming into force from 25th April 2024 (as a result of the required secondary legislation being made, last week, on the 2nd April).  This brings the majority of enforcement provisions provided for within the LURA into force.  There are number of changes, however, the most important to note as “headlines” include:

  • Changes to the time limits of taking enforcement action in England as a result of Section 115. This revokes the 4-year time limit which is currently applied to both operational development and change of use of any building to use as a single dwelling house.  Historically we have been able to regularise unauthorised building work in some cases via a certificate of lawfulness (evidence based) route based upon substantial completion for 4 or more years, however, from 25th April the time limit for taking enforcement against all breaches of planning control in England will now be 10 years.  This is, evidently, a significant change.
  • There are some transitional provisions which are important to note insofar as the change, to a flat rate 10 years, will not apply to where the development was substantially completed before the 25th April or where the change of use to a single dwelling occurred before the same date.  In both of these circumstances, up until the 25th April, the 4-year rule would continue to apply.  For any development completed after this date, or change of use after this date, this would now be subject to the 10-year rule for enforcement as a result of the changes created by Section 115.
  • Most notably for some clients, Section 118 introduces a restriction on appeals against enforcement notices. This outlines the circumstances in which an appeal against an enforcement notice can be made if an application has already been made to regularise the breach.  It effectively means that Ground (a), in terms of enforcement appeals, is removed which means that there is practically only one opportunity to obtain retrospective planning permission from the 25th   This change does not apply to appeals against enforcement notices that were made and have not been withdrawn prior to this date.
  • There are also further provisions, for the Planning Inspectorate (in England) to dismiss appeals against enforcement notice and appeals relating to certificates of lawfulness if the appellant is responsible for undue delay in the progress of the appeal.
  • Further enforcement powers have also been introduced relating to listed buildings from the 25th The Council now have the power to issue temporary stop notices in relation to listed buildings if they suspect unauthorised works have been carried out and the stop notice can require works to stop (for up to 56 days) to allow the Council to investigate any suspected breaches.

The changes to planning enforcement, coming later this month, are therefore significant – particularly as a result of making all breaches of planning control subject to a 10-year enforcement period as well as reducing chances to obtain retrospective planning permission.

It would be advisable for anyone that could benefit from transitional provisions (i.e. existing 4-year breaches ahead of the 25th April) to explore the opportunity to regularise existing breaches under these transitional provisions as a matter of good practice (and piece of mind!) moving forward.  Anything not able to come under the four years by the required date will have to consider opportunities for retrospective permission, however, with reduced opportunities at this a sensible, and realistic, approach as to what has happened will have to be taken as required.

If anyone has any enforcement matters, or development without consent, which is in the background and which they need to consider – get in touch and we will, as always, give you the honest and realistic facts of the case for you to consider your position.