Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023: Changes to the limitation period for planning enforcement

A significant change to the law effective today (Thursday 24th April) is poised to catch many property lawyers off guard. From today a much stricter approach to planning enforcement will be implemented, impacting property owners, developers, and (not to forget) property lawyers.

In England (as opposed to Wales) under the new law, when there is an unauthorised ‘operational development’ the Local Authority now has up to ten years to commence enforcement action. ‘Operational development’ encompasses building, engineering, mining, or other operations on, over, or under land, such as construction or extension projects. While some exemptions exist, most activities of this nature require planning permission from the Local Planning Authority. Failure to obtain such permission can lead to enforcement proceedings and even criminal convictions if the breach is not rectified.

If four years pass without enforcement proceedings being initiated, the unlawful development becomes immune from further enforcement action, allowing property owners to apply for a Certificate of Lawfulness. These changes, set to take effect on April 25th, 2024, stem from the Planning Act 2008 (Commencement No.8) and Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023) Commencement No. 4 and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2024.

It is important to note that transitional provisions apply to ‘operational developments’ substantially completed before April 25th, 2024. Works falling under this category benefit from the original four-year enforcement timeframe.

To take advantage of these transitional provisions, property owners must present compelling documentary evidence demonstrating that the planning breach occurred and was substantially completed before April 24th, 2024. This evidence may include statutory declarations, photographs, construction invoices, and other relevant documentation. Importantly, it’s essential to note that these changes apply exclusively to England and not Wales.


Ricky Allen is a Senior Associate at Houldsworth Solicitors

Note: The information provided in this articles reflects only a narrative of some elements to consider on the topic. The article does not contain considered legal advice and should not be relied upon as advice.

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