Commencement of development
Planning consents time limits

Commencement of development

“We have come across several cases recently where planning consents for development was granted many years ago and some work had been carried out but the development had not been completed. Our clients wanted to know if they had crystallised the planning consent and could complete it as and when they wished or whether it had lapsed”, reports Brian Dinnis of Acorn Rural Property Consultants.

Dinnis explains that the test to apply is whether the work that was done was a) within the time limit specified by the planning consent and b) work that was authorised by the planning consent. Different time limits apply where there was an outline planning consent first and detailed planning consent was obtained later and older planning consents used to have a 5 year time limit but more recent consents now have a 3 year time limit, advises Dinnis.

“Even relatively minimal work, such as digging a trench or pegging out a road can constitute a commencement of development”, say Dinnis, “but care must be taken to ensure that what is done is strictly in accordance with the approved plans. It is also important to remember that any work that has been done before discharging pre-commencement conditions, such as the approval of a landscaping scheme, will be unauthorised and will not therefore crystallise the planning consent”.

Dinnis adds that there have been several cases where it has been argued that starting a development by carrying out some relatively minor work would not be sufficient to crystallise a planning consent unless the developer could demonstrate that they intended to and where in a position to complete the development. “The courts have determined that the intention of the developer is irrelevant and that it is a solely a question of fact as to whether sufficient work has been done to commence development”, explains Dinnis.

Dinnis says that being able to demonstrate that development has commenced can be extremely valuable. “We have a client who commenced a residential development of several properties in the 1960s but only constructed one dwelling. If they chose to do so, they can dust off the old plans and complete the other dwellings in a location where new development would be completely contrary to current planning policy and would be impossible to obtain”, concludes Dinnis.

For advice rural planning matters please contact Brian Dinnis at Acorn Rural Property Consultants on 01278 772655 or at briandinnis@acornrpc.co.uk.  Brian is a Chartered Surveyor and an associate member of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

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