Pre-commencement conditions
Don’t get caught out

Pre-commencement conditions

“From time to time we come across cases where a landowner has obtained planning permission and commenced development without first having dealt with what are known as pre-commencement conditions. Most planning consents will include a number of conditions that require the developer to do something before starting work – for example obtaining approval for roofing material or cladding – and failure to comply with those conditions often means that any development that has been carried out is unauthorised and therefore unlawful”, explains Brian Dinnis of Acorn Rural Property Consultants.

Dinnis says that, depending on the specifics of each case, it may be possible for Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) to regularise the position by agreeing to deal with the pre-commencement conditions retrospectively but that there are circumstances where that is not possible, such as where the planning consent itself has expired.

“This can be an issue where either the position on the ground or planning policy has changed since the original planning consent was granted”, says Dinnis. “Even though work has been carried out that would otherwise have crystallised the planning consent, because that work is unlawful it does not count, and the planning permission will have lapsed. If things have changed and the LPA will not grant planning consent for a new application, the planning consent will have been lost and the LPA could require the site to be reinstated to its former condition”, explains Dinnis.

Even where it is an option open to them, LPAs can be reluctant to deal with pre-commencement conditions retrospectively and may instead chose to take enforcement action against the unauthorised development or invite the applicant to make a fresh planning application. “The decision may ultimately be finely balanced but if there is a significant risk that any new application for the same development would be refused, persuading the LPA to deal with pre-commencement conditions after the event may be the only way to retain the consent”, concludes Dinnis.

For advice on rural planning matters please contact Brian Dinnis at Acorn Rural Property Consultants on 01884 214052 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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