The end of the four-year rule?

The end of the four-year rule?

In November 2022 we discussed what is now Clause 107 of the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill, which, as drafted, would abolish what is known as the four-year rule and replace it with a single ten-year rule that would apply to all breaches of planning control”, says Mark Sanders of Acorn Rural Property Consultants.

“We are still surprised how little public discussion there is around Clause 107. Our view is that replacing what is currently the four-year rule with a ten-year rule could lead to significant injustice and hardship. As an example, we have several clients across various Local Planning Authority (LPA) areas who have converted a building to a dwelling for them and their families without first obtaining planning consent. Their motivation is not about “getting one over” the LPA. It is to enable them to live and work and bring up their children in their local community”, explains Sanders.

“Under the current rules, a dwelling created in these circumstances is immune from enforcement after four years. If Clause 107 becomes law, it will not be immune from enforcement for ten years. That is a very long time for a family to face the possibility of losing their home. Also, as drafted, the Bill does not include any transitional provisions. Without those, a dwelling that is immune from enforcement the day before the Bill becomes law will be unlawful on the following day”, continues Sanders.

“An important question is what should someone who has passed the four-year period but who is under the ten-year period do? Some have suggested that they should make an application to the LPA for a certificate of lawfulness as soon as possible before any change in the law takes effect. However, without transitional provisions that preserve immunity for breaches of planning control to which the four-year rule currently applies, there is a very real risk that taking that approach would provide the LPA with all the information it needs to take enforcement action as soon as there is a change in the law”, cautions Sanders.

For further information please contact Acorn Rural Property Consultants on 01884 212380.

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