End of the four-year rule – the final episode

End of the four-year rule – the final episode

Regular readers will be aware that we have been closely following the process by which the law around what is widely referred to as “the four-year rule” in England is being changed. We are now able to report that, with no fanfare nor prior consultation, what is snappily known as The Planning Act 2008 (Commencement No. 8) and Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 (Commencement No. 4 and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2024 (otherwise known as Statutory Instrument 2024 No. 452 (C. 28)) passed quietly into law on 2 April 2024. Part 3 of the Regulations brings Section 115 of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 into force on 25 April 2024.

The transitional provisions that were promised by Earl Howe in the House of Lords debate are set out at Clause 5 of the Regulations. These provide that, where there has been

i) a breach of planning control consisting in the carrying out without planning permission of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land; or

ii) a breach of planning control consisting in the change of use of any building to use as a single dwellinghouse,

the new 10-year time limit for the taking of enforcement action does not apply in the case of i) where the operations were substantially completed and, in the case of ii), where the breach occurred before the day on which Section 115 of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 came into force. We now know that that day is Thursday 25 April 2024.

This provides the clarity that all those affected by the change in the law (and their professional advisers) need to manage their own situations. What it means in practice is that, as long as the breach of planning control has taken place before 25 April 2024, the four-year rule will continue to apply.

There had been some concern that, following the change in the law, the 10-year time limit may apply to all breaches of planning control that had not already achieved immunity from enforcement under the four-year rule. It is helpful that that is not the case. It will, nevertheless, be essential for all those for whom the four-year rule will continue to apply to be able to provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate that it does. As ever that will require photographs and other relevant contemporaneous information and carefully drafted statutory declarations to support any applications that are made in reliance on the four-year rule.

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