We have been keeping tabs on the progress of the Levelling-Up Bill and have been actively engaged in resisting the scrapping of what is known colloquially as “the 4-year rule”. After a slow journey through both Houses of Parliament, the Government has announced that what is now the The Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act received Royal Assent and became law today. As at the time of this post it is too soon for the Act to have been published but we have been trawling through the latest version of the Bill which included what is now Section 118 at Chapter 5 of Part 3 of the Bill, which is the Section that abolishes the 4-year rule in England.
Readers who have been following this will recall that, during the committee stages in the House of Lords, the Government made assurances that transitional provisions would be introduced to protect developments and/or changes of use that had already become immune from enforcement under the 4-year rule but had not reached the position of being immune from enforcement under the 10-year rule. We still await sight of those transitional provisions and, accordingly, our view continues to be that it is imprudent for anyone who may be affected by the change in the law to rush to make applications for a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development (CLEUD).
Careful readers of the final version of the Bill will also have noted that Section 118 is amongst the provisions of Part 3 of the Bill that “come into force on such day as the Secretary of State may by regulations appoint.” On the assumption that that wording has carried through into the Act, the change in the law that will scrap the 4-year rule has not yet taken effect.
We also remind readers that there is a common misconception that it is the grant of a CLEUD under either the 4-year or 10-year rule that makes a development and/or change of use lawful in planning terms. That is not the case. It is the fact that the development/change of use is immune from enforcement that makes it lawful and the grant of a CLEUD confirms that the Local Planning Authority (LPA) (or a Planning Inspector) is satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that that is the case. There is therefore no obligation to obtain a CLEUD to make a development and/or a change of use lawful and, in our experience, it is often an external issue, such as a wish to sell or an LPA taking or threatening to take enforcement action, that triggers the need to do so.
It is also worth noting that to the list of advantages enjoyed by those of our readers who live in Wales can now be added the fact that the The Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act only abolishes the 4-year rule in England.