The four-year rule and new dwellings

The four-year rule and new dwellings

“We often get asked when development or a change of use that has been carried out without obtaining planning consent becomes immune from enforcement,” says Brian Dinnis of Acorn Rural Property Consultants.

“The starting point is Section 171B of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (the 1990 Act) which says that, where there has been a breach of planning control consisting of the carrying out building, engineering, mining or other operations, or the change of use of any building to use as a single dwellinghouse without planning permission, it becomes immune from enforcement after the end of four years of the date of the breach. In the case of any other breaches of planning control, for example a change of use other than to a single dwelling or a breach of a planning condition, the relevant time period is after the end of ten years beginning with the date of the breach,” explains Dinnis.

“In the case of new dwellings, the combination of these time limits can lead to an anomaly where the construction of the building itself is immune from enforcement after four years but, where there is also a change of use, say from agricultural to residential use, the change of use may not become immune from enforcement for ten years. This anomaly has been considered on a number of occasions by the Courts, and the leading decision in a 2011 Supreme Court case concluded that a likely explanation of the intention behind the provisions of the 1990 Act is that, unless there are other factors at play, such as deliberate concealment, a single dwellinghouse, whether created by a new building or by the conversion of an existing building without planning consent, becomes immune from enforcement after a period of four years”, continues Dinnis.

“However, not all LPAs take that approach, and we are currently working on case where an LPA has decided to seek to rely on a 2016 Court of Appeal decision that upheld a principle that where a building itself is integral to an unauthorised use of land, both the building and the use do not become immune from enforcement until after the end of ten years beginning with the date of the breach”, reports Dinnis.

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

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