Planning enforcement: 25th April 2024 marks the end of the 4-year rule

Cast your minds back to the 26th October 2023 when the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill gained Royal Assent and became an Act.  It was then that we knew that the 4-year time limit for bringing enforcement action against operational development and changes of use to a single dwellinghouse was going to be revoked – we just didn’t know when and how. To quote the LURA:  ‘…the other provisions come into force on such day as the Secretary of State may by regulations appoint.’ (Part 13, Section 255).  

Well, that ‘such day’ is nearly here. On the 2nd April 2024 the secondary legislation was made (The Planning Act 2008 (Commencement No. 8) and Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 (Commencement No. 4 and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2024).  It is an interesting read and some of the key parts that are of relevance to planning enforcement are outlined below. All of these will come into effect on the 25th April. 

  • Section 115 of the 2023 Act (time limits for enforcement) 

Section 115 amends section 171B(1) and (2) of the 1990 Act to extend the time period in which local planning authorities can take enforcement action against unauthorised development in England from 4 to 10 years.

In terms of the transitional provisions for enforcement time limits, these latest amendments will not apply where the operational development or change of use to a dwelling was substantially completed before 25 April 2024.  

  • Section 116 of the 2023 Act (duration of temporary stop notices) 

This will allow local planning authorities to issue a temporary stop notice that has effect for up to 56 days rather than 28 days.  

It is worth noting that this will not affect temporary stop notices that have been issued, and not withdrawn, before the 25th April 2024. 

  • Section 117 of the 2023 Act (enforcement warning notices)

This effectively creates a new power for LPAs to issue an enforcement warning notice asking for the submission of a retrospective planning application within a specified period. It would seem this is an attempt to streamline the enforcement process and avoid unnecessary enforcement appeals. 

  • Section 118 of the 2023 Act (restriction on appeals against enforcement notices)

In terms of enforcement appeals, this reduces the ability for you to lodge an appeal against an enforcement notice on Ground A (that planning permission ought to be granted or that the condition of limitation imposed on the grant of permission ought to be discharged) if an application for planning permission has already been made to attempt to regularise the breach. 

Furthermore, from the 25th April 2024 financial penalties for various enforcement offences will increase but these will only apply to offences committed after this date. 

Can I still benefit from the 4-year rule?

In regards to the end of the 4-year rule, there is the potential to still benefit from it, provided that you can evidence that the works were materially complete or that the change of use to a single dwelling took place before the 25th April 2024. If the development or change of use occurred on or after this date, then you will need to wait 10 years to be immune from enforcement action, or indeed provide 10 years of continuous evidence to apply for a lawful development certificate or certificate of lawfulness.  You can read more about the process of an LDC in our previous article .    

If you need to understand how this will affect you in real terms then contact our planning team who will be able to advise the potential implications of these imminent changes and the next best steps for you, be it planning application, negotiation, a lawful development certificate or an appeal.  

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Article correct at date of posting – but contact our team for the most up to date information.  In the meantime you may find the below of use: