I’ve heard of the 10 and 4-year rule in planning, what does it mean?

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted in Planning Law on Monday, June 28th, 2021

If you want to be certain that the existing use of a building is lawful for planning purposes, or that your proposed development does not require planning permission, you can apply for a Lawful Development Certificate. This certificate simply confirms that any change of use or development that has been carried out, or you are proposing to carry out, is lawful. If a developer sells a property, the buyer’s solicitor may request this on behalf of the purchaser.

You can apply for a Lawful Development Certificate for an existing use or development providing you can demonstrate that:

  • the land has been in continuous use (other than as a dwelling) for more than 10 years
  • a condition or limitation on planning permission has not been complied with for more than 10 years
  • the building was completed more than 4 years ago, and has been used as a dwelling for more than 4 years.

If you want to clarify if a proposed use or development requires planning permission, or whether a proposed development already has planning permission, because it falls within permitted development or other approved criteria that mean that planning permission is not required, then you can apply for a Lawful Development Certificate – Proposed Use or Development. Approval will confirm that the use would be lawful if carried out as set out in the certificate.


Types of building covered

A Lawful Development Certificate can be used to cover properties that don’t meet standard planning requirements. So, for instance this could include an outbuilding on a farm equipped with living accommodation, kitchen and bathroom.

If a building is equipped with the essential facilities required for normal day-to-day living, and can therefore be classed as a dwelling, and has been in continuous occupation as a dwelling for at least 4 years, then the owners are entitled to apply for a Lawful Development Certificate. The dwelling would be lawful even in the absence of a certificate if the basic qualifications are met, the certificate simply confirms it.

There are exceptions to the rule. If, say, a landowner obtains planning permission for an agricultural building, whilst all the time intending to build a house, and goes ahead and builds a house, then the local planning authority could withhold the granting of a Lawful Development Certificate on the grounds of fraudulent conduct.

A second exception would exist where a building was deliberately concealed (there was a recent case where a house was constructed and surrounded by a haystack). If a planning authority becomes aware of development of this type, and can produce evidence of the deliberate intention on the part of the developer, then they can withhold a Lawful Development Certificate.


How can we help?

If you need advice on planning, our Town and Country Planning department are here to help you. You can find out more abut the extensive experience of our team here.

Email Salvatore Amico or call him on 0203 871 0039, to arrange a confidential discussion of your situation.


Salvatore Amico, Head of Town & Country Planning

Awards and Accolades

  • acn clinical negligence
  • acn conveyancing quality
  • The Legal 500 – The Clients Guide to Law Firms
  • acn family law
  • ERC Endorsement
  • Lexcel
  • AVMA
  • SCIL