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If my development took place some time ago, could it be too late for action to be taken?

Yes. For building and other operations and for the use of a property or part of one as a single dwelling, enforcement action must be taken within 4 years. For all other breaches the planning authority must take enforcement action within 10 years. Any enforcement notice issued should specify whether the breach of planning control is one to which the 4- or the 10-year rule applies.


For breaches of listed building control, as opposed to planning control, the four- and ten-year time limits do not apply. Instead the key consideration for the LPA in determining the expediency of listed building enforcement action would be the date that the works were carried out and whether this fell before or after the date that the property was listed.  The works only need to have been carried out after the date of listing to be unuauthorised and subject to formal listed building enforcement action.  It is possible to check the date of a building’s listing on the National Heritage List for England, here.


If you are claiming immunity, the enforcement officer will no doubt be looking for you to provide evidence of this when they contact you.  Examples of evidence include receipts or invoices showing when building works were carried out or dated photographs showing the works in situ for more than the four or ten year time limits.  If your photographs are digital the date can often be found in the image’s settings under ‘properties’ or ‘file information’.


For some cases, the planning authority may ask you to apply for what is called a Lawful Development Certificate. This requires you to provide sufficient evidence to satisfy the planning authority that on the balance of probabilities the use has existed for the necessary period to be immune from enforcement action and, assuming you can do that, the Certificate will be granted.

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