What is the 4 year rule – planning permission?

If your property does not have the required planning permission, there are four years in which your local council can take enforcement action to remedy the breach. The four years start from when the development is substantially complete.


What is the 10 year rule?

You may have also heard about the 10 year rule. Both the 4 and 10 year rule relate to the council’s time limits for taking enforcement action:

  • within 4 years for a breach of operational development (e.g. building work) or an unauthorised change of use to a single dwelling house;
  • within 10 years for any other breach of planning control (essentially any other changes of use and the contravention of planning conditions).

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Exceptions to the 4 (or 10) year rule

  • ‘Second bite’ provision: enforcement action has been taken within the 4 years. If it proves defective, a subsequent notice may be issued in respect of the same breach, even if the 4 (or 10) years have lapsed.
  • Where there has been deliberate concealment of a breach of planning control. There are tried and tested mechanisms that allow the local authority to issue enforcement notices after the 4 (or 10) year periods.


Is it illegal to build without planning permission?

Carrying out development to your home without planning permission is not a criminal offence (with some exceptions including listed buildings, demolition in a conservation area or other heritage assets/sites). However, planning authorities have powers to put any breaches right, by way of enforcement.


What is enforcement in planning?

For example, if you build an extension without planning permission, you may receive an enforcement notice from your local planning authority to either apply for planning permission or knock it down. Failure to comply with an enforcement notice is a criminal offence. However, you do have the right to appeal to the Secretary of State against an enforcement notice.


Ground for appeal against enforcement notice:


From Section 174(2): https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1990/8/section/174

  • (a) that, in respect of any breach of planning control which may be constituted by the matters stated in the notice, planning permission ought to be granted or, as the case may be, the condition or limitation concerned ought to be discharged;
  • (b) that those matters have not occurred;
  • (c) that those matters (if they occurred) do not constitute a breach of planning control;
  • (d) that, at the date when the notice was issued, no enforcement action could be taken in respect of any breach of planning control which may be constituted by those matters;
  • (e) that copies of the enforcement notice were not served as required by section 172;
  • (f) that the steps required by the notice to be taken, or the activities required by the notice to cease, exceed what is necessary to remedy any breach of planning control which may be constituted by those matters or, as the case may be, to remedy any injury to amenity which has been caused by any such breach;
  • (g) that any period specified in the notice in accordance with section 173(9) falls short of what should reasonably be allowed.


What is a Stop Notice?

If the local authority deems remedial action to be urgent, it may issue a stop notice. There is no right of appeal against a stop notice.


What is Breach of Condition Notice?

If you fail to comply with a condition of your planning permission, the local council may enforce by issuing a breach of condition notice. There is no right of appeal against a breach of condition notice either.

How to find an architect for your planning matters

Information contained in this article is for general information only. In all cases regarding breaches of planning law, please get specific legal or professional advice before taking any action.

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Emily  Design for Me



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