CAD Divider

A Guide to Retrospective Planning Permission

Jan 20, 2023

By Laura Potts MRTPI, Planning Consultant, CAD Planning

Not all building works require planning permission in advance. Many fall within what is termed “permitted development rights.” However, if some works are carried out that would normally necessitate a planning application in advance which hasn’t been done, then the only way to resolve the situation is to apply for retrospective planning consent.

How could this situation arise?

The vast majority of people will ensure that planning permission is in place before works commence, and this would always be recommended practice. But there are certain situations that can occur which may prompt some people to act without planning approval.

It may be that they were unaware that consent was needed for the works they carried out. It could be that there was an urgent need to get works underway, led by outside factors such as the availability of builders. Or perhaps planning permission was obtained, but the final build did not comply with all the specific conditions set out by the planning officer.

What action could the local authority take?

If you find yourself in this situation, you may well receive a letter from your local authority informing you that they are aware of a potential planning breach and inviting you to make a retrospective application for consent. This cannot be ignored! If you do not respond, you risk the danger of the authority commencing an enforcement action against you. A planning breach is not in itself illegal, but it is against the law to ignore an enforcement notice.

Please note that an invitation to apply does not carry any suggestion that, if done, your application would be successful. You still need to put forward a cogent argument to demonstrate why your works were carried out and why there is a good case for approval.

What is the process?

A formal application for retrospective planning permission will need to be submitted to your local authority. A variety of factors will then be taken into consideration, including whether or not you have contravened any regulations, the impact upon surrounding neighbours and the aesthetic design, and the local planning strategy for your particular area.

After considering your case, you will either be granted retrospective planning permission, or your application will be refused. In the event that you are denied retrospective planning permission, you may be issued with an enforcement notice demanding that you reverse the changes that have been made.

It usually takes between 8 and 13 weeks to obtain retrospective planning permission. As an example of costs, you can expect to pay £462 for a new single dwelling or £206 for an extension.

Regarding time limits on action by your local authority, you may have heard of the 4 year and 10 year rule. In the case of the change of use of a building to a use as a single dwelling house, enforcement action must be taken within four years beginning with the date of the breach of planning control. For any other breach of planning control, enforcement action must be taken within 10 years beginning with the date of the breach. This 10-year period applies to material changes of use and a breach of condition imposed on a planning permission.

What if a retrospective planning application is refused?

There may be sufficient grounds to make an appeal against the decision. If the appeal is unsuccessful, then you could be required to physically remove the offending building works and restore the property to its previous condition. If you failed to do this, then the local authority could take enforcement action against you.

Approximately 12% of retrospective planning applications are refused – and this is obviously a very expensive outcome for the property owner. That is why we would always recommend getting expert advice whenever you become aware of a potential problem with planning permission.

Are you considering applying for retrospective planning permission? Or are you unsure whether the work you have done is covered by permitted development rights? Or maybe you have received a letter from your local authority regarding a potential planning breach? Whatever your specific situation, speak to the expert team at CAD Planning. We will clearly explain the options open to you and can guide you through the whole process.

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