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Do you need a Lawful Development Certificate?

May 31, 2022

By Laura Potts MRTPI, CAD Planning

What is a Lawful Development Certificate?

A Lawful Development Certificate is a legal document which confirms that a proposed or existing development is lawful in planning terms.

There are two types:

· Proposed Use of Development

· Existing Use of Development

A certificate is not a planning permission. The planning merits of the use, operation or activity are not relevant. The granting of a certificate depends on evidence and the onus of responsibility is on the applicant to provide evidence to support their application.

It is not compulsory to have a Lawful Development Certificate, but there may be times when you prefer to have one to confirm that the use, operation or activity named in it is lawful, such as when selling a property.

What is the purpose of a Lawful Development Certificate?

If granted by the Local Planning Authority, the certificate means that enforcement action cannot be carried out against the development referred to in the certificate.

However, the certificate will not protect from enforcement action by the planning authority if the specified use is subsequently changed ‘materially’ without a new planning application.

The Lawful Development Certificate can therefore provide you with a very useful form of protection. Also, if you sell your property in future, the prospective buyer may request a Lawful Development Certificate as a condition of sale.

Lawful Development Certificate: Proposed Use of Development

The law which sets out what can be built without planning permission (under permitted development rights) can be quite complex and some properties have had their permitted development rights removed.

To be certain if you need planning permission or not before you start work you can apply for a Lawful Development Certificate: Proposed Use of Development. If granted, this provides you with a legal document that planning permission is not required.

If you think the development, you are going to carry out does not need planning permission it is not compulsory to have a certificate before you start work. You may however wish to have one to give you peace of mind before you start an expensive project.

You can apply for a Lawful Development Certificate: Proposed Use of Development on the government’s Planning Portal website. These types of application are not subject to public consultation.

Lawful Development Certificate: Existing Use of Development

This type of certificate provides legal proof that, for example, an existing use of land, some development that has already taken place, or some activity being carried out in breach of a planning condition, is lawful for planning purposes. For instance, an extension that was built without planning permission has now become lawful due to the amount of time that has lapsed since it was built.

Again, you can apply for a Lawful Development Certificate: Existing Use of Development on the government’s Planning Portal website.

What information is needed to apply for a Lawful Development Certificate?

There is a large amount of information required, which needs to be carefully structured and presented. At minimum, applications for Lawful Development Certificates should include the following:

· Whether the application relates to a use; a building operation; or a condition not complied with

· The date that the use (or breach of condition) started, or the date on which the building was substantially complete

· Any use class the applicant considers to be applicable

· In the case of a breach of condition, details of the relevant application

· The reasons the applicant thinks they are entitled to a Lawful Development Certificate

· Any other information relevant to the application

· A plan identifying the land

· A certificate as to the applicant’s interest (ownership, tenancy etc) in the land and any interest of any other person

How long does it take to get a Lawful Development Certificate?

Once your application has been submitted, it normally takes up to 8 weeks for a decision. If, by this time limit, a decision hasn’t been reached, it is possible to make an appeal.

Getting expert help with Lawful Development Certificates

If you are thinking of applying for a Lawful Development Certificate, then we would always recommend that you get expert input from our specialist Planning Consultancy.

The process can be very complex and involves submitting the correct type of form, supporting evidence and fee. The evidence needs to be structured very carefully and the proof presented in a way that builds a strong, compelling case for approval. This takes expert knowledge.

Often the legal intricacies are so wide-ranging that they are difficult for the layman to understand. For example, where questions of fact are involved, the local authority will expect to see statements from persons with a direct knowledge of those facts. It is normal to require these statements in the form of a ‘sworn affidavit’. A sworn statement will carry more weight in the overall assessment when compared to a letter or statement from an individual.

Our CAD Planning team can support you through the entire process and give you the very best chance of gaining successful certification.

If you have already applied for a Lawful Development Certificate and had your application rejected, it is still worth talking to CAD Planning. When we review your case, we may feel there is an opportunity to re-write and resubmit your application. Alternatively, we may assess that you have strong grounds for making an appeal.

More information on Lawful Development Certificates can be found on the Governments Planning Guidance website –

For a no-obligation discussion about your Lawful Development Certificate application, get in touch with our CAD Planning Consultancy today. Contact us at