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Lawful Development Certificates

The planning system provides the possibility of obtaining a statutory document confirming that an existing/proposed use, operation or activity of a building or site named in it is lawful for planning control purposes. The planning merits of the use, operation or activity in the application are not relevant. The issue of a certificate depends entirely on factual evidence about the history and planning status of the building or other land and the interpretation of any relevant planning law or judicial authority. The onus is on the applicant to provide evidence to support the application.

What is a Lawful Development Certificate (LDC)?

Certificates of Lawful Use or Development are certificates, issued by the LPA,
which establish conclusively that a use or development of land is lawful in two circumstances:

  • when it is clearly demonstrated that an existing use or development is of such long standing as to be immune from enforcement action (Section 191)

  • when it is clearly demonstrated that a proposed development or use does not require planning permission (Section 192).

Once it is granted, the new type of certificate remains valid for the use or development in it, on the land it describes, provided there is no subsequent material change in the circumstances.

Certificate of Lawfulness for an Existing Use or Development

This type of application is normally made to establish one of the following circumstances.

  • The applicant believes that planning permission would not have been required for their development but requires a formal confirmation from the Council.

  • Operational development or change of use to a single dwelling took place more than four years ago and is now immune from enforcement action.

  • Change of use of land or buildings took place more than ten years ago and is now immune from enforcement action.

  • A breach of a condition attached to a planning permission occurred more than ten years ago and is now immune from enforcement action.

  • If permission was granted, whether the development complies with all the conditions attached.

Where the certificate is requested because the time limits for enforcement have passed then evidence will to be needed to prove the relevant dates. For building works, the important date is the date when the development was "substantially completed". If this is not known then both the date the work started and the date it was completed should be given. The date of occupation will be relevant to prove when a use commenced

As well as providing a completed application form, location plan at a scale of 1:1250 (or at an appropriate scale) the types of evidence that could be provided to support your application include the following:

  • Council tax records,

  • Environmental health records (if related to a commercial premises)

  • signed statements or sworn affidavits signed by people knew the property well for the relevant period of time,

  • old photographs,

  • copies of bills / invoices, company accounts, or

  • copies of previous planning permissions

  • existing and original floor plans for all applications involving the use of a building to a scale of not less than 1:100.

  • existing and original elevations for all building works to a scale of not less than 1:100.

Download application forms for an existing development or use from document links below.

Certificate of Lawfulness for a Proposed Use or Development

This type of application is normally made in one of the following circumstances:

  • The applicant believes that planning permission is not required for their proposal but requires a formal confirmation from the Council.

  • The applicant is uncertain as to whether the proposal requires planning permission or disagrees with the Council's informal view that permission is needed and requires a formal resolution of the matter with the opportunity to appeal if necessary.

Information or documents that must be provided are as follows:

  • Completed application forms, signed and dated.

  • Location plan at a scale of 1:1250 or at an appropriate scale

  • The application site should be edged with a red line and a blue line must be drawn

  • around any other land owned by the applicant.

  • The correct fee (see fee list at bottom of page)

  • Supporting evidence.

  • Proposed and existing floor plans for all applications involving the use of a building to a scale of not less than 1:100

  • Proposed and existing elevations for all building works to a scale of not less than 1:100

In addition to the above information that must be submitted with your application, you may wish to provide the following information;

  • Sworn statements or affidavits from people with personal knowledge of the existing site.

  • Explanatory statement

In both cases instances, the burden of proof in an application for a Certificate of Lawful Development lies firmly with the applicant and therefore clear and precise information, supported by sufficient evidence, must be provided to enable the Council to make a complete and accurate assessment against current planning legislation. Failure to submit all the required information may result in the refusal of your application.

Download application forms for a proposed development or use from document links below.

Matters considered when determining an application for an LDC

An assessment of the submitted evidence will be made by a Planning Officer and any further details by way of clarification requested. The planning merits of the use, operation or activity in the application are not relevant. The issue of a certificate depends entirely on factual evidence about the history and planning status of the building or other land and the interpretation of any relevant planning law or judicial authority. However, the onus of proof in an LDC application is directly on the applicant to show to the Council on the balance of probabilities, that a Certificate ought reasonably to be issued.
Put simply, the applicant must show that it is more likely than not that the facts asserted by him or her are correct.

While planning officers will always co-operate with an applicant seeking information they may hold about the planning status of land, by making records readily available, Government advice to Local Planning Authorities is that they need not go to great lengths to show that the use, operations, or failure to comply with a condition, specified in the application, is, or is not, lawful

If the LPA have no evidence of their own, or from others, to contradict or otherwise make the applicant's version of events less than probable, there is no good reason to refuse the application, provided the applicant's evidence alone is sufficiently precise and unambiguous to justify the grant of a certificate "on the balance of probability".

Where the Council has neither evidence of its own, nor receives evidence from others but is satisfied with the information submitted by the applicant it may grant a certificate based solely on "the balance of probability".

Offences

Section 194 provides that if any person, for the purpose of procuring a particular decision on an application (whether by the applicant or another) for a LDC under section 191 or 192, knowingly or recklessly makes a statement which is false or misleading in a material particular; or, with intent to deceive, uses any document which is false or misleading in a material particular, or withholds any material information, that person is guilty of an offence which is "triable either way". On summary conviction in the Magistrates' Court, the penalty is a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum (currently £5,000). On conviction on indictment in the Crown Court, the convicted person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or to an unlimited fine, or both

Important Notes

Note that all the information in your application will not be treated as confidential and will be available for public inspection. The information will be computerised, made available on the Council’s website, and used for planning purposes (Data Protection Act 1998).

The grant of a certificate applies only to the lawfulness of development carried out, or proposed, in accordance with the Planning legislation. It does not remove the need to comply properly with any other legal requirements, such as consents required under the Building Regulations, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, or the Listed Building and Conservation Areas Act 1990.

These are only a few examples. If in doubt, please check with the Development Control.