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Lawful development certificate for an existing use or operation or activity in breach of a planning condition

Last Modified December 11, 2014

A Lawful Development Certificate is required to establish whether an existing use of buildings or other land, or some operations proposed to be carried out in, on, over, or under land, would be lawful. Examples of when an application for a Lawful Development Certificate should made include:

  • When planning enforcement action is taken by us and you believe it is immune from action because the time limit for taking enforcement action has passed.
  • When you discover, in the course of a sale of the land, that planning permission has never been granted, and need to show a prospective purchaser that no enforcement action can be taken by us.

An application for a Lawful Development Certificate is also sometimes used in cases involving intensification of use or where the precise nature of the existing use is difficult to describe, such as:

  • Secondary uses
  • Mixed uses
  • Intensification
  • Sub-division of the planning unit.

Time limits

There are rolling time limits within which we can take planning enforcement action against breaches of planning control. The time limits are:

  1. four years for building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land, without planning permission.
  2. four years for the change of use of a building, or part of a building, to use as a single dwelling house.
  3. 10 years for all other development.

Once these time limits have passed, the development becomes lawful, in planning terms.

What is a Lawful Development Certificate?

A Lawful Development Certificate is a legal document stating lawfulness of past, present or future development. If granted by us, the certificate means that enforcement action cannot be carried out to the development. The merits of the use operation or activity in the application are not relevant. The issue of the certificate depends entirely on factual evidence about the history and planning status of the building or other land and the interpretation of any planning law or judicial authority. The responsibility is on you to provide evidence to support the application.

A certificate for a proposed operation or activity will specify the area of land included in the certificate and describe the precise nature of use, operation or activity which is lawful. The certificate will give the reason for determining the use or operation to be lawful and specify the date of the application for the certificate. The certificate is not planning permission.


It is an offence to provide false, misleading or to withhold information from us. We could revoke, at any time, a certificate issued as a result of false or misleading information.

To submit a Lawful Development Certificate (Existing) application, apply online at the Planning Portal or download the form below:

Information required to be submitted for a lawful development certificate - existing use:

  • National requirements (Part 1)
  • Local requirements (Part 2) - We are working on a Local List, please submit your application in accordance with national requirements

To process an application we require the information detailed in Part 1 above to be submitted with the application. The period for deciding the application cannot start until all the information has been received.

Please make sure you submit one original plus one copy of the application form, together with one original plus one copy of the plans and supporting information. The fee information and notes are provided to help you with your application.


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