What are Lawful Development Certificates (LDC)?

Planning Consultant - Chris Scott
Hi, I’m Chris,
I hold an MA in Planning and work as a Planning Consultant

Within the planning system, you can apply for a Lawful Development Certificate (LDC) for an existing use or proposed use. If you can get the local authority to agree that the existing or proposed use is lawful, no enforcement action can be taken in that regard. Therefore in some cases, Lawful Development Certificates are used to address disputes with the local planning enforcement department. In other cases, before you carry out development you can secure a certificate to prevent future enforcement disputes. This is commonly the case if you are looking to sell buildings or land. The potential purchaser may want reassurances on what they are purchasing is legal development. 

Lawful Development Certificates and GDPO Rights

So General Permitted Development Order (GDPO) rights refer to the permitted development rights that most small scale projects and dwellings hold to some extent. However, in some cases, they have been taken away by a previous planning condition or Article 4 direction. That’s why a planning history review is important to work out where you currently stand with regards to permitted development rights. For instance, the size of your original dwelling and curtilage need to be fully understood for GDPO rights.

If you believe your development or change of use can be carried out under the GDPO, a Lawful Development Certificate is a good way to check. It can avoid any nasty surprises in the future with a call from a local planning enforcement officer.

Addressing Enforcement Disputes

If you have been contacted by your local planning enforcement department, always try and address the issue as promptly as possible. Get all the details from their perspective on the planning issues so you can try to fully address the problem. For instance, you may think your development is immune from enforcement due to time limits, more details below. Or you may dispute the claimed use of the building or land. In that case, the Lawful Development Certificate should contain detailed evidence to back up your arguments. This could include statutory declarations from those who have knowledge of the development and land use. This could include your neighbours for instance. A solicitor will be required to prepare the declarations, and they will need to be signed in the solicitor’s presence. There are other means of evidence which can be used to support your case including OS maps for instance. 

Lawful Development Certificates and Time Limits

There are certain time limits for enforcement action, these are the following:

  • Four years for building, mining and engineering operations.
  • Four years for the change of use of a building or part of a building into a dwelling.
  • Ten years for all other development.

Now, before a Lawful Development Certificate is submitted you need to be aware of certain potential issues. Firstly, it is the applicant’s responsibility to prove that the development and use have been carried out continuously over that period. For instance, for the use as a dwelling, you would need to clearly demonstrate four years of continuous habitation with no gaps.

What Does a Lawful Development Certificate Cost?

As of 2019, the cost to submit a Lawful Development Certificate for existing use is the same as a full planning application for the same development. If the certificate is for a proposed use then the cost is half of the normal fee associated with that type of development. Obviously, these costs are just for the local authority to review the application. If you need to submit statutory declarations as evidence, then solicitor fees will need to be added in. Furthermore, there will be additional fees if you require a planning consultant or agent such as myself to manage and submit the application.

What if my LDC is Refused?

Under that scenario, more detailed discussions with the local authority planning department will be required. If it was a proposed use you can consider appealing the decision to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS). Alternatively, you could consider a planning application for the development. If the refusal was for an existing building or use, then things get more serious. First, you should ask if the local authority will accept a retrospective planning application for the development/use.

You may try to keep the development as is or suggest alterations in an aim to secure planning approval. However, the local authority does have the powers to reject retrospective applications. If that’s the case and the local authority wishes to proceed with enforcement action you will have the right to appeal against the enforcement notice. Discussions on enforcement notices and appeals is for later posts. 

Assistance with Lawful Development Certificates

If you require assistance submitting a Lawful Development Certificate to your local planning authority please get in touch. Once you have completed the required information on the contact form I can review your site and contact you to discuss your requirements in more detail. I can either prepare and manage the application for you, or provide guidance on how to approach the process. Either way, please get in touch 🙂