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If my development took place some time ago, could it be too late for action to be taken?

Yes, From 25 April 2024 the time limit for taking any form of enforcement action is ten years. This includes building or other operations, material changes of use and breaches of condition. 

A four-year time limit applies only to:

  • breaches involving the building or other operations without planning permission where substantial completion is before 25 April 2024; and
  • breaches involving the change of use of any building to use as a single dwellinghouse where the change took place before 25 April 2024.  

The time limits for taking action can be extended in certain circumstances. For example, where there has been deliberate concealment of a breach in planning control, a local planning authority (LPA) can apply to the Magistrates Court for a 'planning enforcement order' to allow them to act outside the relevant time limits. 


An LPA can also take 'further' enforcement action within four years of a previous enforcement action where an enforcement notice is served within the relevant time limits but later quashed. An enforcement warning notice can also extend the time to enforce a further four years. These are sometimes referred to as 'second bite' provisions.  


For breaches of listed building control, as opposed to planning control, the time limits for taking enforcement action do not apply. Instead the key consideration for the LPA in determining the expediency of listed building enforcement action would be the date that the works were carried out and whether this fell before or after the date that the property was listed.  The works only need to have been carried out after the date of listing to be unauthorised and subject to formal listed building enforcement action.  It is possible to check the date of a building’s listing on the National Heritage List for England, here.


If you are claiming immunity, the enforcement officer will no doubt be looking for you to provide evidence of this when they contact you.  Examples of evidence include receipts or invoices showing when building works were carried out or dated photographs showing the works in situ for more than the relevant time limits.  If your photographs are digital the date can often be found in the image’s settings under ‘properties’ or ‘file information’.


For some cases, the planning authority may ask you to apply for what is called a Lawful Development Certificate. This requires you to provide sufficient evidence to satisfy the planning authority that on the balance of probabilities the use has existed for the necessary period to be immune from enforcement action and, assuming you can do that, the Certificate will be granted.

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