When Do I need a Lawful Development Certificate?
A lawful development certificate (LDC) is proof that your project is legal under planning rules
Many home improvement projects can proceed without getting the go-ahead from the local planning authority. But if you want to be 100 per cent certain that a project doesn’t require planning permission or that a proposed or existing use of a building is legal, you can apply for a Lawful Development Certificate.
What is a Lawful Development Certificate?
A Lawful Development Certificate is a legal document stating that a proposed or existing use of a building use or project is permitted. If granted by your local planning authority, it means enforcement action can’t be carried out against the development.
When it is needed?
Problems can occur if you build an extension without planning permission and then want to sell. The work may be allowed under permitted development (PD) rights, a type of pre-authorised permission, but the rules are complicated and it’s not always clear cut. So, if you’re thinking of remodelling or extending your home under PD, it’s sensible to apply for an LDC before work starts for peace of mind. Remember refusal doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t go-ahead; it just indicates that planning permission may be required, or you may need to tweak the design to fit within PD.
The certificate is also useful if your home was extended without planning permission and you need to show a prospective purchaser that no enforcement action can be taken by the local authority. The LDC can be used as proof that development was substantially completed four or more years ago, so is exempt from enforcement action. Four years is the time limit within which local planning authorities can take enforcement action against building which breaches planning rules. Obviously, timing is crucial. If you apply too early, it could alert a council to an unauthorised development.
What about a material change of use?
Other cases when the certificate might prove useful include confirming the existing use, or intensification of use, of a building is lawful. For example, an outbuilding converted into a home, or garage into an annexe, without planning permission. The change of use would be immune to enforcement action after four years in the case of a dwelling.
How do I apply?
You can apply to your local council for an LDC via the Planning Portal online application service. The application must provide all the requested information, or it’s likely to be refused.
What information do I need to provide?
The information you’ll need to provide includes the reasons why you think you’re entitled to a LDC, a plan identifying the land, a certificate to prove ownership or tenancy of the land and interest of any other person. If you’re applying for a certificate for an existing dwelling, you also need to provide evidence it was ‘substantially complete’ more than four years before the date of the application. Or in the case of a change of use, proof that any use (or breach of condition) has been carried on continuously for four years. This might include old utility bills, photographs and sworn statements from third parties.
How is it different from planning permission?
In some ways applying for a LDC is similar to submitting a planning application, in that plans have to be drawn up, forms filled in and an application fee paid. A key difference, however, is that LDC is purely concerned with the legality of a building whereas planning permission involves consideration of other issues such as design and impact on neighbours. The issue of a certificate depends entirely on factual evidence about the history of a building, planning status and interpretation of any planning law or judicial authority. In some cases, the legal arguments are complex and it’s sensible to take professional advice from a planning consultant to ensure you put forward a strong case.
How much does a certificate cost?
Applying for an LDC for a proposed use or extension, is half the normal planning fee. However, applying for a certificate for an existing building or use is the same as a full planning application - £206 in In April 2019, according to the Planning Portal. If a certificate is refused, there is a right of appeal.