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How to keep a planning permission alive

Dan Hughes, associate at PWA Planning, explains more about the time limit on planning permissions and assesses the options for preventing a planning consent from lapsing.

Planning permission is usually granted for a three-year timescale and it’s important to be aware of what you must do before the end of this period in order to keep the permission ‘alive’.

You should also comprehensively document commencement so you can demonstrate the permission has been lawfully handled if required.

What the ‘commencement’ of a development involves

Commencing a development is secured via a material operation taking place on site. It is set out within Section 56 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. It can be relatively minor and comprise of digging a trench, laying a pipe or any operation in the laying out of an access. The list is not definitive.

In addition to the physical works, it is also important to be aware of the timescales as to when the works must be undertaken by. This is often within three years of the date in which the planning permission was granted.

A careful review is also required of any conditions or legal agreements associated with the planning permission to ensure the start of the development can be considered lawful.

How you can be affected by changes to planning policy

In addition, it’s worth noting that development opportunities can alter with the passage of time and it may be that an existing planning permission is more advantageous than one that could be obtained under a more recent policy framework, or may even not be likely to be granted planning permission in the current planning climate. Keeping the permission live in such situations can often be imperative.

Moreover, commencing development also establishes the value of the land in regard to its use-value and can help with the sale of the land where a purchaser knows permission has been implemented and secured. It is also a helpful tool in levering funding for a development.

Taking precautions against potential pitfalls

It’s crucial to complete any ‘pre-commencement’ planning conditions before development actually commences – otherwise the works may not be lawful, which could affect the ‘lifespan’ of the planning permission.

Alternatively, you can apply to vary your planning conditions to assist in implementing the planning permission and keeping it alive.

For similar reasons, you might need to alter a section 106 agreement in situations where the works carried out on site might trigger payment contributions and other requirements.

The implications of commencement on CIL

Commencing development, depending on which planning authority the development is located in, may mean you must pay community infrastructure levy (CIL) fees which are normally payable within 60 days of commencement.

To avoid financial penalties, you should submit a number of documents ahead of commencement. These include an Assumption of Liability Notice; Commencement Notice of the intended date of commencement; and – if appropriate – a social housing relief claim or a self-build exempt certificate.

For more information on this issue, or any other planning and development matter, contact Dan Hughes on 01772 369669.

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