Planning Permission Expiry

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Written by Taylan Tahir

June 2021

Written by Taylan Tahir

June 2021

You’ve managed to secure a great planning permission on your house or land but haven’t yet begun construction works. This article answers questions surrounding timing for implementing your planning permission, issues around expiring permissions and the options for extending permission.

For a ‘full planning permission’, unless otherwise stated by the local authority on your planning notice,

you have 3 years from the time of approval to implement the planning permission and begin construction works.

This has been the case since the introduction of the Town and Country Planning Act 1968, helping to prevent the accumulation of unimplemented planning approvals.

After 3 years, if the full planning permission has not been implemented, it expires. At this point it is no longer valid and you will need to apply for planning permission again. Note: It is not guaranteed that a new planning application identical to a previously expired permission will be accepted again as policy and design guidance may have shifted.

For an ‘outline planning permission’ the timeframes are different. Unless otherwise stated, there is a 3-year period from the time of approval in which to submit the outstanding reserved matters application for the scheme. Following the approval of the reserved matters, an additional 2 years is allowed for the permission to be implemented. This gives a total of up to 5 years to implement an outline planning permission.

There are some other exceptions to the 3-year time-frame, these are generally rare and if your case is one of them it would be clearly stated on your planning notice.

How do I stop my planning permission expiring or protect an expiring permission?

If your planning permission is due to expire there are only a limited number of options available to protect it:

  1. Implement your planning permission within 3 years of approval, including the discharge of any pre-commencement planning conditions.
  2. Re-apply for planning permission.

O-House full width rear extension in Bromley, South London

How do I implement my planning permission?

Planning permission is deemed to be implemented on the “earliest date on which any material operation comprised in the development begins to be carried out.” (Town and Country Planning Act 1990, Section 56)

A “material operation” is defined in the Act as:

  • any work of construction in the course of the erection of a building;

  • any work of demolition of a building;

  • the digging of a trench which is to contain the foundations, or part of the foundations, of a building;

  • the laying of any underground main or pipe to the foundations, or part of the foundations, of a building or to any such trench as is mentioned in paragraph;

  • any operation in the course of laying out or constructing a road or part of a road;

  • any change in the use of any land which constitutes material development.

Generally, limited works such as the partial demolition of existing buildings on site or a small amount of digging in an area forming the foundations would constitute “material operation” and count as the implementation of planning permission. However, if you are unsure it would be advisable to confirm with the local planning authority if the works you have planned, or have already begun, are a lawful implementation.

In addition to a “material operation”, it is also important to consider any relevant pre-commencement planning conditions that you may be bound by. Lawfully commencing construction works may first involve satisfying planning conditions. When a local authority grants a planning approval, they can either do this “unconditionally” or “grant planning permission subject to conditions”. Planning conditions can be found on your planning approval notice issued by the local authority.

A pre-commencement planning condition is one which must be approved (discharged) with the local authority prior to the commencement of the development. For example, a condition may require a construction management plan to be “submitted to and approved by the Council prior to the commencement of the development”. In this instance, pre-commencement conditions should be discharged before any works on site are initiated.

Can you apply to extend a planning permission?

No, it is not possible to apply to extend or renew an expiring planning permission.

Historical legislation allowed for planning permissions granted before October 2010 to be extended, but this no longer applies. More recently, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government has given all permissions in England that were due to expire between 23rd March and 31st December 2020 an automatic extension until 1st April 2021.

You are able to re-apply for a new planning application which would involve the usual full planning application costs and timescales. An existing permission on the same site will always be a material consideration, which the planning officer will have to take into account. However, it is not always guaranteed that an expired scheme will be accepted when applying again and a local authority is free to disagree with a previous decision.

What happens if my planning permission expires?

If construction has not commenced within 3 years, the planning permission will have expired. In this instance, to lawfully commence the construction of your project, you must re-apply for planning permission.

How long is planning permission valid for once work has started?

Once planning permission has been deemed to be implemented, there is no longer an expiry date to the permission. This means it lasts forever.

In many instances our clients want to phase works to minimise disruption to their lives or to help with the financing of the project. For example, achieving planning permission for a scheme that included roof and a ground floor extension for your house. If the roof extension is implemented within 3 years from the time of approval there is no longer a time frame in which the ground floor extension should be implemented, as this part of the design falls under the same planning permission.

In occasional instances, if a development has ‘commenced’ but has not been completed in a timely manner, a Local Authority can serve a ‘completion notice’. If a completion notice is served the development must then be completed in 12 months. This measure is in order to prevent construction sites being vacant for extended periods of time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens when planning permission runs out?

If construction has not commenced within 3 years of approval, the planning permission will have expired. At this point, you are not lawfully able to implement an expired permission and must apply again for full planning permission.

Do all planning conditions need to be discharged?

Yes, ultimately all conditions will need to be discharged or removed/varied. There are different timescales for when planning conditions need to be discharged. These timescales will be noted on your planning notice. For example, a ‘pre-commencement condition’ will have to be discharged prior to the commencement of the development. Or, a ‘pre-occupation condition’ will have to be discharged prior to occupation of the building.

What is retrospective planning permission?

‘Retrospective planning permission’ is a specific type of permission sought after unauthorised use of land or works have been carried out and may follow an enforcement notice. In this case, a building or part of a building has been constructed without the relevant planning permission (or approval of condition). In order to regularise the works that have been carried out, retrospective permission must be applied for. This is different to re-applying after an expired permission.

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