Lawful development certificate for an existing use or development - guidance on the process

If you want to establish whether an existing development, use of land or some activity in breach of a planning condition is lawful in planning terms, you can apply to the Local Planning Authority for a Lawful Development Certificate for an existing use or development. 

An application for a Certificate of Lawfulness of Existing Use or Development (CLEUD) is a legal determination which looks at the facts rather than the planning merits of a case. It is generally used to regularise unauthorised building works or uses and prevent the Council from taking enforcement action against a breach of planning control.

The Council will issue a formal decision as to whether the existing use, operation or activity named on the certificate is "lawful development" against which no enforcement action can be taken.

When should a lawful development certificate for an existing use or development be used?

A certificate can be submitted when:

  • Planning enforcement action is taken by the planning authority and the owner believes it is immune from action because the time limit for taking enforcement action has passed 
  • The owner discovers, in the course of selling the land or property, that planning permission was never obtained, and needs to show a prospective purchaser that no enforcement action can be taken by the planning authority.
  • The case involves an intensification of use or where the precise nature of the existing use is difficult to describe such as secondary uses; mixed uses;intensification and sub-division of the planning unit

What are the time limits involved?

Planning legislation sets out time limits within which planning authorities can take planning enforcement action against breaches of planning control. The breach of planning must be continuous and current for: 

  • 4 years for the carrying out without planning permission of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land. The development becomes immune from enforcement action four years after the operations are substantially completed.
  • 4 years for the change of use of a building, or part of a building, to use as a single dwelling-house. Enforcement action can no longer be taken once the unauthorised use has continued for four years without any enforcement action being taken.
  • 10 years for all other development. The ten year period runs from the date the breach of planning control was committed.

Once these time limits have expired the development becomes lawful for planning purposes.

What information is required for a certificate of lawfulness?

Lawful development certificate applications are required to be accompanied by the following national information requirements prescribed in the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015.  If you fail to provide this information the Council will declare your application invalid.

Item Requirement
Standard application form The Council encourages the submission of applications online via the Planning Portal.
If the application is submitted in paper format the Council requires one original completed standard application form to be submitted.
All applications must include a statement setting out the applicant’s interest in the land, the name and address of any other person known to the applicant to have an interest in the land and whether any such other person has been notified of the application.
Location plan All applications must include a location plan based on an up to date map of a metric scale of 1:1250 or 1:2500. Wherever possible the plan should be scaled to fit onto A4 or A3 size paper.
Plans should identify sufficient roads and/or buildings on land adjoining the application site to ensure that the exact location of the application site is clear.
The application site should be edged clearly with a red line.  It should include all land necessary to carry out the proposed development. A blue line should be drawn around any other land owned by the applicant, close to or adjoining the application site.
Supporting evidence Applications must include as much evidence verifying the information included in the application as can be provided. This can include:
  • Statutory declarations from applicants, former owners and neighbours;
  • Council tax or electoral records
  • Utility bills
  • Accounts
  • Relevant invoices or receipts for services relating to the use of the land or the operations carried out
  • Photographic evidence which is clearly dated;
  • Leases and tenancy agreements; 
  • Any other factual information and evidence that supports the application.
Correct fee The fee is the same as it would be for an equivalent planning application. The correct fees can be checked at  Planning permission fee calculator

What will the Council consider?

Unlike an application for planning permission, the issue of a Certificate depends entirely on factual evidence about the history and planning status of the land or building and the interpretation of any relevant planning law or judicial authority. The planning merits of the development are irrelevant. 

The onus is on the applicant to prove that the development complies with the following minimum time periods and that a certificate ought reasonably to be issued:

  • That any buildings or operations were "substantially complete" more than 4 years before the date of the application;
  • That any use (or breach of condition) has been carried on continuously for a period of 10 years (4 years in the case of a dwelling).

Mere assertion on these points is not sufficient. If the planning authority has evidence, or reasonable grounds to believe that an assertion by the applicant is not correct, it may refuse a Certificate.

Application form

Apply for a Lawful Development Certificate