Four year rule still in place (for now)


Unless you have been living under a rock, you will probably have heard and read a lot about the four year rule going in 2023 to be replaced by a ten year rule. So what happened and what is the current situation?

4 year rule



The Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 finally received Royal Assent on 26th October 2023. Within that, Section 115 of that Act amends Section 171B of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (TCPA 1990) so that all breaches of planning control, will require ten years rather than, say a house, only requiring a shorter period of time under the four year rule. This only applies to England and not to Wales. where the four year rule lives on.

So does that mean the four year rule is no more? No!

At the moment hardly anything in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 has been brought into force. Each item within it will require a commencement order or two to take effect. There is absolutely no guarantee that all or indeed any of the elements of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 will be brought into law. Which begs the question why it even exists!

Therefore for the time being where a planning breach has occurred involving either the creation of a dwelling or a change of use creating a dwelling the four year rule remains – for now!

Our own thoughts at Planning Geek, is that even if it brought into play it will be on a sliding scale, rather than on a certain date next month, dwellings will require a ten year rule, rather than a four year rule. Therefore whilst you may be clock watching and wondering if you will get to the four years, you maybe okay even if it does become law. We really do not know. Your guess is as good as ours currently.

What we do know is that an election is due later in 2024 and if the current government needs votes, will they decide to silently not alter this law? Only time will tell. or are we just be sceptical?

But for now the four year rule is very much alive! With no death sentence formally announced.


Four Years Passed?

if you have passed four years or are approaching four years, then we would recommend preparing or submitting a certificate of lawfulness. The important element is to have sufficient evidence for the certificate of lawfulness. Photos, affidavits, leases, invoices, certificates etc., all will help towards proving that you are beyond enforcement under the four year rule and that the property is now lawful. Planning Geek has submitted several of these, and so we are used to ensuring that this goes through first time.

Please, whatever you do, do not ask the local authority for advise!

If you would like Planning Geek to submit an application on your behalf, please complete the fee proposal form here.

So whilst you shouldn’t sit back and think that your property will be immune from enforcement in six months time, be prepared to act as soon as that period does reach four years. If your period is already in excess of four years and under ten, we would recommend submitting a certificate of lawfulness as soon as possible. We are here to help.

Please note that a breach of a planning condition is a ten year rule, rather than four. Likewise this cannot be used in a listed building to legalise alterations in breach of Listed Building Consent.



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Page updated: 12th January 2024