Building without Planning Permission: How to deal with the consequences

Churchill Home Insurance recently published research which revealed that forty planning applications are made every day for building work that has already started or been completed. About one in eight of those retrospective applications are rejected. Amanda Brodie, Associate at Russell Cooke, advises on what to do in this situation.

What powers does the council have if I have already started or completed building works?

Not all developments require planning permission, but if yours does and you go ahead with your build without permission then you may receive an enforcement notice. That notice could require you to either repair the building or remove it altogether.

Have I broken the law?

It is only a criminal offence if you proceed with building the structure when there is an enforcement notice in place prohibiting the development or steps required by an enforcement notice have not been taken.

What if my retrospective application is rejected?

Even if your retrospective application is unsuccessful, you are still able to appeal against the retrospective refusal of permission.

But my building works were done years ago, do I still have to apply retrospectively?

Four years from the date of substantial completion a building becomes immune to enforcement action (provided there is no concealment). The owner can then apply for a certificate of lawfulness. However, this four-year rule does not apply if you have built a structure for which you previously had planning permission refused.

If you have undertaken building works without permission, seeking legal advice would be a good first step to dealing with the possible consequences.

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