If you want to be certain that the existing use or the construction of a building is lawful for planning purposes or that your completed project does / did not require planning permission, you can apply for a Lawful Development Certificate (LDC).
A LDC is a legal document which proves the lawfulness of past, present or future building uses or construction. It's not compulsory to have an LDC but there may be times when you need one to confirm that the use, operation, construction or activity named in it is lawful for planning purposes.
Types of lawful development certificates (LDC)
There are two types of LDC:
Existing use or development
This type of certificate provides legal proof that an existing use of land, or some development that has already taken place, or some activity being carried out in breach of a planning condition, is lawful for planning purposes under Section 191 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
An extension that was built without planning permission and has now become lawful in planning terms due to the amount of time that has lapsed since it was built, would also be an example of when this type of certificate could be applied for.
Proposed use or development
This type of certificate provides legal proof that a proposed use of buildings or other land, or some operations proposed to be carried out in, on, over or under land, would be lawful for planning purposes under Section 192 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
The planning law which sets out what can be built without planning permission under permitted development rights can be quite complex. It’s also possible that some properties have had their permitted development rights removed.
To be certain if you need planning permission or not before you start work, whether it’s for the construction of an extension or the change of use of a property for example, you can apply for a Proposed Use or Development LDC. If the LDC is granted, this provides you with a legal document that planning permission is not required.
If you think the development you are going to carry out does not need planning permission or falls under permitted development, it’s not compulsory to have a LDC before you start work. You may however wish to have one in case you come to sell your property in the future or to give you peace of mind before you start work on an expensive project.
What to do before you apply
Your LDC application must provide sufficient information for the Local Planning Authority (LPA) to make a decision. Before you apply, you need to:
If you’re proposing to undertake works through permitted development rights, and are considering submitting a Proposed Use or Development LDC, then you should also check out the following guidance:
Often the issues involved in an LDC can be complex, so before you apply, you may also benefit from:
- Obtaining advice from a suitably qualified planning professional
- Requesting pre-application advice from an LPA Officer to guide you on the information needed to support your application
Important - It’s not possible for the LPA to seek modifications to a proposal already submitted under a LDC. So if the proposal is not lawful, the LPA must refuse the application and suggest that the applicant amends the proposed development in a new application. You must ensure that the proposal is described in detail, with precision and, where applicable, with all permitted development criteria being relied on referenced in full.
How to apply
You can apply for either an Existing Use or Development, or Proposed Use or Development LDC on the government's Planning Portal.
LDC applications are not generally subject to public consultation and the fee is normally half the current application fee for the equivalent full application (as long as the application is not retrospective).
What happens next?
After receiving a valid application, the LPA will check whether what you are wanting to do / have already undertaken meets the requirements of planning law so that they can confirm that planning permission isn't needed. The LDC will then either be granted or refused.
Decisions are generally made within 8 weeks.