Lawful development certificate application

Q When applying for a certificate of lawfulness for continued use, should the council treat this the same as a planning application? Also when the deadline date is reached do the council have to give you an answer one way or the other? And, if they do not answer you by the deadline date, should they give you a valid reason why?

A As you’ll know, this kind of application is made to establish that a use that’s already taking place is lawful for planning purposes and, therefore, can continue without the council being able to stop it. The process and forms are similar to planning applications but there are significant differences.

With lawful development certificates, the council is supposed to give a purely legal answer on lawfulness. Whether the council likes the use or thinks it’s appropriate shouldn’t come into it. This might sound straightforward but the law and planning are rarely black and white and interpretation and opinion come into play.

Councils don’t have firm deadlines for deciding applications, as such. There’s a target date but there aren’t any real sanctions for not meeting it and few consequences. You can, though, appeal if the council doesn’t make a decision within the target timescale.

There’s no formal requirement for a council to give reasons for not making a decision by the target date. If you’re able to speak to the planning officer – that is, if his voicemail isn’t switched on permanently – he’ll probably tell you why the lawful development certificate application hasn’t been decided.

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