Extending the Time Limit for Planning Permission

When planning permission is granted for any development, for it to be valid the development must be commenced within a given time period. The local authority can specify a time period but in the absence of this the default time periods of three years (full planning permission) or five years (outline planning permission). Commencing the development for which permission was granted after the time period has expired has the same effect as carrying out development with no permission.

It used to be the case that once the time period expired; a brand new planning application would have to be made if the applicant still wished to carry out the work. Following the economic downturn this caused problems for a number of people, from commercial house builders who had to put would be developments on hold to home owners who couldn’t get finance for a planned extension to those looking to sell their home or land with the benefit of planning permission to make it more valuable but found their properties were on the market much longer than expected. In response to these problems the government changed the rules in October 2009 to allow for permissions to be extended.

How to Extend a Planning Permission

A formal written application must be made to the local authority just as with the original application; however it will not be necessary to submit plans etc as the local authority will already have, and will have approved, these. The application must be made before the expiry of the original permission and if the original permission expires before the application to extend is determined then development must not commence until a decision is given.

There is a fee payable for the application of £170 for small developments such as an extension or one new dwelling. For larger developments the fee is higher. The application form can be downloaded here.

Under What Circumstances Can an Application Be Made?

In order for an application to extend the term to be made it must be submitted before expiry of the original permission and the original permission must have been granted before 01 October 2009. In addition development must not already have commenced. Anyone with an interest in the property can apply to extend the permission; it does not have to be the original applicant.

A permission can only be extended once.

Will an Extension Always be Granted If the Conditions Are Met?

When considering the application the local authority must base their decision on current policies rather than the policies which were in place at the time it was originally granted. If therefore the character of the area (or the property itself) has changed significantly in the interim period the application could be refused, even though permission was granted for the same works previously. This is most likely to be an issue for large scale developments, though if a property has been granted permission for an extension say, and although that work has not been carried out it has since been extended in some other way, this may affect the application.

What is Meant by Commencing Development?

An application to extend will only be required where the development has not commenced. As to what is meant by commencement, the have said that a “meaningful start” must have been made. For building works, it is not enough to simply dig a hole. It has to be reasonably clear that a start has been made with a clear intention to complete the development.

Once development has commenced there is no time limit to complete the development as such however the local authority does have the power, if significant progress is not being made, to make an order that the work be completed within a given time period. The minimum time period for the purpose of such an order is 12 months and failure has the effect of revoking the permission.

If you are unsure as to whether any work you have done constitutes a “meaningful start” then you should contact the local authority’s planning department for further advice.

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