• NFC Homes

What happens if you build without planning permission?


Planning permission can be time-consuming and costly to apply for - and there are no guarantees that it will be granted. It’s therefore not uncommon for those who don’t want to bear the risk to sell land to a developer instead.


When you sell land to a developer, they’ll generally be happy to take on the rigmarole of gaining planning permission. This means you can reap the rewards of selling land without going through the costly legal expense of applying for planning permission.


Before explaining what can happen if you build on land without planning permission, we'd like to emphasise that it's always best to consider acquiring planning permission before beginning any form of development on land yourself.



Is it possible to build without planning permission?


If you build on land and structures require planning permission, you will have committed a planning breach. If your local authority is made aware of this, you will be required to submit an application for what’s known as retrospective planning permission to your local council.


If this application is deemed successful then you won’t need to take any more action, however this is still a risky approach as you're even less likely to get retrospective planning permission than initial planning permission.


If you don’t get retrospective planning permission, you will be required to remove any structure you have built and return the land to its original condition.


Is a planning breach a criminal offence?


A planning breach does not constitute a criminal offence on its own, although to avoid any criminal litigation proceedings (such as a fine or a prosecution) you will have to successfully apply for retrospective planning permission.


However, if you feel like this is outside your remit, you may wish to consider selling land to a developer who may then apply for planning permission once they take control of the land.


How does retrospective planning permission work?


If you have built something on your land that would typically require planning permission but have not applied for it, you will need to do so retrospectively. The same applies if you have been granted consent to construct a building but have wavered from the terms and conditions initially set out by the planning officer.


The latter is not uncommon in the UK - consider the following scenario:



- A landowner applies for planning permission.

- Planning permission is granted.

- The initial plan is modified and no longer meets the terms and conditions.

- Upon inspection, the local planning authority realises you have breached the initial terms.


Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development (CLEUD)


Another alternative you may consider is what's known as a certificate of lawful existing use or development, or CLEUD for short.


This is a certificate officially provided by a Local Planning Authority to legalise previously unauthorised development or to confirm that development was carried out in accordance with approved permission.


A CLEUD certifies that an existing building/use is legal and prevents any enforcement action from being taken. In most cases, development becomes immune if no action is taken between 4-10 years.


It's worth bearing in mind that this option still bears a considerable level of risk and should not be considered as a first option.


Sell land to a developer


For some, the stress, expense and uncertainty of applying for planning permission - either retrospectively or before a single brick has been laid - is too much. If this sounds familiar, you may find it easier to sell land to a developer.


Developers generally have a lot of experience in dealing with local planning authorities and councils. This makes them more adept when it comes to submitting plans, as they will have an insight into what a council might deem acceptable/unacceptable in a plan.


If you would like to request a land valuation, contact us today. A member of our experienced team will be happy to offer a realistic valuation and advice should you wish to sell your land.



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