Development or use of land and buildings that does not benefit from planning permission can become lawful through period of existence. In such cases a Local Planning Authority can issue a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development (CLEUD) most commonly known as a Lawful Development Certificate to confirm that works, development or uses of land and buildings are lawful.  A lawful Development Certificate is not same as planning permission as it only confirms the use or development as being lawful at a particular point in time. If the use or development works change after a Lawful Development Certificate is issued there is no guarantee that the position will remain lawful.

When can an application be made?

Establishing Existing Use or Development

An application for a lawful Development Certificate can be made broadly on the basis of a “4-year rule” or a “10 year rule”.

  • The 4-year rule applies to any building, operational and engineering works in, on, over or under land and change of use of a building to a single dwellinghouse.
  • The 10-year rule applies to any change of use of land and buildings (other than to residential use) and in respect of any breach of condition attached to a previous planning permission.

Where it appears that a building, structure or change of use of land has been deliberately concealed from the Local Planning Authority,  they can apply to the Court for an extension of the 4 or 10 year time limits to be able to undertake enforcement proceedings.

It is important to prove that there has been no break in existence, occupation or use of buildings or land during the 4 or 10 year period.


The Local planning Authority will determine a Lawful Development Certificate application purely based on the evidence submitted with the application. The application is not assessed against planning policy and the relative merits of the development or use are not matters for consideration. If the Local Planning Authority is not satisfied with the evidence submitted or has its own evidence that proves that applicant’s claim is incorrect, the application may be refused.