If you require a formal decision as to whether existing or proposed development is lawful, then you can submit an application for a Certificate of Lawfulness. There are two kinds of certificate that can be applied for:
The planning merits raised by these applications are not for consideration. It is simply a matter of evidence, fact, and legal consideration.
Your certificate application must provide sufficient factual information for the authority to decide the application. It is important to note that the onus is on the applicant to prove the case by supplying sufficient clear and precise evidence to satisfy the authority that a certificate should be granted. If the evidence provided with the application is considered to be inadequate, then the application is likely to be refused on the basis of lack of evidence. This would not prevent a further application should more clear and precise evidence become available.
This procedure allows a person to make a formal application for a certificate to determine whether an unauthorised development has become lawful through the passage of time, and can be continued without the need for planning permission.
A Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development can be obtained where:
Obtaining a certificate will have the effect of proving that the development is lawful, and protect the development from enforcement action. If a certificate is granted, it will be worded to precisely identify the full extent of any lawful uses, operations or other matters, and will include a plan to show the land and/or buildings in question.
Refusal of an application may raise questions of whether the applicant should submit a retrospective planning application and/or whether the authority should consider enforcement action.
A Certificate of Lawful Proposed Use or Development will clarify whether a proposed use or development requires planning permission, or whether a proposed development already has planning permission i.e. permitted development, or is lawful by some other reason. Approval will confirm that the use, operations or other matter applied for would be lawful if carried out in the manner stated in the certificate.
A refusal will point to the need for an application before the use, operations or other matter, are undertaken.