The 4-year rule could end as early as April 2023. The Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill – which will see the 4-year rule scrapped – is making its way through Parliament and may come into force as early as April 2023.

Progress of the Bill

The Bill is due for its second reading in the House Of Lords on 17th January 2023. It has a few more stages to pass through following that, including a return to the House of Commons. The Bill could still be amended at any stage, including in respect of the 4-year rule.

And, as with any Bill, there’s always a risk the whole thing will be thrown out by government before it takes effect. However, it’s best to plan for a worst case scenario – the 4-year rule being cancelled in April 2023.

What does this mean for me?

First, you need to understand what the 4-year rule is and when it applies.

How does the 4-year rule work?

The 4-year rule allows homeowners, business-owners and developers to “regularise” certain unlawful developments once they’ve been in place for at least 4 years (without enforcement action having been taken). Click the button below to find out more.

House(s) and flat(s)

The most common type of development covered by the 4-year rule is use as a single dwellinghouse. This means if a property has been used as a normal house(s) or flat(s) for at least 4 years without planning permission, you can apply for it to become lawful.


A high street shop was converted to use as 4 flats in January 2019 without planning permission.

In January 2023, the site owner can apply to their local council to make the use lawful. This is achieved with the submission of a Lawful Development Certificate application. Click the button below to find out more about these applications.

As long as enough evidence is submitted to satisfy your local council that the house(s) or flat(s) have been in place for at least 4 years, they must issue a Lawful Development Certificate. The Certificate acts as formal confirmation that the development is lawful. This means it’s as though planning permission had been granted for it and no enforcement action can be taken against it.

What other developments are subject to the 4-year rule?

The 4-year rule also applies to some other common developments. This includes most normal building works where no change of use has occurred. For example:

  • A domestic extension or outbuilding (as long as the site/building was already a house);
  • A commercial extension or outbuilding (as long the site/building was already commercial).

What’s changing?

Not all developments are subject to the 4-year rule, some are subject to the 10-year rule instead. This means the development must be in place for at least 10 years before an application for a Lawful Development Certificate can be made.

For example, if a property was converted from a house to a shop without planning permission, it would have to be in place for 10 years before it became lawful. So a house converted to a shop in 2019 would not become lawful until 2029.

The Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill will replace the 4-year rule with the 10-year rule. This means all development currently subject to the 4-year rule would need to be in place for at least 10 years before it could become lawful.

DON’T DELAY: apply for a Lawful Development Certificate today

Although we think it’s unlikely to be scrapped before summer 2023, we’re advising our clients to prepare for a worst case scenario. If good progress is made on the Bill, the 4-year rule could end in April 2023.

Bill expected to receive royal assent in April 2023

Based on the government’s current timetable, there’s a chance the Bill will receive royal assent – meaning it comes into force – in April 2023. Click the button below to track the Bill’s progress:

What’s the latest date I can submit my Lawful Development Certificate application?

As explained above, we think a cautious approach is best when it comes to planning issues of this nature. For this reason, we’re advising all our clients to submit their Lawful Development Certificate applications no later than April 2023.

Of course, this only applies if your case relies on the 4-year rule!

If you miss this deadline, you may have to wait another 6 years before you can apply. If enforcement action is taken by your local council before then, you’ll be out of luck.

What happens if the 4-year rule is cancelled before my application is decided?

Finally, a bit of good news! We’ve checked the legislation and you don’t need to be concerned if the 4-year rule is scrapped before a decision is issued on your Lawful Development Certificate application.

Your application will be decided based on the rule that was in place when you submitted your application.

This is why it’s so important that your application is submitted before the end of April 2023. If your council takes a long time to decide your application and the 4-year rule is cancelled before a decision is issued, it doesn’t matter. You will still benefit from the 4-year rule.

Contact us today if you require assistance with a Lawful Development Certificate application. Planning Direct is pleased to offer a comprehensive start-to-finish planning application service.

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