Written by Nikki O’Hagan, 17th November 2023

If you’ve been following our recent news articles, you’ll likely be aware the 4 year rule is on its way out.

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill receives royal assent 

The government’s controversial Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB) finally received royal assent on 26th October 2023. It is now the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act (LURA), meaning it has statutory force. 

It is the LURA that contains provisions to replace the 4 year rule with the 10 year rule. 

Already lost? 

Read our previous updates here:

Find out about the 4 and 10 year rules here:

4 year rule currently remains in place

Whilst certain items within the LURA took immediate effect, this is not the case for the 4 year rule provisions. This means that although the LURA is now adopted, the 4 year rule is sticking around for the time being. 

If you have a case that relies on the 4 year rule, then you still have the opportunity to bring it forward. A word of warning, however – this window of opportunity may be closing very shortly. Exactly when it will close is anyone’s guess. We discuss likely timings in more detail below.

What happens next?

All we know is what the LURA tells us. Specifically, that the 4 year rule will be swapped for the 10 year rule “on such day as the Secretary of State may by regulations appoint”.

In plain English? This just means the 4 year rule will be cancelled on a future date to be decided by the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State will publish a secondary item of legislation which will officially declare the date of its cancellation. 

Transitional arrangements

The government has previously promised that transitional arrangements would be made for the 4 year rule. Although this has never been set in stone, we do expect the secondary legislation to include a transitionary period*. We also expect the secondary legislation will confirm that any 4 year rule cases already in progress will be allowed to run their course. However, these are only educated guesses and we will need to wait for the legislation to be adopted before we can be certain of its contents.

*providing an additional (and likely brief) period within which people may make use of the 4 year rule before it is scrapped for good. 

When is the secondary legislation likely to be adopted?

Unfortunately, we do not know when the secondary legislation is likely to be adopted. We are urging all our clients to err on the side of caution and bring forward their 4 year rule cases immediately.

There are multiple factors that are likely to affect the timing of the secondary legislation, including:

  • changes in government, such as a new government following the next general election. If the 4 year rule remains in place following the next election, the secondary legislation may not be a main priority for the next government
  • government priorities and workloads. We’re not sure whether the 4 year rule is a key priority for the current government. If it is, the legislation could be imminent. But the Secretary of State may well have bigger fish to fry. 

However, there is no deadline for its introduction.

Please be aware: in most circumstances, you should only bring forward a 4 year rule case if your evidence is sufficiently strong and unambiguous. The main exception being where the LPA is already aware of the breach and has invited a 4 year rule application as an alternative to taking immediate enforcement action. Planning Direct will provide an honest and thorough appraisal of your case before we agree to take it on. Our initial advice is always free of charge. 

Past performance

In the past, some secondary legislation has not been introduced until years after the main Act. 

For example, the 2008 Planning Act received royal assent in November 2008. It was followed by its first item of secondary legislation in May 2009. That secondary legislation dictated that certain provisions of the 2008 Planning Act took effect in June 2009.

However, the next item of secondary legislation was not adopted until February 2012. Some of the 2008 Planning Act’s provisions did not consequently take effect until April 2012, roughly three and half years following its enactment.

Similarly, the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 was subject to secondary legislation in 2015, meaning some of its provisions did not take effect for over a decade!

Based on past performance alone, we can expect the secondary legislation to be adopted in a matter of weeks, months or years. It could even take as long as a decade, although we consider this unlikely. We think the best course of action is to plan for a worst case scenario. 

Stay informed

Although timings are still up in the air, it is now certain that the 4 year rule is on its way out.

We will continue to post updates as we learn more. 

Follow the link below to access an online copy of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act (LURA). The 4 year rule provisions can be found at section 115 of Chapter 5 of Part 3. The requirement for secondary legislation to be adopted before it takes effect can be found at section 255 of Part 13. 

If you have a case that relies on the 4 year rule, do not delay. Contact us today for free advice. 

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