What is a certificate of lawfulness?

There are two types of Certificates of Lawfulness: Certificate of Lawfulness (proposed) and Certificate of Lawfulness (existing).

Dwelling houses (other than flats, maisonettes and properties with restricted permitted development rights) benefit from what are known as ‘permitted development rights’, which allow for certain types of development to be undertaken without the need for planning permission.

As a homeowner you may wish to find out whether the type of work you are proposing (or work that has already taken place) does or does not require planning permission: you may wish to apply for a Certificate of Lawfulness (Proposed) or (Existing). Both Certificates are explained in more detail below.

Certificate of Lawfulness for a proposed use or development

Certain alterations to your property such as small extensions, conservatories or loft conversions, do not require planning. Guidance on projects which can be carried out without planning permission can be found on the householder’s guide on the planning portal.

By applying for a Certificate of Lawfulness (Proposed), you are seeking formal confirmation that planning permission is not required and that you can undertake the work lawfully. A Certificate of Lawfulness (Proposed) is a formal and legal document confirming this. This can be beneficial when you come to sell your property.

Certificate of Lawfulness for an existing use or development

This can be applied for when, for example, an extension has already been built but did not receive planning permission. Instances in which you might apply for this type of certificate are:

  • if you have extended your property without planning permission but would like formal confirmation that planning permission was not required as it was within the tolerances of permitted development.
  • if you extended your property over four years ago and would like confirmation that it is now exempt from enforcement action. In this instance, written confirmation in the form of
  • if a change of use has carried on continuously for a period of 10 years or more.

How do I apply?

Applications can be submitted through the planning portal.

Apply online

Why have I been notified of my neighbour’s certificate of lawfulness application?

As a neighbour you may have been notified of your neighbours’ application for a certificate of lawful or existing use. As part of your notification letter you will have been given a link to view the application and associated submitted documents on the City Council’s website

Applications for Lawful Development Certificates are not planning applications - they allow the Council to consider whether planning permission is or is not required for a proposal  . As such, the planning merits raised by these applications cannot be taken into account by the Local Planning Authority at any stage in the assessment of such an application; it is simply a technical assessment made using evidence, fact, and consideration of the permitted development rights. The Local Planning Authority has no discretion in this and can only consider whether, on the facts of the case and relevant planning law, the specific matter is or would be lawful. If the local planning authority is satisfied with information satisfying them of the lawfulness at the time of the application, it must grant a lawful development certificate to that effect. However, evidence from neighbours could assist in reaching a conclusion on whether the specific matter is or would be lawful when reaching a decision.

Further guidance on the process of submitting and determining Lawful Development Certificates can be found on the GOV.UK website