A practical guide to a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development (CLEUD) application

What is CLEUD?

A Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development (CLEUD) is a certificate that is legally granted by a Local Planning Authority to retroactively legalise a previously unauthorised development. The CLEUD certifies that an existing building/use is lawful and it will prevent any enforcement action being taken. The granting of a CLEUD application only applies to the lawfulness of the existing development. It doesn’t remove the requirement to comply with any other legal requirements. 

A development can become lawful, and exempt from enforcement if it has been in situ for a specified period of time. In most cases, development becomes immune if no action is taken, between 4-10 years depending on development. 

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Why would you need to apply for a CLEUD?

There are a couple of reasons that you might need to apply for a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development. The most common reasons are:

  1. If planning enforcement action is threatened by a local council and you think the time for action has passed (as per the below timescales)
  2. If you are planning on selling or mortgaging your property and planning permission was never granted and you need to show a prospective buyer that no enforcement action can be taken.

If either of these apply then you might want to formalise the development with a CLEUD application. This article will help you practically navigate the process of CLEUD application.

What timescale applies to CLEUD?

In most cases, your development becomes immune from enforcement if no action is taken. These timescales are:

  • Within 4 years of substantial completion for a breach of control consisting of operational development, i.e. building works;
  • Within 4 years for an authorised change of use to a single dwelling;
  • Within 10 years for any other breach of planning control (essentially other change of use).

If you believe that your development is out with these time scales then you may be eligible for a CLEUD, and you can submit an application.

What do you need to submit for your CLEUD application?

You will need to submit an application for your CLEUD. You can do this online, or you can download the forms and apply in writing. You can find the online application forms here

You then log the forms with your Local Planning Authority along with the required fee.

You will need to include some basic information regarding the property with the application. This will include:

  • Land specification and a plan to identify the land; 
  • Stated interest in the land and details on whether anyone else with an interest in the land has been notified; 
  • The use or operation of the development must be outlined;
  • The reason that you believe the development to be lawful must be stated.

What you need as proof for your CLEUD application?

The onus for proving that your development complies with the necessary timelines as outlined above is fully on the applicant. Therefore the application needs to show clear proof that the development is ‘lawful’.

If you are applying for a lawful development certificate there are some things that you need to include in the application. Suitable evidence that you can use to show this includes things such as:

  • Electoral roll evidence; 
  • Council tax bills; 
  • Tenancy agreements; 
  • Vehicle registration documents;
  • Dated photographs (showing the development before or during development);
  • Utility bills;
  • Sworn affidavits, signed in the presence of a solicitor;
  • Invoices from when the work took place

Anything that shows that by reasonable probability the development meets the necessary time scales for a CLEUD application can be used as proof during the application.

How much does a CLEUD application cost?

Much like the process of planning permission, there is a cost attached to seeking a certificate of lawfulness. Fees for a CLEUD application are the same as if you were applying for full planning application and will need to be submitted alongside the initial application.

How long does it take to get CLEUD application granted?

Following the application receipt the Local Planning Authority will have 8 weeks to determine whether to grant the CLEUD or not. If the proof for the CLEUD meets the threshold then the development will be authorised and a certificate will be issued. This will regulate the development and will mean it is not subject to any subsequent enforcement action.

If the application does not prove the necessary timelines then the application will be rejected. If this happens then an appeal may be submitted.

How can we help with a CLEUD application?

If all this is making your head hurt then it might be something you want to get help with. Although a certificate of lawfulness process can be more straightforward than applying for planning permission, it can take you into complex areas of planning law and may be something that you wish to seek assistance with.

If you need to submit a CLEUD application for a relatively straightforward development, then you might want to tackle it yourself. But, if it’s a slightly more complex development it can be beneficial to employ a professional to help you through the process.

If you need any help with the application process then please get in touch. 

Or if you would rather then you can download paper forms here.  

We have much more information for you in our series of ebooks which cover everything from the very basics of town planning to application processes and what self builders need to consider. Download the ebook which best suits your needs right here.