The ‘4 Year Rule’ is Dead, Long Live the ’10 Year Rule’


The ‘4 Year Rule’ is Dead, Long Live the ’10 Year Rule’
A clock face on a city landscape

The 4 Year Rule is Dead! (...sort of)

In the dynamic landscape of UK planning and development, understanding the nuances of planning enforcement is crucial for developers, homeowners, and planning consultants alike. With recent legislative changes, specifically the amendment brought forward by SI2024 452 and the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 (LURA), it’s vital to grasp how these alterations affect the infamous “4 Year Rule” and what actions need to be taken for developments that are becoming lawful after 4 years before the 25th April 2024 deadline, to ensure compliance and avoid potential enforcement action.

Traditionally, the “4 Year Rule” in planning enforcement allowed certain types of unauthorised developments to become lawful after a continuous period of four years without enforcement action being taken by the local planning authority (LPA). This rule applied specifically to operational development and the change of use of a building to a single dwelling house or for Operational Development.

However, as of 25th April 2024, this rule will cease to exist in its current form in England, to works substantially completed, or th breach occurring after this date, being replaced by a more stringent ten-year period for the exemption from enforcement for residential dwellings and changes. This change does not affect Wales, where the four-year rule will continue to apply.

What This Means for Your Development

For developments that would have benefitted from the “4 Year Rule” prior to the 25th April 2024 cut-off:

  • Immediate Action Required: If your development was completed or substantially complete by 25th April 2024, the original four-year period still applies. It’s crucial, however, to gather appropriate evidence now in order to be able to secure a certificate of lawfulness  to formalise this status.
  • Evidence is Key: Providing evidence that your development was  substantially complete or that the breach occurred before the 25 April 2025 is essential (ideally more than 4 years before). This could protect your development from the threat of enforcement under the incoming 10-year rule, rather than the new ten-year period applying.
  • Professional Guidance: Given the complexity and the narrow window before the new regulations take effect, consulting with a planning consultant is advisable. They can assist with submitting a certificate of lawfulness and navigating the legislative changes efficiently to secure the lawful status of your development.

The 4 Year Rule will continue to apply to developments that became immune from enforcement action under this ‘Rule’ if they occurred and/or were substantially complete prior to 25 April 2024. As a result, the 4 Year Rule will continue to be a relevant consideration for some time. It’s important that your planning consultant understands these nuances to ensure you’re not losing or giving up your rights unnecessarily.

Future Planning and Development

These legislative changes highlight the importance of staying informed and proactive in the planning and development process. Whether you’re a homeowner extending your property, a developer working on a new residential project, or a planning consultant advising clients, understanding and adapting to these changes is crucial.

For developments that are in progress or planned to commence shortly, it’s essential to consider these changes in your planning strategy. Early consultation with planning professionals can provide clarity and strategic advice on how to proceed under the new regulations.

A clock with a Green Tick of approval


The amendment to the “4 Year Rule” represents a significant shift in planning enforcement in England. For those with developments that fall under the previous four-year exemption before the 25th April 2024 cutoff, gathering the right amount of evidence proving the lawfulness timeframe could be crucial to ensure potential threat of  enforcement action is minimised, at a time when you have ready access to the available evidence. As the planning landscape continues to evolve, staying informed and seeking professional advice will be key to navigating these changes successfully.

For further guidance and professional support regarding the “4 Year Rule” or the “10 Year Rule” and its implications for your development, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Here at ET Planning we have the expertise to provide valuable insights and strategic planning solutions tailored to your specific needs and circumstances.

You can get in touch with us at for detailed insights and professional services to navigate these and other planning-related challenges effectively.

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