| Category: The Knowledge

Have you carried out renovations to your property without planning permission?

Perhaps you were unsure whether you needed to obtain planning permission, or you did but simply crossed your fingers and hoped that no one would notice.

If this is the case, you may need to submit a retrospective planning application to your local authority to make your changes legal, ensure your building complies with local regulations and to allow you to eventually sell your home.

Planning permission is essential if you want to make significant changes to your property or add a completely new building so we would always urge you to seek this if you are in any way unsure whether your project needs one.

Approved planning permission will provide you with a document that essentially gives you a green light for your project to go ahead so it gives you that all-important peace of mind.

Without planning permission, you could face criminal charges, invalidate your insurance policy, or even be forced to tear any work down.

Here at Cobb Farr, we understand that applying for retrospective planning permission can be confusing which is why we have created this useful guide.

Keep reading to learn what retrospective planning permission is, how you can apply, whether there are any time limits and what happens if you’re not granted planning permission.

What is Retrospective Planning Permission?

Retrospective Planning Permission is planning permission that has been requested after any changes have been made to a property. It falls under section 73A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

Most applications are made after an individual makes a complaint to the local authority or an enforcement officer invites you to submit a retrospective planning application.

However, you may have noticed the mistake yourself and want to put it right so you can avoid legal action, ensure your home insurance is valid or even sell your property.

When you submit your retrospective planning application, your project will be considered in the same way as any other type of planning permission, even though you’ve already carried out the work.

Do I need to apply for planning permission?

If you’re planning to build something new, make a significant change to the property such as adding an extension or want to change the use of your home, you are likely to need to apply for planning permission. To find out more, contact your Local Planning Authority (LPA) through your local council.

However, many home renovation projects don’t need planning permission and are covered by permitted development rights. This is usually the case if you’re changing the interior of your home, changing a garage or attic space into a guest room or upgrading your windows or doors.

Bear in mind that there may be specific conditions if your property is a listed building. That’s why it’s always best to check the rules with your Local Planning Authority.

To apply for retrospective planning permission, visit the Planning Portal.

Retrospective Planning Permission

What happens after you apply?

After you submit your application, the Local Planning Authority will decide whether to grant you planning permission.

They will consider factors such as…

  • What you want to use the development for
  • How your project would affect the local area
  • The number, size, layout and external appearance of the buildings
  • Infrastructure available including roads and water supply
  • Any landscaping needs

You will usually receive a decision within 8 weeks, although for larger or more complex applications, this can be as long as 13 weeks.

Are retrospective planning applications always accepted?

Your application will be treated in the usual way so there’s no guarantee that it will be accepted. It depends on what changes have been made and how they could affect your property’s surroundings.

Having said that, around 78% of retrospective planning permission applications are accepted so we’d encourage you to think positively about the outcome whilst preparing for the worst-case-scenario.

What happens if the retrospective planning permission application is refused?

If your application is refused, the Local Authority will issue an enforcement notice and could ask you to:

  • Stop all work immediately
  • Reverse any changes
  • Reconstruct any demolished buildings

If you don’t comply with the order within the time limit, you could face criminal charges, your current home insurance will be invalidated, and it will be extremely challenging to get insurance. You will also be unable to sell your home.

However, if you believe that your project is covered by permitted development, you can apply for a Lawful Development Certificate or place an appeal.

Can I appeal?

Yes, you can appeal if your Local Planning Authority:

  • Refuses your application
  • Refuses to approve something reserved under an ‘outline permission’
  • Refuses to approve something that you were told to build by your LPA as part of a previous planning permission
  • Grants permission but with conditions that you object to
  • Refuses to change or remove a condition of planning permission that has been granted with conditions
  • Fails to deliver a decision within the government deadline of 13 weeks.
  • Serves you with an enforcement notice but you don’t agree

Appeals can take several months to be completed.

What is the time limit for retrospective planning permission?

If you made changes to your property several years ago and did not receive an enforcement order during this time, you could apply for a Lawful Development Certificate.

The Four-Year Rule

The Four-Year Rule applies to Class C3 houses and flats after four years of continuous use.

You can apply for the Lawful Development Certificate to state that the project is now legal if you can demonstrate that people have been aware of the changes and there have not been any objections.

The 10-Year Rule

The 10-Year Rule applies to other uses such as C4 houses in Multiple Occupation. This applies to any other breach of planning control such as changes of use.

However, there are certain situations in which action can be taken after the four and ten-year periods. Check with your local council for further information.

How much does retrospective planning permission cost?

The cost of retrospective planning permission usually falls between £200 and £500, depending on your local authority and the project you submitted. Please contact your local council for more information.


If you didn’t apply for planning permission but now realise that you need it or have been served with an enforcement notice, you may need to apply for retrospective planning permission. Speak to your local authority for more information on the rules.

Cobb Farr is here to help:

Whether you’re buying, selling or letting your property and need a team of trusted professionals, contact us today.