Last edited 09 Oct 2020

Extensions to time limits for implementing existing planning permissions

Generally, when a planning permission is granted, the development must commence within three years. The intention behind this time limit is to prevent the accumulation of planning permissions which are unimplemented, or ‘land banking’ by developers. It also allows councils to review the development’s suitability in the light of circumstances which may have altered over the three year period.

However, in 2009, the Labour government introduced new powers allowing the application for an extension of the planning permission if it was granted on or before 1 October 2009. This was a response to the recession that followed the 2008 credit crunch, allowing existing permissions to continue until economic conditions recovered.

In 2012, the coalition government extended the time period within which the existing permission must have been granted by one year. This meant that an application could be made to replace an existing planning permission as long as the original permission had been granted before 1 October 2010. This remained restricted to developments that had yet to be implemented.

In November 2013, the government announced that the measure would not be renewed.

The then-Planning Minister Nick Boles said scrapping the temporary measure would “increase the incentive for developers to start on site before permission expires”. The move was criticised by developers but welcomed by opponents of land banking.

Since this decision, developers with an unimplemented planning permission have had to carefully consider their strategy. While they can sometimes begin minimal works so as avoid the permission lapsing and having then to reapply, there can be pre-commencement conditions or the triggering of the community infrastructure levy (CIL) liability or section 106 agreements that could incur costs if works begin.

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