Certificate of Lawfulness – CLEUD or CLOPUD

The acronyms for Certificates of Lawfulness may look like alphabet spaghetti but they are very useful tools for property owners.  They allow an application to a local planning authority for determination whether an existing or proposed use or development is or will be lawful.  Once approved the application certifies that the use or development in question is immune from enforcement action.

Certificate of Lawfulness of Existing Use or Development (CLEUD)

A CLEUD is effectively the retrospective version of the tool, it is used where the change of use or the development has already occurred.  The Use part applies to the change of use of land so for example if a farm building had changed use from agriculture to a commercial use such as storage the applicant can apply for a Certificate of Lawfulness to certify that the change of use is lawful.  In order for a positive certificate to be granted it must be demonstrated to the Local Planning Authority that ‘on the balance of probabilities’ the change of use has existed for at least 10 years without interruption.  The exception to this is the change of use of a building to use as a dwellinghouse (C3 Use Class) where the change of use only has to exist for a period of 4 years without interruption in order for a positive certificate to be granted.

The 4 year period also applies to development and is generally used for building operations whereby the applicant can apply to the Local Planning Authority after the said period to confirm the building operations are lawful and therefore immune from enforcement action.  Applications for CLEUDS must be very precise with accurate supporting information and in many cases can be the only single opportunity to preserve valuable development.

Certificate of Lawfulness of Proposed Use or Development (CLOPUD)

A CLOPUD can only be used before the proposed use or development has started, it enables the applicant to apply to the Local Planning Authority for confirmation that the proposed use of land or the proposed development (generally building operations) will be lawful.  These Certificates are generally used to confirm that permitted development rights apply in the way envisaged by the owner and confirm that the Local Planning Authority are in agreement.  For example if a house owner is considering extensions to a house that they believe are authorised by permitted development (General Permitted Development Order 2015 (as amended) Schedule 2 Part 1) they can seek a positive certificate from the Local Planning Authority before making the significant investment in the building work.

Certain parts of the order including agricultural permitted development rights and the conversion of agricultural buildings to dwellings are subject to a prior notification procedure where the Local Planning Authority assess the notification and can request prior approval of certain matters.  The order is very specific in terms of dimension criteria but can also be very subjective in the interpretation of other parts and must be carefully prepared to ensure that they are successful.