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Meaningful Start

Richard Mulholland, modified 1 Month ago.

Meaningful Start

Enthusiast Posts: 35 Join Date: 19/09/14 Recent Posts

When an LPA senior planning officer on behalf of the authority issues a written (email) meaningful start notice to an applicant and agent. Can that applicant be told by the same senior LPA officer much later that a mistake by the LPA officer had been made and the 'meaningful start' written notice no longer applies. Furthermore to recieve a 'meaningful start' approval again some 'reserved matters' requirements must be completed. Note: the applicant was not considered to be at fault whatsoever. Is there case law on this matter.

Richard Mulholland, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Meaningful Start

Enthusiast Posts: 35 Join Date: 19/09/14 Recent Posts

Hello to all.

No replies to my question, perhaps a clariication by me is needed.

wnen I said "much later....." I should have said within about 3 months the LPA Oficer was not supporting his Meaningful start written confirmation.

I am hopeful someone on this forum can answer my question or at the least ask for more information.

 

richard white, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Meaningful Start

Advocate Posts: 212 Join Date: 26/11/18 Recent Posts

I'm assuming that the developer is now (or soon will be) out of time to implement the planning permission if whatever work was previously felt to be a meaningful start is now held not to have been.

I'm not aware of any specific provision in the Planning Acts empowering an LPA to issue a 'Meaningful Start Letter' and as such whatever the detail of what was written this can only have been informal correspondence not a formal decision or legal notice of some sort. I have never seen a case testing in law whether a letter/email can be withdrawn/corrected at a later date, and I honestly wouldn't ever expect to see this as it seems very clear that yes, an LPA can change its advice.

Whether or not a planning permission has been lawfully commenced is a matter of fact which (depending on the circumstances of which party is disputing things) can be tested through a combination of Certificates of Lawfulness and/or Enforcement Notices with related planning appeals and ultimately through the Courts if the unsuccessful party can identify a legal flaw in the appeal decision.

Informal correspondence can sometimes give rise to a legitimate expectation and/or estoppel that you were entitled to do something at a point in time when objectively speaking you were not. For example, imagine a formal and precise letter from the LPA's Tree Officer confirming you do not need the LPA's permission to fell a tree in your garden and you fell the tree. Someone then identifies that the advice was wrong as there was Tree Preservation Order. As a matter of fact you have broken the law but it highly likely that the LPA would be effectively estopped from prosecuting you as you would be able to show that you had a legitimate expectation that felling the tree was lawful. Now imagine that the mistake was corrected before you felled your tree. You would no longer have a defence in court. The erroneous letter only has any effect up to the time it is corrected. Similar principles can apply with planning permissions and building projects but there is a lot more complication and nuance and importantly, there is the planning appeal stage which would consider the issue as an expert tribunal.

Can an LPA change it's advice? Yes of course it can.

How do you challenge this? Most commonly through a Certificate of Lawfulness Application (and possible appeal) seeking a determination that the development can be completed now on the basis that there was a material start (in accordance with conditions etc).

Has this change of position disadvantaged you in a material way? What I mean by this is not whether you have lost the benefit of the planning permission - as this would have been lost by the passage of time not by the change of advice - but did you act on the earlier advice before it was corrected e.g. incurring expenditure that would not have been incurred if the first advice was not mistaken. This might be something to pursue separately through the LPA's internal complaint process and the Ombudsman. This process would not look at the issue of whether a meaningful start had or had not been made as a matter of fact, but it could look at whether the LPA was at fault in the way it advised you. (And not every error or mistake is held to be fault in Ombudsman lingo.)

Hope this helps