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Ready, set, commence: The new commencement notice under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023 introduces a requirement to serve a “commencement notice” under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (TCPA), with the new section 93G requiring persons to notify local authorities of the date they intend to commence development under a planning permission (including pursuant to a section 73 variation permission).

Where development is not commenced on the date provided in the notice, the developer must serve a new notice with an updated anticipated commencement date. A developer can also serve a new commencement notice where they have changed their intended date of commencement (in advance of commencing).

Such provisions may be unsurprising to developers as similar obligations are usually already contained in section 106 planning agreements and there is a commencement notice requirement in respect of CIL. However, the new provisions will allow local planning authorities (LPA) to serve notice on the developer and/or landowner/occupier of the land to which the planning permission relates, where they fail to serve a commencement notice.

A person on whom such a notice is served is guilty of an offence if they fail to provide the relevant information required by the LPA within 21 days (beginning on the date of service of the notice) and may be liable for a fine up to £1,000. There is a defence where a person can prove they had a reasonable excuse for failing to provide the information.

LPAs must inform applicants of the new requirements and consequences of non-compliance when granting planning permission. As such, it is likely that we will see conditions imposed on planning permissions outlining this requirement.

Section 93G is not yet in force - we await secondary legislation before the new commencement notices will be required.

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