Can a contractor start building before planning permission is granted?

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Published on LexisPSL on 07/10/2014

The following Planning Q&A provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Can a contractor start building before planning permission is granted?

Occasionally, an employer/developer might ask its contractor to start building work before planning permission for the project has been granted by the local planning authority (LPA). This puts the contractor in a difficult position: it is likely to want to co-operate in order to protect its relationship with the employer but, at the same time, there are potential risks and liabilities that it must understand and take into account when deciding whether to proceed and it must therefore take steps to protect itself.

Why would the employer ask the contractor to commence building if the project does not yet have planning permission? In short, it is usually because, for the employer, time is money: waiting for planning permission to be granted means a longer wait for the date when the employer can sell or rent its property to purchasers/tenants and begin to make money from the development. There may be other circumstances which mean that an employer is prepared to take risks, such as commencing building work without planning permission. This situation does not occur frequently, normally the employer will wait until planning permission has been obtained (which, depending on the terms of the contract, may be either the employer or the contractor's responsibility) before instructing, or permitting, the contractor to start work, but it is not unheard of.

Where planning permission is required for building

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