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This briefing paper describes the circumstances in which local authorities, the Secretary of State and devolved Government Ministers can revoke planning permission. Sections 1-4 apply to England and Wales. Section 5 sets out the law in Scotland and section 6 covers Northern Ireland. Section 7 provides examples of revocation across the UK countries.

The laws in each of the UK countries are very similar to each other. They all allow councils to revoke or modify a planning consent “to such extent as they consider expedient” with regard to the Development Plan and other material considerations. The powers can only be used before the development, or the change of use given permission for, is complete. In each country there is a liability for the local authority to pay compensation for abortive expenditure and for any other loss or damage directly attributable to the revocation. If the revocation orders are opposed then they must be confirmed by either the Secretary of State in England and Wales, Scottish Ministers in Scotland or the Department of Environment in Northern Ireland.

In England and Wales the power to revoke planning permission stems from section 97 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The rules relating to compensation stem from section 107 of the 1990 Act. The Secretary of State also has the power revoke planning permission under section 100 of the 1990 Act. If this is done the liability to pay compensation still falls on the local planning authority, as though it had made the revocation order. There is a right to challenge an order confirmed by the Secretary of State in the High Court, within six weeks of it being made.

The law in Scotland stems from section 65 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997. Under section 66 of the 1997 Act, if the revocation order is opposed then it must be confirmed by Scottish Ministers. Scottish Ministers also have powers to make a revocation order if they consider it “expedient” to do so. Compensation for where planning permission is revoked or modified is set out in section 76 of the 1997 Act.

In Northern Ireland the law allowing a council to make a revocation order is contained in section 68 of the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011. The Department of Environment also has powers, under section 72 of the 2011 Act to serve a revocation order itself. The right to compensation where a revocation order is made is set out in section 179 of the 2011 Act. It makes reference to the relevant provisions in the Land Development Values (Compensation) Act (Northern Ireland) 1965, as amended. The main provisions are in section 26 of the 1965 Act.

Powers to revoke planning permission are very rarely used. Where they are used they are often uncontentious and unopposed. Since 2009 only 3 revocation orders issued under section 97 of the Town and Planning Act 1990 have been submitted to the Secretary of State for confirmation.

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