Last week the UK Government published its long-awaited proposals for reform of the planning system in England and Wales, in the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill.

Back in June 2020, radical reforms to the planning system were proposed, including introducing zoning and deemed planning permission in designated growth areas.  Despite the abandonment of these far-reaching reforms, the proposals set out in the Bill, are significant.  The main changes are as follows.

Central Government will take a much greater role in planning

This will be achieved by the introduction of a new suite of National Development Management Policies which will set out generic planning policies applicable across the country.  Local Plans will be expected to restrict themselves to purely local issues.  The expectation is that this will provide greater consistency in decision-making and help with the speedy production of up-to-date Local Plans.  This is backed by a new statutory provision to the effect that applications are to be determined in accordance with the Local Plan and National Development Management Policies and if there is a conflict between the two, national policies will prevail.

This is a significant cultural shift from the position to date under which locally-determined policies should prevail.  There is also some scepticism about the production of a whole new suite of national policies: is this a return to the days of PPGs which were swept away on the grounds that these were too unwieldy and bureaucratic?

Continue Reading Levelling Up and Planning Reform

The Government’s recent Levelling Up the United Kingdom White Paper announced the intention to give local authorities the power to require landlords to rent out long-term vacant properties on the high street to tenants such as local businesses and community groups. This is primarily targeted at addressing the social problems associated with high streets that have high vacancy rates. Very little detail has so far been announced and we await the release of the Levelling Up Bill after the Queen’s Speech on 10 May 2022.

In this article we will consider some questions arising out of the White Paper, and we will follow up on the detail once the Bill is released.

Continue Reading Levelling Up – Government to play matchmaker on the high street?

Introduction

From the Domesday Book of William the Conqueror, to the establishment of the Land Registry, identifying the owner of a piece of land has had a long history in the UK.  Whilst William wanted to know the extent of his conquered lands so he could tax his new subjects, and land registration was introduced to make conveyancing and mortgages easier, the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act (the “Act”) has a more high minded purpose.  It is intended to make public the “real” identity of foreign proprietors owning land in the UK and thus discourage bad actors from investing in English real estate.

Continue Reading The Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act: what to expect

After a long period of uncertainty, HMRC have finally issued their decision as to whether or not valued added tax (“VAT”) is chargeable on dilapidations payments.

Historically, dilapidations payable by a tenant at the end of a lease had not been subject to VAT.  The payment was to compensate the landlord for having its premises returned in disrepair, contrary to the tenant’s promise to keep them in repair.  Truly compensatory payments have historically been treated as not subject to VAT as it was considered they were not payments for a supply of goods or services.

Continue Reading As you were! HMRC decides no VAT payable on dilapidations payments after all

The tragic events in Ukraine have caused Western governments to take various steps to cause economic damage to the Russian state, Russian companies and Russian nationals. In coordination with other governments, the UK Government has imposed escalating sanctions, which we are tracking here.

As part of this approach the UK Government has also brought forward the publication of the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill (the “Bill”) – indeed Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that “There is no place for dirty money in the UK. We are going faster and harder to tear back the façade that those supporting Putin’s campaign of destruction have been hiding behind for so long. Those backing Putin have been put on notice: there will be nowhere to hide your ill-gotten gains.”

Continue Reading The new economic crime bill – greater transparency of property ownership in the UK?

At last we have some clarity on the shape of the statutory arbitration scheme, which deals with the rent arrears – including service charges and interest – built up by businesses forced to close or restrict their activities during the pandemic (“protected rents”).

Continue Reading The Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill: more uncertainty for landlords

The Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivered the Autumn Budget for 2021 on 27 October 2021 and draft legislation was published on 4 November 2021 in the Finance Bill. The majority of the Budget announcement were focused on recovering the economy from COVID-19’s impact and preparing the UK marketplace to be competitive in a post Brexit world, with limited changes to the real estate sector.

Continue Reading Autumn Budget 2021: Real estate focused updates

The new month sees a partial re-instatement of the legislation permitting creditors to serve winding up petitions on companies.  However, the UK Government has adopted a softly, softly approach; this is seen from the temporary increase in the amount that must be owed from the modest £750 to £10,000 and the requirement for creditors to seek proposals for payment from a debtor business, giving them 21 days for a response, before they can proceed with winding up action.  The measures are said to protect small businesses as they seek to rebuild their stability.

Continue Reading Winding up petitions: a return to the old normal? Except for landlords

Landlords are increasingly frustrated with tenants who simply will not pay their rent and arrears.  Whilst some tenants are genuinely suffering, there is a feeling that some are using Chancellor Sunak’s moratorium on forfeiture as a budget management tool.

The suspension of forfeiture, a vital weapon in any landlord’s arsenal, is due to end in March 2022 (see “UK Government issues policy statement on Commercial Rent Debts“); Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (the “CRAR”) which is the mandatory form of distress introduced by statute should also end at the same time.

Continue Reading What action can a Landlord take against defaulting Tenants?

The government has launched the Building Safety Bill, which sets out a new regulatory regime for high-rise residential and other in-scope buildings, based on Dame Judith Hackitt’s review, following the Grenfell tragedy. The Bill, which has had its first reading in the House of Commons, will, as currently drafted:

  • establish the Building Safety Regulator within