Air quality – further developments this week

Authors: Julie Vaughan, Senior Associate, Environment and Helena Thompson, Associate, Planning and Environment, London

There have been a number of developments in relation to air quality since our blog post last week:

  1. Revision of the National Emissions Ceilings Directive was agreed at EU level.
  2. The Committee on Climate Change queried the Government's ability to meet future carbon targets if the Heathrow expansion is allowed to proceed.
  3. Courts have given the Government 8 months to produce a new national air quality plan.

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Getting ready for high speed broadband

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Author: Michael Mendelblat, Professional Support Lawyer, Construction and Engineering, London

From 1st January 2017, all new buildings and many renovations will be required to incorporate provision for infrastructure to connect to high speed electronic communications networks. This is the effect of the Building (Amendment) Regulations 2016 implementing an EU Directive to the same effect. The regulations apply to works in respect of which Building Regulations approval is sought after 1st January 2017. From that date, they apply to all new building works (with certain exceptions) and also apply to major renovation works affecting wired or wireless network access infrastructure, unless the cost of compliance would be disproportionate to the benefit gained.

The requirements set out in the Regulations are supplemented by an Approved Document giving guidance on how to comply with a new Part R of the Building Regulations. The effect of the new Regulations and the Approved Document is that building work must be carried out so as to ensure that a building is equipped with high speed-ready physical infrastructure up to a network termination point for electronic communications networks. This is in order to reduce future connection costs, even if actual super-fast connectivity is not immediately available.

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Autumn Statement – a tax ticking time-bomb for developers?

Author: Neil Warriner, Partner, Real Estate Tax, London

From a real estate tax perspective, the Autumn Statement was a bit of a damp squib, but confirmation of a couple of well-trailed changes to restrict relief for interest costs and the use of carried-forward losses for corporation tax purposes, together with one apparently innocuous announcement of (yet another) consultation relating to non-UK companies, could potentially have a much bigger impact for developers of UK property in the not-too-distant future.

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Air quality update

Authors: Julie Vaughan, Senior Associate, Environment and Helena Thompson, Associate, Planning and Environment, London

This blog gives an overview of the current position on air quality following the recent ClientEarth (No.2) court decision regarding DEFRA's air quality plan. In this blog we will consider:

  1. the ClientEarth (No.2) decision
  2. Sadiq Khan's approach
  3. new domestic legislation?
  4. impact on Heathrow expansion
  5. impact on development
  6. Brexit

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How to protect your development site from squatters

Author: Rhian Arrenberg, Professional Support Lawyer, Real Estate Dispute Resolution, London 

Following the creation of a criminal offence of squatting in residential premises* punishable with up to six months in prison and/or a fine of up to £5,000, there is a real concern that squatters are turning their attention towards occupying commercial buildings instead. Typical development sites such as empty office, retail and industrial premises are often seen as prime targets for travellers, protestors and squatters, particularly where there is a relative lack of security and ease of entry.  In our third in a series of posts relating to vacant possession, this post sets out some tips for landowners on how to avoid trespassers entering onto land or into buildings in the first place.

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Squash those squatters: how to regain possession of your development site

Author: Rhian Arrenberg, Professional Support Lawyer, Real Estate Dispute Resolution, London

A key concern for anyone involved in the development of land will be the landowner's ability to secure vacant possession of the development site in order for work to start.   Once occupational tenancies are terminated, development sites and units within them can often be left empty.  These can then become prime targets for squatters.   We have seen a recent increase in protesters and travellers occupying high profile development sites either in order to disrupt progress of the development, or simply as a place to live or work until moved on (in the case of travellers). The recent criminalisation of squatting in residential premises has driven squatters towards commercial sites, and typical development sites offering empty retail, office and industrial premises can be attractive to squatters particularly where there is a lack of security and ease of entry.

Whilst prevention is always better than cure (we will write soon on preventing squatters occupying in the first place), developers are likely to own a number of empty properties at any one time, and even with good security, it is no easy task to keep watch on the properties at all times, especially because well-practiced squatters will adopt a covert approach. By the time illegal occupation is discovered, the occupiers may be greater in number, occupying a larger part of the premises than before.

So, what can be done about squatters?  In this post we discuss methods which can be used.

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Clearing a development site – using Torts Act notices

Author: Matt Leggett, Associate, Real Estate, London

Piecing together a large or complex development site inevitably involves dealing with tenants and occupiers in order to obtain vacant possession. On vacating the site, those tenants and occupiers often leave things behind. Depending on the nature of the site, this can include office equipment, stock, furniture, light or heavy machinery, vehicles and vehicle parts or scrap materials.

Can these items be thrown away? Can they be sold?

Unless the items are obviously abandoned worthless rubbish (i.e. refuse), the answer is usually no. First of all, there may be a question as to who actually owned those items – it may not be the tenant, especially if dealing with items that may be owned by a third party e.g. under a hire purchase agreement. If there is any doubt, then this may need investigating and if a third party tries to claim the items then it is sensible to seek proof of ownership, to protect against any argument by the tenant or occupier that you have given items away incorrectly.  

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The Great Repeal Bill: What will this mean for environmental legislation?

Authors: Julie Vaughan, Senior Associate, Environment and Helena Thompson, Associate, Planning and Environment, London

On 2 October 2016, Prime Minister Theresa May announced at the Conservative Party's annual conference that all existing EU law – and therefore, environmental law – will be kept when the UK leaves the EU.  A "Great Repeal Bill" will be announced in the next Queen's Speech, to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 ("ECA") with effect from our exit of the EU. The ECA gives effect to EU law within the UK, provides for its supremacy over UK law where the two conflict, and provides the enabling powers to make secondary legislation to implement EU Directives. May has stated that when the ECA is repealed, all EU law will no longer have effect in the UK, and the existing EU law will be converted into domestic law ("Converted EU Legislation").

It wasn't clear from May's speech exactly how EU law will be converted. Directly applicable EU law (i.e. EU Regulations) could be deemed, rewritten, or copied into, primary legislation; and UK secondary legalisation implementing EU Directives will be saved by various means.  However, the intent is that all EU environmental law will in some manner continue to have effect in the UK. May stated that Parliament will be able to amend, repeal or improve the Converted EU Legislation, and David Davis added that the Great Repeal Bill would include powers for ministers to make some changes by secondary legislation, causing alarm in some quarters that substantive changes could be made without full Parliamentary scrutiny. However, the power to make environmental legislation is devolved to the regions – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – and it is unclear how the Great Repeal Bill will deal with the devolved powers.

Important questions remain unanswered (discussed below in this post):

1. How will we interpret Converted EU Legislation?

2. How will references to EU legislation, guidance or bodies be dealt with in the Converted EU Legislation?

3. Are we stuck with EU legislation at the point of Brexit?

 

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Important Information for Property Investors: Proposed extension of the ‘no-scheme’ principle for compulsory purchase compensation, to include relevant transport projects from 8 September 2016

Authors: Alexandra Rhodes, Senior Associate, Planning and Matthew White, Partner and Head of Planning, London

In September the Department for Communities and Local Government ('DCLG') and HM Treasury issued the Government's response to its consultation carried out earlier this year on further reform of the compulsory purchase system.

A core principle of compulsory purchase compensation is that land should be acquired at market value in the absence of the scheme underlying the compulsory purchase. Since the principle was first established in the Pointe Gourde decision, over a century of case law has sought to clarify the basis upon which the land valuation in these circumstances is calculated, based around the 'no-scheme' world.

The proposed reforms include:

(a) clarification of the 'no-scheme' land valuation principle for compulsory purchase compensation; and

(b) extension of what constitutes the 'scheme' to include 'relevant transport projects', subject to safeguards to ensure a direct link to the scheme.

The extension of the 'scheme' to transport infrastructure projects only is proposed because these projects are seen to have the most discernible impact on land values.

This blog entry looks at the proposed changes relating to the 'no scheme world' definition, and the potential impact on landowners. Importantly, the new rules (if passed) would apply to land acquired on or after 8 September 2016.

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Compensation for closure of a dangerous structure

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Author: Michael Mendelblat, Professional Support Lawyer, Construction and Engineering, London

In this post, we examine the Supreme Court decision in the case of Hastings Borough Council v Manolete Partners Plc on 27 July 2016.  The court considered whether a local authority was liable to pay compensation where it had taken emergency action under the Building Act 1984 to close a building which was in a dangerous state (Hastings Pier). 

Anyone who sustains damage as a result of the closure can claim compensation for their loss under the 1984 Act in relation to a matter as to which he is not himself in default.  The court decided that, on the facts of the case, a leaseholder was not in default as it was not legally responsible for the state of the building or the events which triggered the council's action. Therefore the local authority was liable to pay compensation.

However, the court also decided that "default" did not simply refer to default under the Building Act under which the council had acted.  The case is discussed in more detail below.

1.The facts

2. The Appeal

3. Conclusion

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