Court of Appeal declares government’s airports policy unlawful

This blog was first posted on HSF’s Public Law Notes on Thursday, 27 February 2020.

Today in a unanimous decision the Court of Appeal found that the current Government policy in relation to the expansion of Heathrow Airport is unlawful.

Background

The Court of Appeal has today handed down two related judgments both concerned with the Government’s policy in relation to the proposed expansion of Heathrow by way of a third runway, one dealing with the detail of how expansion should take place and the other considering the planning aspects and process of the policy. This latter case originated as five judicial review applications at the High Court. The policy in question was set out in the “Airports National Policy Statement: new runway capacity and infrastructure at airports in the south east of England” (the “ANPS”), which was designated by the then Secretary of State for Transport under section 5(1) of the Planning Act 2008.

The appellants in this appeal ranged from local authorities and climate change campaigners to the Mayor of London. The Court of Appeal was unconvinced by the appellants’ attempts to overturn the first instance judgment on various issues relating to the Habitats Directive and the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive and broadly agreed with the judgment of the Divisional Court on many of those aspects.

And then there was one…

The appellants succeeded today on only one ground: the Court of Appeal found that the designation of the ANPS was unlawful by reason of a failure to take into account the Government’s commitment to the provisions of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The question upon which the decision turned was what is “Government policy” relating to climate change, pursuant to section 5(8) of the Planning Act which requires that the reasons for the policy set out in the ANPS “must … include an explanation of how the policy set out in the statement takes account of Government policy relating to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change” [emphasis added].

The court found that the Government’s commitment to the Paris Agreement was “clearly” part of Government policy by the time of the designation of the ANPS because the Paris Agreement was ratified and there were firm statements re-iterating Government policy of adherence to the Paris Agreement by relevant Ministers. The concept of “Government policy” did not have any specific technical meaning, but should be applied in its ordinary sense. In particular, there was nothing to warrant limiting the phrase “Government policy” to mean only the legal requirements of the Climate Change Act. The concept of policy is necessarily broader than legislation.

The Court of Appeal concluded that the Paris Agreement was not taken into account by the Secretary of State in the preparation of the ANPS and so there was no explanation provided as to how it was taken into account. Indeed it appears that the Secretary of State received legal advice that not only did he not have to take the Paris Agreement into account but that he was legally obliged not to take it into account, which amounted to a material misdirection of law at an important stage of the process.

Potential consequences

Although the appellants won today and at the time of seeing the draft judgment the Government did not seek to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, this is not necessarily the end of the matter.

The court decided not to quash the ANPS. Instead, it declared that the ANPS in its present form is unlawful and cannot have legal effect, which gives the Secretary of State the opportunity to reconsider the ANPS. The court stated that the initiation, scope and timescale of any such review must and will be a matter for the Secretary of State to decide. The court also explained that the duty in section 5(8) does not require the Government to conform to its own policy commitments, “simply to take them into account and explain how it has done so”.

Importantly, the court repeatedly emphasised the line between its judgment and the politics of the third runway:

“[We] are required to consider whether the Divisional Court was wrong to conclude that the Government’s policy in favour of the development of a third runway at Heathrow was produced lawfully. That is the question here. It is an entirely legal question. …”

“We have made it clear that we are not concerned in these proceedings with the political debate and controversy to which the prospect of a third runway being constructed at Heathrow has given rise. That is none of the court’s business…..”

“Our decision should be properly understood. We have not decided, and could not decide, that there will be no third runway at Heathrow.”

These comments reflect the well-established purpose and role of judicial review, aimed at ensuring that the Executive is held to account in its decision making but without straying into the sphere of policy making and politics.

The judgments can be found here: R (on the application of (1) Heathrow Hub Limited (2) Runway Innovations Limited) v Secretary of State for Transport [2020] EWCA 213 and R (on the application of Plan B Earth and others) v Secretary of State for Transport [2020] EWCA 214.

For more information please contact:

Andrew Lidbetter
Andrew Lidbetter
Partner, administrative and public law, London
+44 20 7466 2066
Nusrat Zar
Nusrat Zar
Partner, administrative and public law, London
+44 20 7466 2465
Jasveer Randhawa
Jasveer Randhawa
Of counsel, administrative and public law, London
+44 20 7466 2998
Shameem Ahmad
Shameem Ahmad
Associate, administrative and public law, London
+44 20 7466 2621

HS2 back on track?

The future of HS2 looked uncertain for a while but reports that Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid will back the project may pave the way for the government to announce that it will go ahead with what is currently the largest infrastructure project in Europe.

The Oakervee Report

On 21 August 2019, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that an independent review would be undertaken to determine, based on “the facts”, whether the HS2 project should proceed. The review, led by Douglas Oakervee (former HS2 chair) with Lord Berkley (Labour peer and vocal critic of HS2) as his deputy, angered prominent supporters of the project but was welcomed by those who questioned its true value.

In early November, it was announced that publication of the Oakervee Report, which was in the process of being finalised, would be delayed until after the general election. Whilst Brexit was always going to be the focus, the delay to the Oakervee Report side-lined the HS2 issue during campaigning, which was somewhat convenient for the main political parties given the project’s rising costs and divisive nature of the debate.

The project’s future was then dealt an apparent blow when, on 19 January 2020, the Financial Times leaked the unpublished Oakervee Report, reporting a 20% increase in costs to £106bn, “lukewarm” support from Oakervee and a recommendation to the government to pull funding on the second phase of the project (ie those parts north of Birmingham linking the Midlands to Leeds and Manchester).

Political support for rail infrastructure

Although support for HS2 was rather muted in the run-up to the election (because Oakervee’s recommendation was awaited), during campaigning there was cross-party support for more general investment in rail infrastructure (see here) with a particular focus on reopening regional branch lines including those closed following the Beeching report.

“Roughly 5,000 miles of track and more than 2,300 stations were closed in the 1960s, mainly in rural areas, following the Beeching report.”

There was also cross-party support for Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) (also termed Crossrail for the North) and for further devolution to the regions of infrastructure spending and control.

Regions vs HS2

Following the Oakervee Report leak, a 60-strong group of newly-elected Tory MPs in the north and Midlands demanded that HS2 be scrapped to fund immediate transport upgrades and improved connectivity in their constituencies. This contrasted with the Northern Powerhouse Independent Review (NPIR), which was established in part to pre-empt the outcome of the Oakervee Report, calling for a new body, HS2 North, to be established to integrate HS2 with proposed NPR links. Whilst the two groups may have opposing views on the benefits of HS2 to the regions, the common theme is that there is a lack of trust that the government will honour its oft-repeated pledges of support to improve transport infrastructure beyond London and the southeast.

Of course, advocates of HS2 argue that the high-speed route is an integral part of the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine objectives – to boost regional economies and invest in skills – and that to pull the plug on the project now would undo much of the progress already made in the regions. Taking Leeds as one example, the city council’s leader Judith Blake has said that the promise of HS2 coming to the region has already attracted high-profile inward investment in the form of Channel 4’s new regional headquarters and funding for the development of the South Bank of the River Aire. In short, proponents of the project in the regions are of the view that regional and national investment in transport infrastructure are not mutually exclusive.

What’s next?

It is understood that the Oakervee Report will be published in February and that the recommendations will form the basis of government policy on the project. If Sajid Javid’s pronouncement is anything to go by then it sounds like it may be full steam ahead for the part of the project that is underway (London-Birmingham) but it remains to be seen how “lukewarm” the government will be towards the northern phases.

Update: 11 February 2020

Boris Johnson has now announced that the government will go ahead with HS2 but has decided to appoint a full-time minister to oversee the project as part of a series of measures to “restore discipline” to the programme. See BBC News here for further information.

For more information please contact:

Alistair Paul
Alistair Paul
Associate, Planning, Real Estate, London
+44 20 7466 2252
Catherine Howard
Catherine Howard
Partner, Planning, Real Estate, London
+44 20 7466 2858

Ring in the new? – planning update

In Planning for Housing, published in Real Estate. Reconsidered last month, we took a look at ongoing Government initiatives designed to tackle the housing crisis, and also the problems faced by high streets and town centres. Throughout we noted that whether and how various initiatives would be progressed depended on the result of the General Election. Now that we have a Conservative majority in Parliament, and understand the new Government’s priorities through their election manifesto (see our blog post of 27 November 2019) and the Queen’s Speech of 19 December 2019 (and the accompanying Background Briefing Notes), we have a clearer idea of what to expect in planning over the coming months. On the whole, it seems to be a case of progressing with initiatives already announced (although not necessarily widely publicised) with continued focus on housing, the environment and thriving centres. Here is a brief overview:

Planning reform

The Government has confirmed its continued intention to publish a Planning Green Paper, with the aim of making the planning process “clearer, more accessible and more certain for all users … also address[ing] resourcing and performance in Planning Departments”. Arguably a familiar objective for successive administrations, achieving these goals has proved difficult. There is relatively little more information on the detail of what the Green Paper will contain, although it may include CPO reform. We expect publication in the next few months.

Environment Bill

In our blog post of 11 November 2019 we reported on the Environment Bill 2019-2020, abandoned following the dissolution of Parliament prior to the General Election. The Government has confirmed that the Bill will be reintroduced largely in similar terms, including provisions on mandatory biodiversity net gain (see Mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain in Real Estate. Reconsidered), tightened air quality controls and the establishment of the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP). With environmental protection a high priority for the Government, this should be expected soon.

Housing

Housing need, affordable housing, Starter Homes and “First Homes”

Continuing the drive of previous governments towards increasing housing supply, the Government is committed to building at least a million new homes this Parliament with hundreds of thousands of new homes promised through renewal of the Affordable Homes Programme.

The previous Government promised that regulations to implement the statutory framework for Starter Homes introduced by the Housing and Planning Act 2016 would be introduced in 2019, and that regulations to exempt Starter Homes from the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) would be laid before Parliament. Recent announcements have been silent on whether the Government plans to continue with this, although we can expect that they will. However, the Government has announced another affordable homes initiative, “First Homes”, on which they will consult shortly. First Homes is intended to “provide homes for local people and key workers at a discount of at least 30 per cent”, funded by developers and secured through a covenant with the discount secured for perpetuity. The Government also intends to introduce “a new, reformed Shared Ownership model” to help shared owners buy more, and eventually all, of their property.

Also worth mentioning is that the Housing Delivery Test for November 2019 is still awaited, as is a promised review of the standard method for calculating housing need. These were due before the end of last year, so should be expected soon.

Permitted development and Future Homes Standard

Towards the end of 2019, the previous Government confirmed that it intended to introduce permitted development (PD) rights enabling upwards extensions of certain buildings in existing commercial and residential use to deliver new homes, and to allow the demolition of commercial buildings for rebuilding as residential units. There seems to be no reason not to expect secondary legislation implementing this to be published for consultation soon, in which case the promised review of residential PD rights “in respect of the quality standard of homes delivered”, announced in March 2019 in response to valid concerns regarding the design and quality of housing delivered pursuant to PD rights, may also be delivered.

To deal with concerns over PD rights the previous Government also intended to “develop a ‘Future Homes Standard’ for all new homes with a view, subject to consultation, to introducing the standard by 2025”. We wait to see whether this will be delivered.

Diversification guidance

Alongside the 2019 Spring Statement the previous Government promised additional planning guidance to encourage the diversification of large sites to encourage quicker build out rates, in response to findings of the Independent Review of Build Out Rates led by Oliver Letwin. It is not yet clear whether the current Government intends to pursue this.

Design

The final report of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission (BBBBC) was due to be published last month (see our blog post of 12 July 2019 on the BBBBC interim report). The previous Government committed to consult on a new “National Model Design Code” which would take the final report into account. We can probably still expect this consultation once the report is published.

Infrastructure

The Government has announced a £10bn Single Housing Infrastructure Fund to provide the infrastructure necessary to support residential development, building on previous infrastructure funding. Bearing in mind the Government’s manifesto commitment that infrastructure must be delivered ahead of new housing developments being occupied, which could impact viability, it will be interesting to see more detail on how this will be implemented.

Also, in its election manifesto the Conservative Party promised a £100 billion investment into infrastructure such as roads and rail, Northern Powerhouse Rail and the restoration of many of the Beeching lines. The Government has confirmed that it will publish the National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS) alongside the Spring Budget on 11 March 2020, together with its long overdue response to the National Infrastructure Commission’s National Infrastructure Assessment (due by July 2019), and that legislation to implement the NIS will be introduced “in due course”.

Devolution

The Conservative election manifesto proposed an English Devolution White Paper in 2020. Interestingly, this was not mentioned in the Queen’s Speech or the Background Briefing Notes. However, in a speech to the Local Government Association on 7 January 2020, Local Government Minister Luke Hall confirmed that the Government will “publish an ‘English devolution white paper’, aiming for full devolution, so that every part of the country has the power to shape its own future”. We wait to see when this will be brought forward and what “full devolution” will mean in practice. How the combination of devolution and infrastructure investment may impact development on a regional basis is worthy of further consideration.

Conclusion

All in all, rather than ringing in change the new Government seems to be on track to continue progress with the aims and initiatives of preceding administrations, with the exception perhaps of English devolution which has the potential to see a significant shift of influence from central to local government. It will be interesting to see how the various initiatives play out, and whether they bring the desired results.

For further information please contact:

Fiona Sawyer
Fiona Sawyer
Professional support lawyer, planning, London
+44 20 7466 2674
Matthew White
Matthew White
Partner and Head of UK planning, London
+44 20 7466 2461

General Election 2019 – potential impact on real estate

In our blog post of 4 October 2019 we looked at potential land use and planning policies announced at the Labour and Liberal Democrat Party conferences this autumn and how they could affect developers. Since then, the Election has been set for 12 December and the major parties have published their manifestos. To what extent do manifesto policies affecting real estate reflect what we were expecting to see from these parties, and what changes are likely to be taken forward regardless of which party has (or parties have) the balance of power in the next government?

Land for the Many

Worthy of note is that the Labour manifesto more closely reflects land use policies adopted at the Labour Party conference than those advocated by the report “Land for the Many” edited by George Monbiot (on which we wrote in the PLJ in October). The manifesto looks to “proceed with a housing programme with the maximum practical speed until every family in this island has a good standard of accommodation”, but what has not been included is much fine detail of how Labour will achieve its goals. The establishment of new Department for Housing and a new English Sovereign Trust were heralded in the April 2018 Labour Party Green Paper “Housing for the Many“, but concepts suggested in Land for the Many such as Community Land Trusts, Compulsory Sale Orders, a Community Ownership use class, Common Ground Trusts, Public Development Corporations and a Community Participation Agency are not expressly carried forward. This isn’t to say that these ideas are dead and buried; the generality of the manifesto language in places leaves scope for the re-emergence of some concepts later.

Commonality across the party lines

As would be expected, the themes of Brexit, the housing crisis and the Climate Emergency run throughout each of the three manifestos. With regard to the Climate Emergency, whichever party/parties are successful we can expect to see speedy investment in, for example, electric vehicles and energy efficiency, and increased protection for the environment and landscapes. As for housing, there is agreement that the delivery of housing in sufficient numbers and at an affordable price needs to increase although the parties differ in how they will achieve this; proposals are wide-ranging covering tenure, protection for tenants, quality, design and the Green Belt, warranting deeper consideration than is possible in the confines of this blog.

However, there are also other common themes:

Communities and the devolution of power

“Land for the Many” featured communities being given greater control and say over development and planning policy. This still resonates in the Labour manifesto and is given similar voice in the Conservative and Liberal Democrat manifestos as well. The idea of devolving greater power to local authorities and communities is popular with each of the parties, for example, with the Conservatives proposing a community ownership fund to encourage local takeovers of civic organisations or community assets that are under threat and the Liberal Democrats wanting “local areas to take control of the services that matter to them most”. Further than this, in a dramatic extension of localism, all three parties advocate devolution of power to the regions, with Labour promising to re-establish regional Government Offices and de-centralise decision-making, the Liberal Democrats promising to “[embark] on a radical redistribution of power away from Westminster to the nations, regions and local authorities … introducing a written constitution for a federal United Kingdom”, and the Conservatives voicing an ambition for “full devolution across England” with publication of an English Devolution White Paper next year.

National and local infrastructure

Each of the three parties advocates spending on national infrastructure, particularly in the regions which is in line with the theme of devolving power away from the south-east. The Conservatives will invest an additional £100 billion on infrastructure investment such as roads and rail, build Northern Powerhouse Rail and restore many of the Beeching lines. The Labour Party will also re-open branch lines, commits to Crossrail for the North and extending high-speed rail networks nationwide, and proposes a Local Transformation Fund to fund local infrastructure in each English region. The Liberal Democrats are committed to HS2, Crossrail 2 and other major new strategic rail routes, and will spend £130 billion on infrastructure from transport and energy systems to schools, hospitals and homes with a £50 billion Regional Rebalancing Programme for infrastructure spend across the nations and regions. Interestingly, there is no consensus on how to deal with airport expansion.

The timing of the provision of local infrastructure (schools, surgeries, local roads, etc) is something raised by both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives: the Liberal Democrats intend to reform planning law to require developers to provide essential local infrastructure alongside new homes; the Conservatives say that infrastructure must be delivered ahead of new housing developments being occupied, although help will be available from the £10 billion Single Housing Infrastructure Fund. In either case this could have an impact on viability.

Vibrant town centres

Each of the parties acknowledges the issues that currently trouble our town centres and those who occupy them. The Conservatives promise to establish a new Towns Fund and to cut taxes for small local businesses. Labour will give local government “powers” to put empty shops to good use and will “let struggling companies go into protective administration, so they can be sold as a going concern”, which could also help avoid empty retail units on high streets and in local centres. Finally, we can expect to see the existing but controversial permitted development rights for converting offices and shops to dwellings disappear under either a Labour or Liberal Democrat government.

Conclusion

What is difficult to predict, as always, is how much of what is promised in each of these manifestos will end up being delivered. Whatever sort of government we wake up to on 13 December, it seems obvious that change is going to come. Be it Brexit-related or climate-related, there are very strong messages being conveyed by each of these parties that could impact us all, and it would be a brave blogger who dares to suggest with any certainty what the next few months will hold in store …

For further information please contact:

Kate Wilson
Kate Wilson
Professional support lawyer, real estate, London
+44 20 7466 2650
Fiona Sawyer
Fiona Sawyer
Professional support lawyer, planning, London
+44 20 7466 2674

Planning for the future of energy storage

The emergence of renewable energy such as wind and solar has brought about the need to store the electricity that is generated when it is not needed. Technological advancements mean that it is becoming increasingly feasible to store large quantities of energy in small-scale facilities. Electricity storage therefore provides vital flexibility to the UK’s energy system, supporting the growth of low carbon technologies. The government’s objectives of ensuring security of energy supply, keeping bills as low as possible for consumers and decarbonising cost-effectively will be further supported by recognising that in the not too distant future storage will become an integral part of many large-scale, energy-intensive developments, such as universities, hospitals, hotels, restaurants and retail outlets. Batteries can store energy when prices are low and then release it when they are high, thereby potentially becoming a source of income (or at least cost-saving) for these types of developments. The planning system should be keeping pace with technological advancements in this sector so as to avoid distorting the growth potential of this important asset class.

This post considers the current regimes governing electricity storage, their effect, and the potential impact of proposals recently consulted on by the government.

What are the current regimes governing electricity storage?

Electricity storage projects are subject to the same planning regimes as electricity generation projects: projects with a capacity of up to and including 50 Megawatts (MW) must be consented via the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (“TCPA”) (planning permission) route; whereas projects with a capacity of more than 50MW fall under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Planning (“NSIP”) regime, requiring a Development Consent Order (“DCO”).


What has been the effect of this?

Since the NSIP regime was introduced, developers have had to consider whether it is better to design a sub-50MW scheme that will benefit from a quicker and cheaper route through the planning system, or a larger and potentially more valuable scheme that has to navigate a more expensive and time-consuming consenting process. This is against a background of technological advancements and reduced cost-based barriers to market, as the relative cost of lithium-ion batteries is falling rapidly due to the expansion of electric vehicles and consumer electronics markets. Whilst storage is currently a relatively small asset class in the UK generation market, it is expected to grow significantly in the years to come, as set out in the Government’s Clean Growth Strategy. The regulatory environment, therefore, needs to respond to market changes and not act as a barrier to developers’ investment and sizing decisions.

Consultation proposals

Earlier this year, BEIS consulted on the threshold for electricity storage projects. BEIS sought views on its proposals to:

  • retain the 50MW capacity threshold that relates to standalone storage projects; and
  • to establish a new capacity threshold for composite projects whereby if the capacity of the storage and non-storage elements individually is less than 50MW then the relevant route for obtaining consent would be the TCPA, not the NSIP, regime.

Potential impact and analysis

Clearly there are difficulties with setting thresholds that apply to a wide range of generation assets, but planning applications should be determined at the appropriate level depending on the proposed project’s size, environmental impacts and national significance. The key question for BEIS, therefore, should be whether the planning system is continuing to ensure that the route to securing consent is proportionate to the anticipated effects of the project.

On this, it is worth noting that BEIS’s analysis, which underpins its current position on retaining the 50MW threshold for standalone projects, did not factor in the possibility that the existing system may be incentivising developers to submit separate rather than joint planning applications in order to avoid triggering the NSIP threshold. This is somewhat surprising, and it will be interesting to see if consultees produce examples of subdivision of projects or developers designing projects sub-optimally to avoid triggering the threshold. If there is clear evidence of this type of market distortion, then BEIS will have to consider whether the 50MW threshold, which is relevant to both proposals, remains fit for purpose.

The BEIS consultation (and this blog) focuses on the planning system in England, but the devolved government in Wales has (as of 1 April 2019) removed electricity storage projects from their definition of “generating station” meaning that all such projects with a generating capacity of up to 350MW will now be decided by local planning authorities as opposed to the Welsh Government under its Developments of National Significance regime. Perhaps the Welsh Government’s move will act as a sign to BEIS that the 50MW DCO threshold is too low and that greater flexibility in the planning system should be afforded to energy generation projects of this size.

It seems as though the planning system will have to adapt as technology advances and we place greater reliance on storage to facilitate and support renewable energy. Looking further into the future, the planning system should also not dissuade developers of large-scale schemes from considering how storage might be integrated into their developments. As such, whatever the outcome of the recent consultation, we expect this debate to be revisited in the years to come and for there to be a wider range of stakeholders involved.

Author: Alistair Paul, Associate, Planning, Real Estate, London

For further information please contact:

Catherine Howard
Catherine Howard
Partner, Planning, Real Estate, London
+44 20 7466 2858
Alistair Paul
Alistair Paul
Associate, Planning, Real Estate, London
+44 20 7466 2252

Real Estate EP5: The future of planning – Matthew White and Ghislaine Halpenny in conversation

British Property Federation (BPF) director of strategy and external affairs, Ghislaine Halpenny, sits down with Matthew White, partner and head of UK planning, to discuss planning, its ever-changing nature and the direction it is taking.

 

Also published on the BPF soundcloud for the BPF Futures network, a networking and development group for junior professionals working in all areas of UK real estate.

For further information please contact:

Matthew White
Matthew White
Partner and Head of UK planning, London
+44 20 7466 2461

Revised Electronic Communications Code – Code Red for Landowners

A revised new Electronic Communications Code has been introduced as one element of the recent Digital Economy Act 2017 (see our TMT ebulletin of 22 May 2017). The existing Code has long been declared unfit for purpose, hopelessly out of date and badly drafted. Introduced in 1984 to deal with the privatisation of British Telecom, it was tweaked slightly by the Communications Act 2003 but failed to keep pace with advances in digital communications technology and the public’s relentless appetite for electronic services.

The government has comprehensively overhauled the Code and aims to help operators expand their networks and upgrade infrastructure by lowering the cost and simplifying the roll out of such infrastructure. This is driven in particular by operators seeking to improve the data rich services sought by both consumers (such as video, social media and gaming services) and businesses (such as cloud-based services and those in respect of connected devices) as a result of rapidly emerging digital technologies and handset capabilities. These applications consume increasingly higher bandwidths and will require faster broadband speeds if operators are to meet future capacity, quality and reliability expectations. Operators were given enhanced permitted development rights at the end of last year, to the same end.

The new Code has not been welcomed by landowners, but the government has stated that it is simply putting communications on the same footing as other essential utilities such as water and energy.

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On Election Day

Author: Matthew White, Partner and Head of UK Planning, London

I'm sure I am not alone in finding it difficult to be enthusiastic about today's general election. From a development perspective, there is little in the main parties' manifestos that stands out as new or innovative. The pledges that our would-be prime ministers have made are heavy on promise but light on detail, and deafeningly silent on deliverability. It is easy to commit to building a million new homes when there is no depth or substance as to exactly how this will be achieved. And with both parties ruling out any review of the green belt, I am left wondering what politicians think they will be doing in the next Parliament that hasn't already been definitively proven not to work in the last one.

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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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