Residential development

Have an eye to the future before agreeing an easement

In spite of recent changes to the subsidy regime and receiving a rough ride from both local communities and planning authorities, land is still being sought in earnest up and down the country for renewable energy development projects. We are still seeing considerable interest from landowners as the rental income (which can be around £1000 per acre) continues to make renewable energy developments an attractive revenue generator. However, regardless of the immediate financial inducements, it is crucial that all elements of the agreement between the developer and landowner are scrutinised, not least the easement agreements covering the connection with the national grid.

Gleeson’s bid to build in Malmesbury succeeds in spite of local opposition

The potential for conflict between the national need for more housing (encapsulated in the National Planning Policy Framework) and the desire to give local communities a voice in development on their doorstep was brought into sharp focus by a dispute arising from an application by Gleeson to build 180 houses on the outskirts of Malmesbury, Wiltshire. Gleeson’s proposed development had entered the planning pipeline before Malmesbury had produced its draft Neighbourhood Plan which, when published, opposed the planned site of the development. This opposition caught the attention of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) - but only after he had already allowed the case to be determined by the Planning Inspector. What then followed was almost worthy of an episode of ‘Yes, Minister’.

First legal challenge to CIL on basis of a development’s future viability

The Conservatives’ pre-election promise to abolish the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) was quietly swept under the carpet by the Coalition government which has not only kept the levy but has continued to tweak it. We have now arrived at the point where approximately 25% of local authorities have either adopted a CIL charging schedule or are in the process of doing so. In the first case of its kind, a developer has challenged the basis on which Chorley Borough Council set its charging schedule by citing procedural inaccuracy and that the level of the charge would undermine the viability of the development in question. Although the challenge was unsuccessful, it does open the door for other developers to query both the way in which charging schedules are arrived at and the level at which they are set.

Shared equity and consumer credit legislation

There are a raft of shared equity schemes currently being offered by house builders but, in order to offer sales incentives, they must have a consumer credit licence. Under current consumer credit legislation any house builder offering “shared equity” sales incentives must have a consumer credit licence issued by the OFT. Builders should know their obligations and be aware of the consequences of non-compliance.
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