Night at the Museum

On Friday after work, Broomhead & Saul held their annual drinks party.

The party is held to thank all the local businesses and organisations who we work closely with throughout the year for their ongoing support.

This time we chose the venue as the newly renovated Museum of Somerset.  It rained all day so just to be safe we set up camp in the Great Hall.  Guests were welcomed by a refreshing glass of bubbly or the rather punchy rum punch.

We all had a very pleasant evening and would like to thank West Country Caterers for the delicious canapes, the Midnight Owls for the music, Susie Simmons of the Museum of Somerset and last but not least our guests for coming.

(photographs kindly taken by David Leyland www.davidleyland.com )

Is the National Planning Policy Framework Still Pro-Growth? Our Property Team Explore the issue.

WHAT?

The final draft of the national planning policy framework (NPPF) was published on 27 March 2012

WHEN?

Taking immediate effect.

WHY WAS IT AMENDED?

The final NPPF has addressed some of the criticism it attracted from conservation bodies and now includes a revised definition of sustainable development. Increased emphasis on environmental considerations inevitably renders the NPPF less ‘pro-growth’ than it was in its draft form. It aims to reduce bureaucracy in the planning system by improving clarity, to give developers better outcomes through greater certainty, reducing costs and burdens, improving efficiency for businesses and promoting sustainable economic growth, and handing power back to local communities

HOW?

The NPPF makes significant changes to the planning system in England, by replacing 1,300 pages of planning policy statements, circulars and guidance documents with a ‘single and accessible’ document of 50 pages.

PROBLEMS?

Claims that the NPPF will lead to greater certainty could be misleading. The streamlined, less-detailed version of the NPPF could create uncertainty for developers, as the local planning authorities (LPA’s) have more discretion in interpreting and implementing the policy in their local development plan documents. It may also prompt the need for more detailed development plans or pressure to make planning policy through Ministerial Statements.

 

 KEY CONCEPT – ‘SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT’

The new presumption in favor of sustainable development states that LPA’s should plan positively for new development, and ‘approve all individual proposals wherever possible’. The presumption comes into effect where the neighborhood and/or local plan is absent, silent, indeterminate or where relevant policies are out of date. Any proposal which can be shown to comply with the definition of sustainable development contained within the draft NPPF is eligible for consent.

 This is a ‘pro-growth’ presumption, speeding-up planning application decisions and encouraging LPA’s to have up-to-date plans in place. However, there are fears that the presumption could result in LPA’s consenting to low quality development, particularly where there is pressure from budget cuts to capture funds.

There are three main aims of the concept.  An economic role – contributing to building a strong, responsive and competitive economy, by ensuring that sufficient land of the right type is available in the right places and at the right time etc.  A social role – supporting strong, vibrant and healthy communities, by providing the supply of housing, services, etc.  An environmental role – contributing to protecting and enhancing our natural, built and historic environment.

Campaign groups previously warned that the wording of the draft presumption in favor of sustainable development would open up the floodgates to development that was harmful to the environment, placing economic growth as the driver and undermining the principles of sustainable development.   This has let to the final form of the definition being revised and now refers to the five principles contained in the 2005 UK Sustainable Development Strategy: living within the planet’s environmental limits; ensuring a strong, healthy and just society; achieving a sustainable economy; promoting good governance; and using sound science responsibly.

Feedback from planning campaigning bodies such as the Campaign to Protect Rural England shows that they are generally reassured by its compromises from the draft form.

CONCLUSION?

“The thousands of pages of planning policy may have been replaced with 50 or so but there are inevitably some pretty vague concepts that have replaced the detail.   This could lead to uncertainty with different LPA’s interpreting the legislation in very different ways with very different results.  Is not surprising that Developers and Campaigners seem equally unsure as to whether to be happy or unhappy with the legislation at this stage.  Time will tell but the changes are likely to have have a dramatic impact on us all.”  If you need advice on this planning issue or any other property matter please contact any of our experienced property lawyers at Broomhead and Saul.

Broomhead and Saul Awarded Coveted Law Society Quality Conveyancing Accreditation!

 

Quality - Broomhead and Saul

Conveyancing Quality Scheme

 

“We are very proud to become one of the first firms in Somerset to become a firm recognised by the Law Society for the high quality of the service we provide and I am very prod of the property teams at the Taunton and Ilminster offices.”

The Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) will provides a recognised quality standard for residential conveyancing practices. Achievement of membership establishes a level of credibility for member firms with stakeholders (regulators, lenders, insurers and consumers) based upon:

  • the integrity of the Senior Responsible Officer and other key conveyancing staff.
  • the firm’s adherence to good practice management standards.
  • adherence to prudent and efficient conveyancing procedures through the scheme protocol.

This scheme will create a trusted community which will deter fraud – year on year we will drive up standards.

To discuss any of your property needs or requirements, please do not hesitate to contact John or any one of the members of our experienced property team.

Illegally Subletting Council Property Could Land You Inside

The Issue?

With about 1.8 million families with a genuine need for housing are currently on waiting lists for social housing in England and Wales, some of which are deprived of a home by people subletting their council property for profit.

Government’s Proposed Solution?

The government has proposed a new criminal offence of tenancy fraud to deal with the increasing trend of people earning thousands of pounds subletting council property at market rents, and cheating tenants. The proposal is that the offence will be punishable by fines of up to £50,000 and/or imprisonment of up to two years.

Difficulties are Expected…..

There are doubts, however, about whether the proposals could be effectively enforced if they become law as the success of any changes is likely to hinge on a number of factors – such as how effectively the offence will be policed and whether there will be the resources within social landlords (ie. Housing associations, Local Authorities) to take proper advantage of the changes.  Proving subletting can be very difficult, costly and time-consuming. However, part of the proposals are to give local authorities better powers to investigate tenancy fraud, in particular, better access to information from banks and utility companies. This may help, although a lot of tenants who are subletting are clued up enough to keep all of the bills registered in their name, to refuse unannounced visits from the landlord and to make sure they are present at any pre-arranged appointment.  This means that Landlords will still face real problems in obtaining sufficient evidence of the subletting – particularly because they will have to prove it to the criminal standard of proof.   Additionally for landlords, civil proceedings (rather than criminal) may be a more attractive route than the prospect of criminal proceedings. The main priority for landlords will often be to get the property back so it can be re-let. However, as Checkley points out, criminal proceedings will not achieve that.

Advice?

In theory, the proposals sound like great news for landlords.  In practice, enforcing any such order made by the court can prove impossible if the tenant does not have the ability to pay it.  If the changes are introduced, local authorities will be likely to be given the power to prosecute offences themselves and other social landlords could also theoretically bring private prosecutions.

We may be instructed to deal with the proceedings on behalf of clients. The question will be whether to opt for possession proceedings, criminal proceedings, or both.  That decision will depend on what the client wants to achieve.  Please contact our Property Department if you have any questions.