As published in AM Online in June 2022.


A combination of carbon reduction demands from brands and auditing requirements together with spiraling energy costs is forcing dealers to re-evaluate the environmental impact of their businesses.  

Lee Fraine, head of Building Services & Sustainability at Rapleys provides his expertise on how the pursuit of a clean air agenda for vehicle production and wider operations will look moving forward.

“We are at a very strange tipping point where it is a balance between energy efficiency driving to carbon neutral and the capital cost.”

Read the article in full here.

As published in NorthWest Place on 20 May 2022.

As published in The Business Desk on 23 May 2022.


Lee Fraine has been recruited from Hoare Lea to head the new division, which will provide clients with mechanical, electrical and public health design, asset engineering, and sustainable engineering services.

“It enables Rapleys to continue to provide a modern approach to delivering projects with a sustainable focus which, with the important drive for net zero carbon across our industry, is now an integral part of the design and the future life cycles of properties” explains Leed.

As published in Planning Resource on 12 May 2022.


On Wednesday last week, the Government unveiled a host of far-reaching changes to the planning system in its new Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

Jason Lowes, Town Planning Partner shares his reaction “The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill has taken on the mantle of planning reform, and it appears that only the more detailed and less politically controversial elements of the now dead Planning White Paper have survived. Amid a backbench backlash, the more radical ideas such as zoning were clearly deemed just too difficult.”

To read the article in full, click here.

As published in Property Week on 12 May 2022.


The Building Safety Act received Royal Assent and became an Act of Parliament at the end of April, giving leaseholders legal protection against having to foot the bill to fix safety defects. This was after many UK housebuilders signed up to the Government’s building safety pledge, committing to pay to remove dangerous cladding on their own buildings between 11m and 18m in height.

Martin Gladwin, Head of Housing Consultancy at Rapleys expresses how the journey is far from over. “It is the right course of action to look at the companies that have erected most of these buildings, but it is not the full answer.”

To read the article in full click here.

As published in The Planner on 04 May 2022.

As published in Planning Resource on 11 May 2022.


Rapleys LLP, the national property and planning consultancy, is delighted to announce that James Owens will be joining the business as an Equity Partner, in the Town Planning Division, from 1 May 2022.

James will be based in the partnership’s West End, London office. He moves from JLL, where he was a Director in the Planning and Development team.

James comes with over 30 years of experience in town planning. He has advised – as a consultant – across many sectors, including residential, commercial and education, and been instructed on numerous high profile cases.

His appointment forms part of the partnership’s ongoing growth strategy and, in particular, its commitment to continue to promote the reach and profile of its long-established, and nationally recognised, town planning business.

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner of Rapleys LLP, commented that “James is an acknowledged name in the planning world. He will bring a welcome, and valuable, new dimension in servicing client instructions and, further, to the growth of our town planning business in London and across the UK. I am delighted to have him on board”.

James remarked “I am really pleased to make the move. It’s an exciting opportunity. Rapleys is a progressive practice which has ambitious plans for the future. I look forward to working with Robert, and the wider partnership, to help realise them”.

Click here to contact James.

The Government has recently put forward a number of proposals to help with the cost of living crisis, with the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggesting that MOTs should be required every 2nd year rather than annually. At present, an MOT is required every year for vehicles more than 3 years old and has to be undertaken by one of the 23,647 licensed operators.

Government figures confirm that in 2021 there were just under 32 million MOT’s undertaken in Great Britain, including motorcycles and commercial vehicles. A number of bodies such as the AA and the IGA have already raised concerns about potential issues with higher longer-term repair bills and potential road safety. However, assuming the rise in bills was a short-term rather than permanent measure, then it’s unlikely to have a major impact on the majority of occupiers. This will impact workshop profitability and we could see some operators having to consider their options, however, the additional cost of vehicle repair bills could offset this.

With significant upwards pressure on industrial and workshop rent, we could foresee some operators considering their options especially if they are close to a lease end. Demand for industrial units fit for other uses such as home delivery distributions has had a major upwards pressure on industrial values –  with demand significantly outstripping supply. In some parts of London, we have seen rents double in the last 5 years, and if workshop operators are facing a further loss of income from the lack of MOTs, this could mean operators are better off considering alternative uses going forward.

As we look to the future and shift to electrical vehicles, we expect workshops to be smaller and cleaner due to significantly fewer moving parts than a traditional combustion engine. Bearing this in mind, the need for workshops could alter as vehicle owners would require minimal mechanical input for an electrical battery.

If you have a workshop or are a landlord of a workshop and want to discuss your options in confidence please contact Mark Frostick, Senior Associate at Rapleus Automotive & Roadside team.

As published in Property Week on 27 April 2022.


Growth of EVs and the need for more charging points have reportedly boosted the roadside sector.

Daniel Cook, head of Rapleys Automotive & Roadside team at Rapleys explains how the smaller players in the fuel sector will struggle with the high setup cost and relatively low margins.

“Availability of locations and availability of power are the biggest problems. We have seen quotes north of £2m to connect 12 charging points recently,” remarks Cook.

Size does matter – Mark Frostick, Senior Associate reports “Forecourts have generally been getting larger, and almost any new site being constructed is going to be offering a full C-store with food-to-go offers,”

To read the article in full, click here.

As published in Forecourt Trader in the January/February Property Feature


Property experts say the appetite for forecourts remains strong, with some reporting an average of five offers per transaction.

Mark Frostick, Senior Associate, Rapleys Automotive & Roadside team explains “Circumstances created strong margins for many sites and with shop sales also remaining at good levels, we saw fewer sites on the market, especially at the lower end of the trading spectrum.”

Read the article in full here.

Places for Everyone, the Joint Development Plan for Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan has now been submitted to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

The Plan seeks to guide the development of around 165,000 new homes and over 50m sq.ft of commercial space across the nine Greater Manchester boroughs.

Following its submission, the Plan will now be subject to an independent examination conducted by the Planning Inspectorate. The authorities hope to have the Plan adopted in 2023.

The submission of the Plan to the Government is an important and positive step towards the Plan’s formal adoption. It follows numerous delays since the Joint Development Plan’s first consultation draft was published in 2016.

The adoption of the Plan is absolutely vital, as it will ensure Greater Manchester’s future growth through both the allocation of sites and by providing a platform for each of the individual Local Authorities to bring forward their own Local Plans in due course.

Rapleys is currently advising clients in all development sectors across Greater Manchester and in the wider North West Region.

If you have any questions relating to the Places for Everyone Joint Development Plan or require assistance in unlocking a potential development opportunity, please get in touch with Jonathan Harper, Town Planning Partner or Richard Huteson, Town Planning Partner based in our Machester office.

Like 2020, 2021 was dominated by Covid, and again like 2020, the fuel retail market remained resilient. 

Fuel crisis

At least this was the case until the end of September which saw the so called “Fuel Crisis” dominate media headlines. The media reported on potential fuel shortages which sparked panic buying and vast queues at petrol stations throughout the country. News reports showed people filling up containers from milk bottles to fuel cans, and one report we heard was someone spending 1 hour in a queue to top up their car with just 97p worth of fuel!

As a result, fuel deliveries could not keep up with demand and some forecourts sat empty – some for weeks until supplies became readily available, and the market returned to normal by early October. Whilst the general public was panic buying fuel at petrol filling stations, there was another issue affecting property markets – a shortage of available petrol station sites. Margins have remained high and despite upwards pressure on values and uncertainty surrounding the switch to Electric Vehicles (EV) this has not yet been enough to convince the market to exit the industry or dispose of underperforming sites.

Big movers

In February Certas acquired seven sites from Bishop Retail in the north east, but the biggest deal to note was the 27 sites sold by Euro Garages to Park Garage Group in June. This disposal was a requirement from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) as part of their purchase of Asda.

Elsewhere Applegreen/Petrogas placed approximately 100 of their petrol filling stations on the market in order to concentrate on their MSA business, Welcome Break. To date, no purchases have been announced and the sites remain available.

Market insights

The Rapleys Automotive & Roadside team have experienced significant activity on individual sites, but a lack of availability has meant that any site brought to market has seen very competitive bidding, pushing prices on considerably. For example, the Automotive & Roadside team have recently agreed terms on a site at 19% over the asking price which was based on the upper range of values for other sites sold over the last 18 months. There have been some suggestions that the uptake of EV’s would bring more sites to the market but that is yet to be seen and we suspect this is likely to increase in number in the medium term. We expect the number of charging points will continue to significantly increase over the coming years in preparation for 2030 net zero carbon pledge.

Electric vehicles

2021 has seen a significant increase in EV sales, the SMMT reported circa 1.6 million new cars were sold, a slight increase on 2020. The total number of hybrid/electric vehicles sold circa 750,000 vehicles was equivalent to the previous 4 years combined – the Tesla Model 3 was the second biggest selling model of the year in 2020.

As the number of electric vehicles on the road has increased, we have seen more interest from the existing fuel market industry. Shell have just opened their first electric-only charging site in Fulham on the site of an old petrol station, and BP have announced that they intend to have 16,000 charging points in place by 2030.

Zap Map (used by consumers to locate electric charging points) reports there are now 28,922 electric charging devices in the UK which equates to approximately 1 charging point for every 37 electric or hybrid vehicles in the UK.



In summary, 2021 was another interesting year for the petrol station market, which again proved a high level of resilience against Covid given the exemption from national restrictions and it is clear to see that the industry continues to look towards electric charging as the future.

Rapleys is embedded in the automotive and roadside industry and through its 70-year history has successfully evolved in line with market developments to provide the best advice and service to our clients. We will continue to do so as the industry adapts to this new period of change and look forward to helping our clients thrive in the ‘new normal’ for fuel retail.

For advice across the full spectrum of developing, upgrading, buying and selling forecourts or rent reviews and lease renewals, contact Mark Frostick, Senior Associate or a member of our nationwide Automotive & Roadside team.

As published in Property Week on 27 January


Leasing activity in the trade counter sector soared in 2021. Two of the biggest operators – Toolstation and Screwfix – opened nearly 150 new branches between them.

It is hard to overstate the rapid rate at which industrial/trade counter rents have grown. Some experts argue that such growth is unsustainable. “Rising rents are becoming more of a concern for occupiers,” says Daniel Cook, Partner and head of automotive and roadside at Rapleys.

Read the article in full here.

As published in Automotive World on 30 December


In March 2020, the automotive industry watched the Prime Minister announce what turned out to be the first lockdown with a sense of dread due to the unknown.

A wide variety of predictions were made, ranging from wholesale doom to a slightly less drastic partial economic recovery for the following year. In June when the first lockdown ended the Society of Motor, Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) predicted a loss of one in six automotive jobs in the UK and many dealer groups and manufacturers were looking to the near-term future with real concern.

Mark Frostick, Senior Associate at Rapleys Automotive & Roadside team explores how this has impacted the automotive market, from increased demand in secondhand vehicles to the increased cost of building materials.

Read the article in full here.

Property and planning consultancy Rapleys has witnessed a healthy growth to its West Midlands team and, since opening in 2016, its Birmingham office has expanded by 60%.

Rapleys Building Consultancy, Land Development Project Management and Town Planning teams have all made key hires over the last year despite economic uncertainty. Stuart Adkins, Senior Surveyor, joined the Building Consultancy team, whilst Gurpreet Narle, Senior Project Manager, joined the Land Development Project Management and Zarina Ali, Planner, joined the Town Planning team.

Following the appointment of Richard Crow, Partner and most recently Stuart Adkins, Senior Surveyor, who joined the Birmingham team in November, Rapleys Building Consultancy team have cemented a strong regional presence across the West Midlands.

“Rapleys is a well-established property consultancy who’s Building Consultancy team are rapidly growing. It was the forward-thinking and blue-chip quality client base that sold the business to me and Stuart – an opportunity to be part of this evolution.”  Explains Crow. 

Both Crow and Adkins have extensive commercial experience for private and public sector clients including institutional investors, landlords, occupiers and Housing Associations. Their due diligence, defect analysis, project management, Landlord and Tenant Dilapidations advice, and expert witness experience supplements the well-established, nationwide team.

Rapleys Land Development Project Management (LDPM) team has seen equal success within the Birmingham region. Senior Project Manager Gurpreet Narle joins Jason Mound, Head of LDPM and Jack Downing, Associate. Narle brings a wealth of development civil engineering experience to support growth in design led Project Management.

The recent appointment of Zarina Ali, Planner along with Partner Sarah Smith moving from the Bristol Office to head up the Birmingham office’s Town Planning offering has increased Rapleys’ Planning presence in the city. Ali joins to assist Smith across a range of projects including large scale residential/commercial local plan promotions, submission of outline/full/reserved matters/discharge of condition applications, preparation/co-ordination of Environmental Impact Assessments and planning appraisals.

Rapleys advises on all building consultancy, land development project management and planning matters from its Birmingham office and would welcome the chance to talk to you about your project needs. Get in touch with Richard Crow, Jason Mound or Sarah Smith for an informative discussion.

As published in The Grocer on 26 November


Bold plans are the online giant’s MO, but Amazon’s newly formed team faces a raft of logistical challenges to meet its target for the UK.

Richard Curry, foodstore specialist advisor and Partner at Rapleys comments “People that own property here just don’t like the way [Amazon] lease,” says Richard Curry, partner at Rapleys. US companies often take a “why don’t you do it our way?” attitude, he adds, and with Amazon “you have to sign all sorts of NDAs just to know it’s them, which seems a bit excessive”.

Furthermore, “there will be an air of scepticism about their performance until they’ve opened a few more” Curry says.

Read the article in full here.

The recent Party Wall judgement in K Group Holdings Inc v Saidco International [2021] raises a number of aspects concerning the appeal against a Party Wall Award. Jason Evans, head of Rapleys’ London Party Wall service considers the impacts of these on future construction projects and the role of a Party Wall Surveyor.

Rapleys Neighbourly Matters team are experienced Party Wall Surveyors administering the Party Wall etc Act 1996 throughout England and Wales (the Act does not apply in Scotland) either for developers (known under the Act as Building Owners’) or neighbours (referred to under the Act as Adjoining Owners’). The statutory provisions of the Act can be triggered when building work is proposed on any site boundary, on a shared structure in different ownership or excavations within a certain distance of neighbouring buildings or structures. As well as performing the roles of Building Owner’s and Adjoining Owner’s Surveyor, we also act in the roles of Agreed Surveyor and Third Surveyor as the process allows.


The proposed development comprised the refurbishment of the 6th & 7th floors of Aldford House, a property on Park Lane in London. Saidco (a Panamanian company) owned a flat on the 5th floor. The works took place between 2009 and 2013 and a Party Wall Award was published at the outset in relation to the notifiable work relevant to the Act.

Early in the construction process, the occupier of the flat below raised concerns over an alleged water leak emanating from the development site. This issue for, whatever reason, was not addressed at the time and bizarrely several ex parte Awards where then published by the Adjoining Owners Surveyor between July – November 2020 leading to the awarding of a six figure sum to the Adjoining Owner.

The Building Owner, K Group, successfully appealed the November 2020 Award on several grounds.

The judge Parfitt’s, overarching conclusion was: “the circumstances in which this award has been made seem to me uniquely inappropriate and misguided”. Whilst the Award had various shortfalls, this case reminds and clarifies several areas for Party Wall practitioners.

Statue of Limitations

Claiming damages is subject to section 9 of the Limitation Act 1980.  HHJ Parfitt stated in Paragraph 33 of the judgement;

‘’assuming there was one here pursuant to the Act, is one that will be subject to the section 9 limitation award and that that limitation would start to run from whatever date it was…’’ and ‘’so far as concerns a right to compensation which could be within the surveyor’s jurisdiction, that that would also be subject to a six-year bar…’’.

Therefore, claims of damage need to have arisen and been documented within 6 years of occurring. The claim being submitted in this case related to a claim raised 11 years previously.


The Adjoining Owner’s Surveyor purported to enforce payment of his fee in his ex parte Award.  Surveyors do not have power or authority to enforce their own Awards.

Judge Parfitt appears to have extended his view for surveyors enforcing their fees to a Party Wall in its entirety.  Critically the main body of a Party Wall Award must be enforced by the courts if a contravention occurs.

The judgement was at the County Court, and not the High Court, therefore no legal precedent has been set.  However, all practitioners should consider the implications set for existing and future appointments.

Therefore, in practical terms, the following housekeeping points should be borne in mind:


  • Surveyors must deal with the actual dispute at hand.
  • In K Group Holdings V Saidco International the first Party Wall Award was served in 2009. The dispute that had arisen was then resolved by service of a Party Wall Award.
  • Numerous changes of property owners arose for the Adjoining Owner which is fine, but crucially the Building Owner had changed in the following 11 years after the publishing of the original Award. The change of ownership does not preclude the ‘original’ Building Owners liability under the Act, as alluded to by HHJ Bailey in Mills v Savage [2016].  On review of the judgement, it became apparent that the original Building Owner had fallen in liquidation, and any recovery of costs would have been extremely difficult.
  • Judge Parfitt does lightly discuss that some form of jurisdiction could have been reviewed from the original Building Owner to the existing Building Owner – however, this appears in a broader legal sense that actual scope in pursuant of the Party Wall etc. Act.
  • It was deemed incorrect to serve an Award on the new (and current) Building Owner as they were not and had not been a party to the original deemed dispute.

Parties to the Award

In this particular case several ex parte Awards had been served from the Adjoining Owner’s Surveyor – each time naming a different Building Owner. The third and final Award had been served to the appellants of the judgement.

Incidentally, the appellant did not own the property where the notifiable works were carried out in 2009 and therefore was not a party to the dispute.  Furthermore, the Building Owner to the site where the works had been carried out had not appointed a surveyor under section 10, nor had a surveyor been appointed on their behalf under section 10(4) of the Act.

Panamanian Law

  • An interesting take home from the judgement was the potential impact from Panamanian Law.
  • Paragraph 5 of the judgement

‘’Saidco were placed into some form of suspension which, according to the evidence before me, involved a notice being attached in the Panamanian Registry that said Saidco were “ Suspendido” on 26 November 2019 and the evidence before me says that meant, as a matter of Panamanian law, the company could not act or make claims, and so on’’.

This case illustrates that the Party Wall process requires careful navigation. If you are planning your next development, give us a call to discuss your obligations under the Act. Or, if you are neighbour to a development and require a surveyor to represent you, we’d be delighted to assist. We operate across the UK.

Our Neighbourly Matters team provide Rights to Light, Daylight & Sunlight, Access Arrangements and Boundary Dispute services. Get in touch with a member of our nationwide team for specialist surveying assistance.



Rapleys Cambridge Town Planning team gained approval from West Suffolk Council’s Development Control Committee last Wednesday for the introduction of a pioneering dementia care concept to the UK, at a site in Little Wratting, near Haverhill.

The Cambridge team submitted a detailed planning application in February 2021 and then monitored and managed it proactively to ensure that the case officer was able to recommend approval of the application despite the site’s countryside location. The team worked closely with statutory consultees, responding to their comments and addressing any concerns throughout the determination process.

Strawberry Care appointed Rapleys at the outset of the project. Early instruction meant that Rapleys were able to guide them through the sequential approach to searching for, assessing and identifying sites, and then to help them evidence the need for the scheme. This was critical to justifying the site at Little Wratting, which was identified as the most sequentially preferable, and, ultimately, to enabling the case officer to make a robust recommendation for approval of the scheme.

Strawberry Care Director, Phil Jordan commented: “I applaud Rapleys Town Planning team for the great work they have done in securing this resolution; highly professional and a pleasure to be involved in”.

Richard Sykes-Popham, head of Rapleys Cambridge Town Planning team, commented:

“We’re delighted Strawberry care can now start to plan the delivery of their first dementia village.

Their unique care model makes this result even more rewarding. It also completely justifies the committee’s decision, which required them to make an exception to the local plan.”

The scheme will be home to 120 residents who will live together in 20 shared apartments, each with 6 bedrooms. Together with the various community buildings and an internal arrangement of streets and squares, the development will create a small village where residents are both safe and free to roam; the aim being to enable them to live a normal life despite their diagnosis. The Little Wratting site is ideally suited to this use. The primarily self-contained scheme will be well screened by existing vegetation and will benefit from a quiet environment without the kinds of peak noise events that are known to cause distress for those living with severe dementia.

The village is expected to open in 2023 as a market leader in all senses, including through its use of lower-carbon construction and renewable energy generation measures.

As published in Forecourt Trader on 08 November


On paper, the rising number of EV charging points – recently revealed by the Department for Transport (DfT) – sounds great, but the reality is there is still some way to go.

Mark Frostick, Senior Associate in the Automotive & Roadside team responds to recent Department for Transport figures showing the increase in EV chargers.

Read the article in full here.

As published in Property Week on 14 October


The Government’s introduction of the Class MA permitted development right – making it possible to convert most commercial buildings to residential use, is deemed to be a shortcut to addressing housing shortages instead of dealing with the bigger issues within the planning system.

Rapleys Town Planning Partner, Jason Lowes comments on the National Planning Policy Framework in relation to Article 4 directions. Lowes thinks that although local authorities have seen a level of success in the past in relation to the approval of these directions, the change in policy means the chances of approval are lower than before and that it remains to be seen what the government will permit.

Read the article in full here.

As published in Place North West on 04 October


Further to the planning application for 116 energy-efficient homes on Timperley site and a planning application for the Thorley Lane development, it is clear that Trafford Council need to improve their House Delivery Test record.

Rapleys Town Planning team commented “Trafford currently falls within the bottom 10% of authorities in England for housing delivery,” Rapleys added. “The proposed development will deliver a substantial contribution towards this significant identified market housing shortfall.” 

Read the article in full here.

As published in Planning Resources on the 28 September

As published in Insider Media on the 28 September

As published in The Planner on the 27 September

As published in The Business Desk on 30 September

As published in North West Place on 06 October


Planning consultancy Rapleys has hired a Town Planning Partner in its Manchester office.

Andrew Bradshaw joins the firm, leaving his previous role as head of planning at property consultancy GL Hearn, where he spent more than three years. In his new role, Bradshaw will lead on the residential sector in the north west.

Bradshaw has worked on the negotiation of planning permissions for government agency Homes England across the UK and the preparation of town centre masterplans in Newbury, Blackpool and Rochdale.


As published in pbctoday, on the 26 August ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The life sciences sector is the subject of huge investor and developer interest. The risk of disruption to projects, therefore, is an acute one. Simon Harbour, building consultancy partner at Rapleys, looks at how the current building materials crisis is impacting the industry.

Investor appetite in the Life Sciences has surged in recent years. Unlike in other sectors, the pandemic has been a catalyst for significant investment including real estate and infrastructure, such as labs and research hubs as well as logistics and back-office facilities.

Read the article in full here.

Whilst the Government refines its proposals for planning reform, which will need to be reconciled with increasing disquiet in the Conservative Party at large, it has released another version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This is the fourth iteration of central Government planning policy since the first NPPF in 2012, but like the version it replaces (released in February 2019), the changes are relatively discrete and the fundamentals of national policy (such as the presumption in favour of sustainable development, and matters relating to the Green Belt) remain very much in place. 

The changes are broadly consistent with those proposed in a consultation carried out earlier in the year (see previous Rapleys newsletter), and the main areas can be summarised thus:

  •  A greater focus on design, and particularly “beauty” in development, in line with the Government’s “build beautiful” initiatives;
  • A general encouragement of trees, and more specifically seeking to ensure that all new streets are tree-lined;
  • A longer life for strategic policies is sought, where new settlements or significant extensions to existing settlements are proposed;
  • A strengthening of policy relative to Article 4 directions, to underline the Government’s discouragement of restrictions to permitted development rights (PDR);
  • An encouragement towards faster delivery of public service infrastructure;
  • A requirement that local planning authorities have regard to the importance of retaining historic statues, and explain their historic and social context in preference to their removal, and
  • The addition of an Annex 3, formalising land use vulnerability classification (in the context of flood risk) into policy.

In this regard, it would appear that the new NPPF is intended to represent somewhat of a “holding position”, including putting a little more meat on the bones of what the Government has been saying over the last 6 to 12 months, in advance of more wide-ranging initiatives later in the year. In this context, the Government has already indicated that a fuller review of the NPPF will be undertaken to promote the Government’s commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

If you would like to discuss these changes, the Government’s wider planning reform agenda, and the implications they might have on your portfolio, please get in touch with one of our nationwide Town Planning team.

As published in CoStar on the 08 July

As published in AM Online on the 09 July

As published in Forecourt Trader on the 09 July

As published in EG on the 15 July


Rapleys have appointed Daniel Cook as the Head of the Automotive & Roadside team.

Cook has been with the firm for 16 years and provides clients both agency and professional advice including on acquisitions, disposals, rent reviews, lease renewals other landlord and tenant matters and valuations.

Cook takes over the role from Phil Blackford who, after 37 years of service, will be retiring from the partnership.


As published in Daylighting, page 25-27 in the May/June edition


Section 293 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 defines Crown Land as land in which there is a Crown or a Duchy Interest. This is an interest belonging to a government department or held in trust for the Crown for the purposes of a government department and any interest the secretary of state specifies. This includes a collection of lands and buildings which are occupied and serve any department, office or executive agency of the Crown.

The Town and Country Planning Act 2016 applies to the Crown estate in the same manner as any other development meaning that the Crown would be required to apply to the local authority for planning permission if they want to develop.

Read Manuella Nguessan’s, Neighbourly Matters article in the Daylighting Magazine, explaining Section 263 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 in relation to the Right to Light –  an easement that gives a landowner the right to receive light through defined apertures over neighbouring land.

Read the article in full here.

As published in UK Property Forum on the 11 May


Rapleys Town Planning team have secured revised planning permission for the final land parcel on the site of Cardington airship sheds on behalf of Gallagher Developments and Bellway Homes.

Over the years, permission has been secured for 130 dwellings on the west land parcel, 592 dwellings on the Eastern and South-Eastern land parcels, as well as listed building consent for the refurbishment of the Grade II* listed airship shed.

Read the article in full here.

As published in The Planner on the 11 May

As published in Planning on the 13 May

As published in Property Week  on the 27 May


The promised planning bill has received a mixed reception from built environmental professionals, with some concerned that communities won have a voice, whilst others welcome a ‘more efficient’ planning system.

In The Planner’s response to the Queen’s speech, Jason Lowes, Town Planning Partner at Rapleys addresses the confusion over the guiding principles of the Government’s planning agenda. On the one hand, further flexibility is being added into the planning system through the expansion of permitted development, however, more interventionist powers have been introduced centrally on issues such as design.

Talking to Planning, Jason reacts to the implementation of the complex changes proposed.

Jason concurs the devil will be in the detail when talking to Property Week. The proposals potentially add another layer to an already complicated process.

The Government’s intention to bring forward a new Planning Bill, which aims to “modernise the planning system, so that more homes can be built”, was confirmed Tuesday (11 May), as part of the Queen’s Speech in Parliament (and widely covered in the press beforehand). While very much echoing the proposals already introduced in the Planning for the Future White Paper (our summary of which can be found here), the announcement is clearly intended to signify real progress in the step change towards a reformed and simplified planning system.

At this stage, the main elements of the Bill are purported to:

  • Change local plans, so that they provide more certainty over the type, scale and design of development permitted on different categories of land (with the final details of a radical new zoning regime still yet to be announced);
  • Significantly decrease the time it takes for developments to go through the planning system;
  • Replace the existing systems for funding affordable housing and infrastructure from development with a new more predictable and more transparent levy;
  • Use post-Brexit freedoms to simplify and enhance the framework for environmental assessments for developments;
  • Reform the framework for locally led development corporations to ensure local areas have access to appropriate delivery vehicles to support growth and regeneration.

It’s clear that the opportunities and implications of this announcement will not be fully known until the proposed Bill is laid before parliament, which is expected – though not guaranteed – in the Autumn. Nonetheless, Rapleys will be keeping a close eye on any indications on what exactly the Bill will set out, and will be delighted to discuss the Government’s initiative with you should you have any queries.

For queries in relation to the Planning Bill and other matters relating to the planning system please get in touch with Jeevan Thandi or a member of Rapleys’ nationwide Town Planning team.

Looking back at our 2020 predictions, we could not have foreseen Covid-19 and the impact it has had. The petrol station market has not been immune to the impact experienced by businesses right across the global economy.

Fuel retail in lockdown

Whilst high street retail, was heavily hit with many stores closed (there was an estimated net loss of more almost 10,000 high street chain stores in 2020), petrol stations were understandably deemed essential and continued to trade, and the first and subsequent lockdowns had a relatively limited impact on the values and profitability of forecourts.

With fewer vehicles on the road the demand for fuel in the early part of 2020 fell dramatically, with sales in the first seven weeks of the first lockdown being just 39% (Department of Business Energy and Industrial strategy) of the “normal” levels of the eight weeks prior to March 23. Most operators were able to maintain margins as the global price of crude oil fell and that, coupled with an increase in convenience sales, meant that profits were maintained or in some cases improved. Some of the larger operators requested and received rental reductions backed up by the Government restrictions on landlords being unable to evict tenants during lockdown.

Generally, Rapleys did not see any major reduction in forecourt values, nor did we see operators looking to use Covid-19 as an excuse to renegotiate the purchase price down. Indeed, following the initial lifting of lockdown in the summer of 2020 we saw a significant surge in interest in deal-making in line with resurgent fuel sales.

There were challenges, however. One forecourt owner decided to refurbish a petrol station shop just before the first lockdown and was consequently unable to complete the works until after the country re-opened. The lockdown also caused a slow-down in forecourt transactions, with some parties preferring to wait until the country was out of lockdown to complete and furlough causing teams to be stretched meaning delays were inevitable.

The wider landscape

Whilst individual forecourts continued to trade through 2020, October brought two big announcements outside of the pandemic.

Firstly, BP undertook a sale and leaseback of 199 of their forecourts – generating nearly £400m to invest back into the company. Secondly, was the announcement that EG Group had sealed a deal to purchase Asda – adding a further 325 forecourts and over 2.8 billion litres to its market share. Later in the year we also heard that MFG acquired six forecourts from AUK Investments and Applegreen/Petrogas went private; proving that the ‘super indies’ are going to continue to be a dominant force in the UK market.

Covid-19 was undoubtedly the biggest issue operators faced in 2020, but arguably the most notable event which will shape for the future of the industry happened in November 2020.

The Government moved the date forward (again) for all new UK vehicles to be non-fossil fuel by 2030, from the previously announced date of 2035. Consequently, a Government White Paper is due out later this year which will provide further clarity on how electrical vehicles will be promoted. As we wrote for Forecourt Trader, for the fuel retail industry the EV revolution will bring significant opportunities, and challenges, with operators having to balance on the one hand the economic reality of EV drivers currently being a vanishingly small market to sell to and, on the other, choosing the right moment to make the almost inevitable investments needed to incorporate charging infrastructure. We will almost certainly see further disruption in the marketplace ahead of 2030.

In summary, the industry survived the various difficulties that 2020 brought but as we come out of hopefully a final lockdown, 2021 will of course bring its own hurdles for the market to go through.

Rapleys is embedded in the automotive and roadside industry and through its 70-year history has successfully evolved in line with market developments to provide the best advice and service to our clients. We will continue to do so as the industry adapts to this new period of change and look forward to helping our clients thrive in the ‘new normal’ for fuel retail.

For advice across the full spectrum of developing, upgrading, buying and selling forecourts or rent reviews and lease renewals, contact Mark Frostick, Senior Associate or a member of our nationwide Automotive & Roadside team.

As published in Property Week on the 29 April


Major changes are afoot, as part of the UK Government’s strategy to hit zero carbon by 2050 and not sell vehicles powered wholly by petrol or diesel in the UK by 2030.

Mark Frostick, Senior Associate at Rapleys Automotive & Roadside team discusses the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the owners and operators of roadside assets.

“It is not as easy as just swapping the petrol pumps for electric charging points. The process can be costly and not every forecourt is designed for such a transition, especially smaller outlets with less space to fit in chargers.”

Read the article in full here.

Following Rapleys’ 2019 initiative to expand its national presence by opening an office in Cambridge, its Town Planning service is helping to cement the firm’s progress in the eastern region. The Planning team in Cambridge, led by Richard Sykes-Popham, is going from strength to strength.

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team has witnessed a growing stream of opportunities and instructions which are behind its expansion plans and upward trend. As a result, the firm’s plans for its Cambridge Town Planning team have been unaffected by the pandemic.

Richard comments:
“I’m very pleased with the Cambridge Planning team’s progress over the last year, such that it now sits alongside our well-established Development Services, Building Consultancy and Automotive and Roadside teams in its strength and coverage across the region”.

The team, which forms part of a strong national presence across seven offices, has witnessed particular growth in industrial and commercial based instructions both within the city and the wider region. The Planning team has also maintained its strong foothold in the residential sector, which has remained extremely active from land promotion through to detailed planning, despite the challenges of the last twelve months. Other sectors such as elderly and dementia care have shown equal resilience and are forming a growing part of the team’s pipeline.

With most of the firm’s departments witnessing similar trends, Rapleys is positive about the next twelve months, forecasting a swift bounce back to pre-pandemic business levels and growth.

The formation and growth of the Cambridge Town Planning team compliments Rapleys’ property consultancy offering in the eastern region. The firm’s multidisciplinary capability and expertise mean that it is able to assist clients regardless of the breadth of their property interests. The increasing complexity and interconnectedness of all property related disciplines means that this is something which a growing range of landowners and developers are seeking.

Rapleys advises on all property matters from its Cambridge office and would welcome the chance to talk to you about your property needs.

The last year has been anything but normal. Is this the time for you to review your property interests; could they benefit from a second opinion and a fresh approach? Please speak to us about how Rapleys can make that all important difference to your current and forthcoming projects. We will review your interests and opportunities objectively and will always offer our initial views without obligation.

To set the conversation going, please contact our Head of Office, Stuart Harris on 07711 847846.


As published in The Business Desk on the 12 April


Nikal has secured a 15-year lease with The Co-operative Group for a 4,000 sq ft convenience store at its Exchange Square development in Birmingham 

Alfred Bartlett, Head of Retail & Leisure at Rapleys acted for Nikal in securing The Co-operative Group in their mixed use development scheme.

“We felt it was the right first step in satisfying local demand and fits perfectly with the next phase of lettings, currently in solicitors’ hands, that will contribute to the creation of a fresh and vibrant new lifestyle destination.”

Read the article in full here.

As published in Daylighting, page 14 in the March/April edition ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

From the 1 August 2020, legislative changes in Planning were made to the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO). More specifically, with Class O (Office to residential) conversions, the revision includes an additional requirement that all habitable rooms within the conversion must have internal layouts that receive adequate access to light.

Manuella Nguessan, Neighbourly Matters Surveyor explains how these recent amendments challenge future developments and the specific guidance in place.

Read the article in full here.

The Government introduced a new Use Class – Class E – last summer, which combined a broad range of land uses including retail, office and light industrial uses, as well as gyms, medical facilities and nurseries. However, as a transitional measure until 31 July 2021, the previous Use Class Order was kept in force relative to permitted development, whilst the Government considered what permitted development rights should be given to the new land use. Over the Winter, the Government consulted on proposals to include the change of use of Class E floorspace to residential as permitted development, and the Government has today confirmed that this new permitted development right will be introduced from 1 August 2021.

It is important to be aware that the new permitted development right will be conditional upon the building:

  • Having a floorspace of no more than 1,500 sqm;
  • Having been vacant for at least 3 months prior to the date of an application for prior approval;
  • Having been in Class E for two years before benefitting from the right;
  • Not being listed, nor being within the curtilage of a listed building; and
  • Not being within protected or designated areas (i.e. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks, the Broads, World Heritage Sites, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Scheduled Monuments), with the notable exception however of Conservation Areas, where the right will apply.

The new permitted development right will also be subject to a prior approval process, which will require confirmation from the Local Planning Authority that the proposed change to residential use is acceptable in terms of:

  • Transport impact and achieving safe access;
  • Flooding and contamination risks;
  • Impact of noise from commercial premises;
  • Provision of adequate natural light to all habitable rooms;
  • In areas considered important for B2 and B8 uses only, the impact on residential amenity;
  • In Conservation Areas only, the impact of the loss of the ground floor Class E use on the character and sustainability of the area; and
  • In relation to health centres and registered nurseries only, the impact of the loss of such local services.

Transitional arrangements for existing Article 4 Directions which restrict the conversion of offices to residential use (under Class O of the General Permitted Development Order) have also been outlined: those that remain in place on 31 July 2021 will continue to have effect on equivalent development (i.e. the conversion of offices under Class E(c) and E(g)(i) to residential use) until 31 July 2022.

In addition to the above new permitted development right, the Government has announced the amendment of existing rights to allow for:

  • The extension, erection or alteration of school, college, university, hospital, and for the first time prison buildings, by up to 25% of the existing footprint of the cumulative buildings on the site, or 250 square metres, whichever is greater; and
  • Ports and their agents to erect buildings in connection with the operation of the port, with the intention of aligning this right with that applying to airport development.

To discuss how these proposals can present new opportunities to add value to existing property portfolios in the run up to taking effect later this year, please contact Jeevan Thandi or any member of our nationwide Town Planning team for advice.




As published in The Grocer on the 15 March


Space has opened up in out-of-town retail parks – and shoppers feel more comfortable there. So food retailers are moving in. But will the trend last?

In recent years, out-of-town retail has been in a sorry state, but then came the pandemic and a new lease of life for retail parks.

The perfect size for a supermarket has changed, Richard Curry, Partner and lead food store advisor at Rapleys discusses the optimal store size and how discounter stores are taking advantage of available space.

Read the article in full here.

As published in The Grocer on the 11 March


The pandemic has accelerated the high street’s decline. Is government support the answer, or does the concept need a wholesale rethink?

Following the dramatic decline of the high street, Alfred Bartlett, Head of Retail & Leisure at Rapleys share his views on how we can stimulate the recovery of our high streets.

“I believe incentives should be given to developers to invest in the regeneration, or rather resurgence, of town centres.” He argues those incentives could also extend to startup retailers “in certain key sectors” to give them the confidence to set up stall in town centres.

Read the article in full here.

As published in Forecourt Trader on the 1 March.


As Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s pandemic Budget edges closer (March 3) there is considerable debate over how the government will proceed with its mantra to ‘build back better and greener’.

Daniel Cook and Mark Frostick from Rapleys Automotive & Roadside team speculate the Government’s 2030 green ambition for electrical vehicles.

Currently, electrical vehicles represent 1% of Uk vehicles. In order to meet the expected demand for electrical charging points, there will need to be increased infrastructure and commercial strategy by forecourt operators.

Read the article in full here.

As published in Property Week on the 25 February


The UK’s grocery real estate sector has boomed during the coronavirus pandemic, but will investors still be piling into the sector once Covid restrictions are lifted?

Last year, real estate transactions in the UK grocery sector rose to £1.83bn, from £1.78bn in 2019. Richard Curry, Lead food store adviser at Rapleys shares his view on investors’ habits.

Read the article in full here.

Richard Curry, Partner and lead food store adviser at Rapleys shares his top five projections for the retail industry in 2021. From consumers adapting the way they shop to a surge in the convenience store sector, there is no doubt that Covid-19 has had an impact – but for how long?

One stop shop

Retail closures, social distancing and limitations on people’s time spent out of the house has meant the big weekly shop has made a resurgence. This had been dropping off with people more likely to be doing fewer but more shopping trips, including in transit to and from work as well as looking for more experiential options such as at farmers markets. Especially during Covid-19, the one stop shop is a necessity to minimise exposure. The big supermarkets, with wide aisles and lots of car parking facilities have clearly benefited although this is unlikely to remain. While high street retail has continued to struggle, lockdown has improved awareness of local offerings and many of those have been quick to incorporate home delivery into their services. The big supermarkets remain cautious and are not committing to capital expenditure to build and fit out new stores. This has given the ‘Big Four supermarket the opportunity to consolidate their estates and right-size their existing estate fit for the future.

Bringing retail home

While the one stop shop is back, consumers are ever more mindful of product sourcing, supply chain, price and environmental issues such as carbon footprint. This has helped stimulate more interest in the offerings of local retailers and we have seen consumers choose to buy where they can from farm shops, bakers etc. At the other end of the spectrum, though, the lockdown restrictions have clearly given rise to a surge in-home delivery which local retailers have tried to jump in on but which the large operators with their scale and sophisticated supply chains are in prime position to continue to benefit from and compete more effectively on price for consumers who are worried about their own financial security and the wider economic landscape. This trend is here to stay. Supermarkets area venturing out to partner with delivery services – Deliveroo/Ocado, Amazon has opened new ‘dark stores’ for online only retail including its Wholefoods offering, while innovative operators like Oddbox are tapping into the interest in local and direct from farm produce.

Transient shopping

Another trend which Covid-19 has hastened is the rise in transient shopping which can offer consumers easy access to retail from their car. This has benefited other roadside retailers including convenience stores located on fuel station forecourts. Asda’s acquisition by EuroGarages Consortium arguably shows how powerful the forecourt offering is and can be for the major supermarkets.

Discounters will continue their march

The Big Four supermarkets have been losing ground to the discounters in recent years but Covid-19 has seen a temporary reversal. Discount stores may not have benefited as much as the big supermarkets during the pandemic, as the business model relies on high volume of people doing multiple shops. That said the discount stores will keep wrestling with the large supermarkets for trade and will continue to expand.
Discounters are also considering smaller formats in urban locations and previously perceived low population towns which draw from a wider catchment in certain rural locations. Closer analysis of catchment areas will provide an accurate assessment of these locations.

Convenience sector

Bestway’s acquisition of Costcutter has shown there will be continued opportunities in the convenience sector and there is room for other convenience offers to expand and have a presence on the local high street, which is otherwise dominated by a small number of big players. The acquisition is likely to mean a far more coordinated roll out of Costcutter stores, potentially competing with the likes of Sainsbury’s Local, Tesco Express and The Co-Ops. The existing forces in this field are facing a diminishing amount of locations that are not already covered and their interest will be in aligning with new housing developments to continue growth given they have likely reached capacity in existing conurbations.


Rapleys Retail & Leisure team provide expert advice on the ever-evolving retail sector. Our comprehensive understanding enables us to meet clients’ needs, whether this is requiring a new leasehold or assisting in the disposal of assets.

For commercial-minded advice to support your endeavours, get in touch with Richard Curry, Retail & Leisure Partner at Rapleys.

Read some of Richard’s latest commentary in The Grocer:

How will Covid shape food and drink trends in 2021?

Variety discounters can ‘dictate’ property terms thanks to wave of CVAs

As published in Property Week on the 11 February


At the beginning of February, the billionaire Issa brothers and TDR Capital announced their plan to sell Asda’s petrol station business for £750m to EG Group. In December, Irish petrol station and roadside convenience operator Applegreen was taken private by its founders in a €718m (£631m) deal backed by Blackstone.

Mark Frostick, Automotive & Roadside Senior Associate, says the deal is “a good fit” for EG Group, as it gives EG “a lot of buying power and sites” and the EG Group’s deal is the “only way the firm can carry on growing their network as portfolios of that size are rarely up for grabs.”

Read the article in full here.

Hot on the heels of a consultation on permitted development, which closed late last month, the Government has launched another consultation exercise. This time, it is the turn of the Government’s drive to increase the profile of design in planning decisions (although it touches on other matters). At the same time, it appears that the stand-off between the Government and the London Mayor over the emerging London Plan is coming to something like a conclusion.

National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

The NPPF was last tweaked in February 2019, after a more comprehensive overhaul the previous year. The Government is now consulting on some fairly focussed tracked changes to the 2019 document, pending a more detailed review in the context of the Government’s proposals for wider reform (as trailed in last year’s White Paper). The headlines are:

  • Most of the changes, as expected, revolve around design. This includes confirmation that development that is “not well designed” should be refused planning permission (the current equivalent wording refers to planning permission being refused for “poor design”)
  • Changes are introduced which, it is assumed, are intended to discourage local authorities imposing Article 4 directions, which restrict or prevent permitted development (PD) in defined locations
  • As trailed in the national press over the last months, the Framework indicates that local authorities should have regard to the importance of retaining statues and plaques when proposals are put forward for their removal

National Model Design Code

The draft National Model Design Code follows on from, and sits alongside, the National Design Code published by the Government last autumn. It is intended to be a basis for the production of design codes and guides by local authorities, and also developers promoting large-scale proposals, and could be used to inform the preparation of local and neighbourhood plans and planning applications. The document splits the “coding process” into three parts, each informed by consultation:

  • Analysis – scoping and baseline research
  • Vision – analysis of the area, feeding to a masterplan
  • Coding – guidance and policies to apply to development

Although the Model Design Code is at pains to state that the codes and guides should be used flexibly, it is clear that – if the Design Code regime proceeds as the Government intends – a significant amount of additional resource, as well as a new skill set in most cases, will be required at local authorities. Further, it is likely to add an extra layer of information required to support major planning applications.

The London Plan

After almost a year of back and forth between the Mayor of London and the Government, the new London Plan (replacing the 2016 current version) has been approved by the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, for final publication.

However, in approving it, Jenrick has made clear that despite this green light, there remain (in his view) considerable shortcomings with the Plan in terms of meeting London’s housing need. As such, this is likely to be far from the end of the story, but at least it provides some clarity in terms of the planning policy position in the capital.


The current consultations are a further development in what appears to be the Government’s twin-track approach to planning, involving:

  • Reducing the scope of the planning system’s intervention in development by expanding the scope of PD (and specifically, in this consultation, by discouraging local authorities from restricting it), and at the same time
  • In circumstances where planning permission is required (at least until zoning aspects of the Government’s reforms are implemented), adding a new layer to planning policy and strategic decision making on a subject that, whilst important, is inherently subjective and time consuming.

As ever, time will tell how these two seemingly contradictory strategies will reconcile themselves. However, if you want to have your say on planning reform in the interim, or wish to discuss the opportunities to increase value of your portfolio through the reforms please contact Jason Lowes, Town Planning or a member of our nationwide team.

Birmingham City Council has today (26 January) launched a consultation on the future vision for Birmingham City Centre – the ‘Our Future City Plan: Central Birmingham 2040’ (OFCP) represents a momentous refresh of the hugely influential Big City Plan from 2011 and outlines an ambition to establish Birmingham as a green, equitable, liveable and distinctive city by 2040.

The Plan is guided by six strategic ‘City Themes’ – focused on creating a city characterised by multiple centres, inclusive growth, easy access to nature, multilayered culture, and knowledge and innovation – all of which could bring potentially bold changes to the city’s built environment.

Fundamental to achieving its vision, the OFCP proposes to redefine the extent of the city centre by looking beyond the inner ring road – which has long been a barrier to the evolution of the city – and out towards inner-city suburbs such as Balsall Heath, Bordesley Green, Lozells and Edgbaston, as a means to promote and link growth opportunities and investment to these communities.

The vision of the Plan is more pertinent than ever in the context of the city’s declaration of a Climate Emergency in 2019, its status as the UK’s first ‘Biophilic City’, and also the economic and social challenges to urban environments that have been exposed more recently as a result of Covid-19.

In terms of locations to be aware of, the Plan sets out a commitment to unlocking new and unrealised development opportunities for mixed-use development across eight Central Renewal Areas. These are: Hockley and St Georges; the Knowledge Quarter and Nechells; Digbeth and Bordesley; Park Birmingham; Smithfield and Rea Valley; Highgate and Balsall Heath; Edgbaston Village; and Ladywood. In these areas, the City Council will be proactive in developing, enabling and encouraging innovative delivery partnerships across community, development and investment sectors to bring about change.

These renewal areas will also sit alongside established major development sites such as Paradise, Arena Central and Smithfield, the delivery of which was initiated by the publication of the first Big City Plan.

To review the Plan and learn more about its vision, visit Birmingham City Council’s consultation website. It is important to note that feedback to the OFCP consultation will go on to inform the next stage of work – a draft Central Birmingham 2040 Framework, to be launched for consultation in the summer – and therefore Rapleys’ Planning team in Birmingham would be happy to assist with any queries or consultation responses you wish to make in relation to this. Please contact Jeevan Thandi or Sarah Smith for more information.

At the start of 2021 the number of electric cars registered in the UK soared to almost half a million (435,000). With a record 175,000 (approx.) new electric vehicles registered in 2020, a 66% rise on 2019, along with the UK policy to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 as part of its 2050 carbon neutrality target, forecourt operators are looking to understand what their future will be in this changing environment.

According to calculations by property and planning consultancy Rapleys, while significant change is on the horizon forecourts are facing an immediate economic headache over whether to invest in charging points, with further government action likely needed to ensure the roll out of EVs is successful, sustainable and builds on the infrastructure capacity and expertise offered by existing forecourts.

Daniel Cook, Partner in the Automotive and Roadside team at Rapleys, said:

“There are an estimated 13,347 charging locations currently across the UK. This compares favourably to around 8,500 filling stations. However, the majority of these charging locations are relatively small scale, with an average of three connectors per location. Currently, only around 25% of EV charging connectors are rapid or ultra-rapid. In order to provide scale in the market, the direction of travel must be for filling stations to increasingly incorporate or convert to electric charging. But there are a number of challenges to doing so quickly, not least the current time required for charging.

“Even rapid charging typically takes 30 minutes. With that added time spent on site, forecourts will need to be able to have the space to cater for larger volumes of traffic and new offerings to support dwell time, or they will have to raise the price of charging to make the economics work. This reality may mean increased consolidation in the forecourt sector as electric vehicles become more prevalent. Those with larger amounts of capacity and additional retail and leisure offerings, such as the big supermarkets and larger motorway service stations, may hold an advantage in the charging market. Those with large car parks, for example, may in the future be able to easily incorporate wireless EV charging on a pad in a parking space.

“Of course all of this ignores the fact that many owners of electric vehicles will charge their cars at home. It remains to be seen therefore what the overall impact will be in, say, 30 years’ time in terms of total number of filling / charging points but it is quite feasible that this overall number will continue to increase in the short to medium term, plateau and then decline with the switch from hydrocarbons. Owners of filling stations will unquestionably need to think about the longer term future of their sites and possible alternative uses.”


Mark Frostick, Senior Associate in the Automotive and Roadside team at Rapleys, added:

“The issue is scale, feasibility and convenience, and in many ways the market is in a chicken and egg situation. On the one hand, while the UK has a clear ambition to support electrification until there is mass take up of electric vehicles, the rationale for forecourts to invest in charging points is limited. To take one analogy, a forecourt operator converting to cater only for electric vehicles would have a smaller market than one deciding to sell petrol or diesel only to Toyota Yaris drivers![1] Indeed, it would be broadly equivalent to selling only to owners of Fords, BMWs or VWs registered in 2020![2] On the other hand until it’s as quick, easy and accessible to charge a car as it is to fill it with diesel or petrol the public are unlikely to take the plunge en masse, with many still concerned about the issue of range.

“Those forecourts looking to incorporate charging at scale may, for example, face significant costs and property challenges – for example the installation of an electricity substation can cost upwards of £100k and possibly require landlord consents.

[1] 509,839 Toyota Yaris on the road in 2019

[2] UK car registrations 2020: Ford (152777), BMW (115476), VW (148338)

“Clearly, without additional incentivisation penetration of electric vehicles into a market which now has more than 40m vehicles on the road is likely to be slow – they currently represent around 1%. Government has used the stick with the 2030 fossil fuel ban, it may now be time for the carrot.”

The Government have published the latest Housing Delivery Test (HDT) results for 2020. With the national lockdown announced in March, the Government has adjusted this year’s results by reducing the homes requirement for 2019-2020 by a month.

We have compared the 2020 results with those in 2019 to identify how Councils have fared over the last year.

Even with the one month reduction, notably and probably not unexpectedly in the circumstances, there has been a large increase in those in the Presumption category at the expense of those in the Buffer group.

Of the eight Presumption Councils of 2019, only two have improved their delivery sufficiently to move out of that category – City of London, with the lowest figure in 2019 of 32% and New Forest at 43%. Of the remaining six, Eastbourne and North Hertfordshire have the dubious honour of achieving an even lower score in 2020 than in 2019:

No doubt these authorities in particular will be feeling the pressure to improve their position next year.

If you have any property in these Council areas and require some planning advice, please do get in touch with Sarah Smith, Planning Partner at Rapleys or another member of our nationwide team.

As published in The Grocer on the 15 January


This time last year, few could have predicted a virus would wreak such havoc worldwide. In its wake, the grocery sector has endured challenges that would have seemed preposterous just 12 months ago. As a global vaccination effort gets underway it’s hard to say if we will see a return to normal, or will shoppers persist with the new habits they formed under lockdown?

Richard Curry, leading food store advisor at Rapleys shares his prediction on transient shopping and how this trend has benefited large supermarkets and roadside retailers.

Read the article in full here.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 brought all existing EU law into UK law (“EU retained law”), to ensure that it would continue to have legal effect after Brexit, giving powers to Ministers to make secondary legislation (statutory instruments) to operationalise in a UK context. 

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has now published a policy paper to explain the latest changes to the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as previously amended) to make sure that the Regulations operate effectively following Brexit. The focus is on changes to the transfer of functions from the European Union (EU) to appropriate authorities within England and Wales. All other terms and processes within the 2017 Regulations remain unchanged and as such the existing guidance is still relevant.

In this context, the key points to note are:

1. The creation of a national site network within the UK comprising the protected sites already designated under the EU Natura 2000 network, and any new sites designated under these Regulations – this relates to Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs),

2. the establishment of management objectives for the national site network (the ‘network objectives’). These network objectives are to –

  • maintain or, where appropriate, restore habitats and species listed in Annexes I and II of the Habitats Directive to a favourable
  • conservation status (FCS) and contribute to ensuring, in their area of distribution, the survival and reproduction of wild birds and securing compliance with the overarching aims of the Wild Birds Directive.

3. arrangements for reporting on the implementation of the Regulations, given that the UK no longer provides reports to the European Commission – this principle of reporting is also built into the Environment Bill still making its way through the Parliament process,

4. arrangements for amending the schedules to the Regulations and the annexes to the Nature Directives that apply to the UK,

5. arrangements replacing the European Commission’s functions with regard to the imperative reasons of overriding public interest (IROPI) test where a plan or project affects a priority habitat or species, and last but by no means least,

6. an amended process for the designation of, or amendment to, SACs and SPAs, including notably, the inclusion of a process to allow the declassification of such sites. The process to classify and declassify sites is the same, the principles being to assess if –

  • the site continues to meet the criteria for designation, and
  • the site’s contribution to the achievement of the conservation of natural habitats and species has been irretrievably lost.

Importantly, where declassification is proposed, appropriate authorities must make sure the coherence of the national site network is maintained, and the network objectives are achieved in other ways, such as designating new SACs or SPAs. Hopefully, these requirements will ensure that the integrity of the sites is maintained and that their protection is not weakened, but as ever, time and implementation of the Regulations will tell.

For those in the development and environment protection business, all of this is certainly something to monitor in itself going forward, but also in the context of potential implications for the revisions to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process and consideration of planning applications in the locality of the designated sites.

For further advice and guidance in respect of the Habitat Regulations or EIA, please contact Sarah Smith, Planning Partner and EIA lead at Rapleys.



As published in Premier Christian on the 19 December


Graham Smith has an unusual job. He is approached by, very often, a handful of members reluctantly told they want to sell their church building as they can’t keep up with the costs.

Talking to Premier Christian, Graham Smith, Charities Partner explains how he works with the community to find the best solution when selling a property on the churches behalf.

Graham also discusses the impact Covid has had, and how in 2021 we may see more small churches up for sale due to income struggles.

“A lot of the churches were already failing, Covid has just really exacerbated their closure because typically, the demographics are not the type of people who are wedded to their computers and screens and so having church services on Zoom, or Google or YouTube or whatever, would not have suited them. So that’s why they’ve probably closed and closed quicker than they might have done otherwise.”

Read the article in full here.

As published in Forecourt Trader on the 22 December


Petrol filling stations face a distinct set of issues when it comes to planning, both when developing a new site or expanding or altering an existing one.

Jason Lowes, Town Planning Partner shares a guide with readers of Forecourt Trader on navigating the town planning system and creating value.

Read the article in full here.

As published in The Planner on the 21 December


Last week the government released the social housing lettings statistics for April 2019 to March 2020, as well as the English Housing Survey for 2019/20 – both hot on the heels of the social housing white paper. Martin Gladwin considers what they tell us about the state of the social housing sector and its role in meeting housebuilding targets.

The social housing sector has a vital role to play in the government’s ambition to deliver 300,000 new homes a year, yet at present the number of new social housing developments is well below target, with only a 3 per cent increase in stock over the past decade, despite a strong political impetus, a pressing need to tackle homelessness, and 1.15 million households already on local authority waiting lists as of this year.

Read the article in full here.

The Government published its Energy White Paper on 14 December 2020. The document determines how the UK will increase deployment of green energy sources in order to help meet the 2050 Net Zero Carbon target. 

Research shows that buildings in the UK are the second-largest source of carbon emissions and that 90% of homes in England rely on fossil fuels for heating, cooking and hot water. The cost of decarbonising the UK’s social housing stock by 2050 is estimated to be over £100 billion, nearly £3.4 billion per annum. As the sector continues to scale-up retrofit pilot schemes, integration of low carbon technologies in newbuilds and a wide range of other measures to increase SAP ratings, it is clear that social landlords’ asset management and development teams must prioritise delivery of the Net Zero Carbon agenda within their business plans now.

The Energy White Paper maps out how the Government intends to move the UK towards widescale adoption of clean energy over the next 10 years and beyond, both for existing and new buildings. It contains issues of key significance for the social housing sector, including:

  • Introduction of a Future Homes Standard by 2025 to ensure all new buildings are ‘Zero Carbon Ready’;
  • Consultation to determine if new homes built after 2025 should not be connected to the gas grid;
  • As many existing homes to reach EPC Band C as minimum by 2030;
  • Review of the current Decent Homes Standard to support achievement of the 2030 EPC Band C target;
  • £110m funding support for further retrofit pilot schemes and projects over the next 2 years;
  • Fuel Poverty Strategy for England to be released in early 2021;
  • Extended financial support to low income households via ECO funding and the Warm Homes Discount Scheme; and
  • Consultation to commence in 2021 on alternative fuel sources, emerging technologies and Heat Networks.

We know that Social Housing landlords are already investing significant resources and finances into meeting Building Safety and Compliance requirements, newbuild targets and continued repairs and maintenance work. Delivery of the Net Zero Carbon agenda is a massive challenge, but also an opportunity for the sector. It is vital that landlords develop plans using accurate information and expert advice to ensure they make the best decisions for residents and their business. Through our network of UK offices, Rapleys provide clients with expert Asset Management consultancy services. If we can be assistance, please contact Martin Gladwin, Head of Housing Consultancy.

As published in The Grocer on the 11 December


The wave of retailers entering CVAs this year is playing into the hands of variety discounters such as B&M in property talks, according to experts.

Richard Curry, Partner in Retail & Leisure explains how variety discounters were able to dictate renewed leases “almost like a new lease scenario”, gaining “six months rent-free, a break at year-three, whatever terms you choose”.

Landlords are “so scared they’re going to clear off,” he said.

The BPF forecasts ongoing disruption from the pandemic “will undoubtedly mean many more [businesses] consider CVAs in the months to come”.

Curry said it also meant “more to come” for variety discounters’ property bargaining power.

Read the article in full here.

As published in Forecourt Trader on the 25 November


Town planning is Jason Lowes’ forte but he has a sense of adventure, loving road trips in the US and is hankering after a trip to Brazil

Get to know Jason a little better by reading his under the spotlight: 20 questions.

Read the article in full here.

Following changes to permitted development (PD) rights and the White Paper Planning Reforms published at the end of the summer, the Government has recently launched a further consultation on new Permitted Development rights, allowing a change of use from the new Commercial, Business and Service use class E to residential use class C3. It’s fair to say that most in the industry were expecting this, but perhaps not quite so soon, and it’s clear that the proposed new rights will have far reaching consequences for our high streets, town centres and beyond.

The consultation, published on 3 December, proposes new PD rights to allow the change of use from Class E (which includes retail, office, light industrial, gyms, medical facilities and nurseries) to residential dwellings without the need to obtain planning permission.

The PD right will apply to all Class E buildings, including those within Conservation Areas. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks, World Heritage Sites and Listed Buildings will be excluded from operation of the new right.

A prior approval application will be required, which should address a short list of criteria as follows:
•Flood risk;
•Noise impacts;
•Daylight / sunlight;
•Fire safety; and
•Residential amenity (in certain locations).

The prior approval application must include detailed floor plans and minimum space standards will be mandatory. To benefit from the new right, the building must have been in a use falling within use Class E on 1 September 2020. It appears that there will be no affordable housing or other planning obligation requirements, and no CIL liability where no new net floorspace is created.

The proposal forms part of the Government’s response to changing behaviours affecting the high street brought about by the rise of on-line retailing and the impact of COVID-19.

The rapidly changing face of our town centres demands radical action to re-imagine and re-vitalise what were once vibrant, busy commercial centres. The Government’s intention is clearly to allow change to occur swiftly with limited intervention in the process of change by Council planners.

For further advice on the reforms and to discuss the opportunities that the proposed PD rights introduce, please contact Neil Jones, Partner in the Town Planning team at Rapleys on 07774 652 426.

The Government published the Social Housing White Paper on 17 November. This document contains significant proposals that will change how social landlords operate, including new powers to the Social Housing Regulator, new tenant engagement and satisfaction measures and improved complaints processes.

Asset management teams will need to consider how they will implement proposed 4-yearly property compliance inspections, the potential impact of mandatory installation of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to all properties, and how to respond to an increased focus on a wide range of building safety matters.

The White Paper also confirms that a full review of the Decent Homes Standard will commence in 2021, seeking to modernise and extend the Standard to include building safety and security, energy efficiency and green space provision.

We know that Social Housing landlords will be keen to proactively respond to these changes at the earliest opportunity. Through our network of UK offices, Rapleys provide clients with expert Asset Management consultancy services. If we can be assistance, please contact Martin Gladwin, Head of Housing Consultancy.

As published in Motor Trader on the 24 November


The announcement of the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles being brought forward again to 2030 will lead to some potential issues for dealership properties.

Mark Frostick, Automotive & Roadside Senior Associate talks to Motor Trader on how motor dealerships will adapt to this significant change and why they should invest in electrical supplies to support their businesses.

Whilst almost all the manufacturers already have an electrical offer of some kind and the rest have plans to launch in the next few years, this shift will see a major change to how a dealership will operate.

Read the article in full here.

As published in Property Week on the 12 November


The Environment Bill, which was introduced to parliament last October, sets out measures for improving air quality, transforming waste management and protecting water resources. If it becomes law, it will have a big impact on developers, but the bill’s progress has encountered several delays, making it difficult to plan ahead. 

Sarah Smith, Town Planning Partner at Rapleys discusses the implications of the delays.

“The Environment Bill was drafted ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU. “Some 80% of the UK’s environmental legislation has been shaped by the EU over the last 30 years”

“As a response to Brexit, the Environment Bill is intended to set out a new environmental framework,” she says, adding that much of this is additional, as “many of the EU’s environmental protections have been transposed into UK law already”.

Read the article in full here.

Rapleys Asset Management team specialises in maximising income and value of property assets and minimising clients’ liabilities. In collaboration with our other specialised teams, our senior team of Partners have experience working with investors, occupiers, developers and landlords, in both the public and private sectors.

We concentrate on added value initiatives such as:
• Formulating asset and portfolio strategies
• Repositioning assets
• Change of use/reconfiguration
• Strategic refurbishments
• Redevelopment
• Re-gearing leases to improve terms and covenant
• Transaction management

Our sectors are:
• Residential
• Industrial & Distribution
• Office
• Retail & Leisure
• Automotive & Roadside
• Charities/non profit
• Affordable Housing
• Healthcare

What we do
We provide a one stop solution for the asset life cycle, from initial investment advice on acquisition, planning advice, redevelopment, project management, building consultancy, lease consultancy, management and disposal. Our service is flexible. It can be:
• End-to-end of the ownership cycle, by working alongside our Investment team to identify added value opportunities (pre-acquisition) and delivering these initiatives on acquisition, through to final exit or;
• Ad hoc advice to improve current asset performance during the hold period, by exploring change of use, re-development initiatives and lease re-gears.

Our strong nationwide team of 150 readily collaborate to drive “added value” initiatives for our clients, providing cross specialism advice. Our in-house sector specialists can immediately support initiatives with their excellent market knowledge and expertise, without relying on external advisers. The scale of Rapleys enables us to resource instructions, providing an efficient collaborative Partner-led approach.

Why Rapleys?
“The UK is in uncertain economic conditions, which will challenge your asset performance. Rapleys approach, combined with our breadth of experience and skill set will position assets to maximise performance and minimise liabilities – our independence enables clients to maintain discreet profiles, with a focused adviser who truly values long term relationships.”
Adam De Acetis, Head of Asset Management

“Rapleys asset manage Trident Industrial Estate on behalf of the Royal London Property Fund (The Fund). The mandate is led by Adam De Acetis, with support from a multi-disciplinary team. Over the period since acquisition, The Fund has benefited from both new leasing and lease restructuring transactions which have significantly added value. Rapleys has clearly demonstrated an ability to reposition an asset and drive investment performance.”
Andrew Johnston, Fund Manager, RLAM

To view examples of cross-specialism projects Rapleys Asset Management team have worked on please click here. To discuss how Rapleys can drive your asset performance contact Adam De Acetis.

As mentioned in a recent update the Government has introduced Regulations to amend the Use Classes Order and scope of Permitted Development. These provide opportunities to repurpose existing residential, commercial and retail assets without the need to obtain planning permission, providing greater flexibility in the face of uncertain and fluctuating market conditions.

Since the update was issued a claim for a Judicial Review has been submitted to the High Court on behalf of the campaign group Rights : Community : Action. The claim argues that the Regulations are unlawful and requests that they are quashed. A hearing is scheduled to take place on 14 and 15 October 2020.

The timing of the hearing is problematic as the Regulations came into force on 1 September 2020 and can be legitimately be utilised for their intended purposes (e.g. changing the use of a building, erecting an upward extension etc). However, should the claim be successful, and the Regulations quashed, it is possible that any changes of use or works undertaken since 1 September 2020 could be deemed unauthorised and require retrospective planning permission (which may or may not be granted). Therefore, until the claim is resolved, it is crucial that this risk is factored in when making decisions on whether to proceed with any changes of use or works which rely on the provisions of the new Regulations.

For advice on the new Regulations and the potential impacts of the Judicial Review please contact Tony Clements or Daniel Sharp.

Rapleys LLP has been following the Government’s proposed reforms to the planning system closely since the White paper and the proposed changes to the current system were published in early August. The principle of reforming the system is overdue and structural reform is necessary.

Our submissions to the first consultation can be found here; they are based on an analysis of every LPA in England and the implications of a more targeted standard methodology for determining housing figures.

We will be making further submissions to the White Paper consultation later this month.

If you would like to find out more, or if we can help please get in touch with Town Planning Partners Tony Clements, Duncan Parr, Sarah Smith, Richard Sykes-Popham or Neil Jones.

Each time a charity disposes of property, whether it is the sale or for leases of over seven years, a Charities Act Report has to be written by a qualified surveyor. This report, also known as a Qualified Surveyors Report (QSR), includes a valuation and a wider commentary of the circumstances that may need to be considered by the charity’s trustees. A Charities Act Report will represent the independent verification that the asset is disposed of in a manner that is in the organisation’s best interests and validate the strategic management of the charity.

Charities Act Report
Before a charity disposes of any interest in property its trustees are required to take valuation advice from a qualified surveyor to ensure that they execute the deal on the best terms that can be reasonably obtained for the charity. Whilst this is the case for a full disposal or a lease over seven years or over, for shorter term leases the requirement is less onerous requiring only a simplified review that does not have to be completed by a qualified surveyor.

Charities Act Reports are required for disposals including:
• Sales
• Leases over seven years
• Granting rights
• Assignment or surrender of leases

Trustees must:
• Obtain and consider a qualified surveyors report
• Advertise the disposal as advised by the surveyor
• Obtain the best terms reasonably attainable that are in the charity’s best interests

• Must act solely for the charity
• May write the Charities Act Report and act on behalf of the charity with the disposal
• Have valuation experience of the property type and location
• Be a member of Royal Institution of Surveyors (RICS)

A Charities Act Report (Qualified Surveyors Report) will include:
• A valuation
• Most appropriate method of disposal
• Advertising and marketing advice
• Whether to carry out works or repairs ahead of the sale
• Whether to divide the property into parts for disposal

When a Charity purchases a property, whilst not a legal requirement, getting professional support in the form of a Charities Act report is best practice for the same reasons outlined above regarding a disposal.

Rapleys Not for Profit Sector
In addition to the development consultancy and the agency work of the Rapleys Not for Profit sector, we are authors of a great number of Charities Act Reports for many clients. Rapleys are able to maintain the independence and objectivity for each report with a number of qualified surveyors registered as valuers by the RICS, working within the Charities Sector. Our recent register of Charities Act reports has included a variety of subject properties:
• Former charity school
• Vicarage
• Community hall
• Church
• Agricultural land
• Town centre retail outlet

If you require assistance with a Charities Act Report in reference to any of the property types above, please contact Rapleys Partners Graham Smith and Adam Harvey.

As published in Forecourt Trader on 14 September.


 A seven-fold increase in demand for petrol filling stations occurred in the first month following the easing of the UK’s Coronavirus lockdown restrictions, according to Rapleys, the property and planning consultancy. 

Rapleys’ Automotive and Roadside team, who manage the property needs of fuel retail operators of all sizes across the UK, received seven times as many enquiries in in the month of July, following the easing of lockdown restrictions, as they did in April during the height of the lockdown.

To read the article in full please click here.

Following new legislation introduced by the Government, a number of key changes have been brought in that affect property use classes. Those properties previously grouped together as D1 or D2 use are amongst those more significantly affected. As with all changes, there will be wrinkles to be ironed out in understanding how certain buildings fit into the new categories. In combination with Rapleys planning Team, we will be able to help clients with this substantial modification.

New Planning Use classes

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Regulations 2020 amend the previous categories from those of 1987 and introduce significant changes to the system of ‘use classes’.

In force from 1 September 2020, subject to certain transitional provisions, the core changes introduce three new use classes for the classification of uses of property.

Class E (Commercial, business and service): including retail, restaurant, office, financial/professional services, indoor sports, medical and nursery uses along with “any other services which it is appropriate to provide in a commercial, business or service locality.”

Class F.1 (Learning and non-residential institutions): including non-residential educational uses, and use as a museum, art gallery, library, public hall, religious institution or law court.

Class F.2 (Local community): including use as a shop of no more than 280 sq m mostly selling essential goods, including food and at least 1km from another similar shop, and use as a community hall, area for outdoor sport, swimming pool or skating rink.

To view the most recent Use Class Order as of Summer 2020, please click here.

Of particular interest to Charities and Not For Profit organisations is the deletion of the previous Classes D1 and D2, non-residential institutions and assembly and leisure uses respectively; they are both removed as shown in the table, and combined into new use classes that now have a much wider range of property types within each class than before.

A change of use within the same use class does not constitute development and therefore does not require planning permission, so more mixed-use and/or faster and more flexible changes of use should be possible in the future.

If you would like to discuss the three additional use classes, which may have an impact on managing your property requirements within the Charities and Not For Profit sector, please contact our specialist Partners, Graham Smith or Adam Harvey.

Alternatively, Rapleys Town Planning team can be contacted in conjunction with changes to the planning system.

As published in Property Week on the 6 August.


The government has released its long-awaited planning white paper, Planning for the Future. Its proposed reforms, including the replacement of Section 106 payments and fast-tracking “beautiful” buildings has been met with a mixed response from the property industry. 

Jason Lowes, Town Planning Partner at Rapleys shares his views on this radical reform.

“Announcements will not change the planning system overnight,” says Rapleys planning team partner

“The proposals are certainly radical, but with planning reform the devil is always in the detail,” said Jason Lowes, partner in the planning team at Rapleys.

“Experience shows it is likely to be some time before one can really judge how much of a game-changer the government’s initiatives will be, particularly as this is a consultation and we don’t know at this stage which measures will be implemented as currently proposed, and just as importantly which won’t.”

“It is likely to be some time before one can really judge how much of a game-changer the government’s initiatives will be.”

“The Government has hailed these proposed changes to the planning system as a means of getting Britain’s construction industry firing on all cylinders and generally encouraging economic recovery following Covid-19. What is clear at this stage however is that these announcements will not change the planning system overnight, as the consultation alone runs to nearly the end of October, and implementation of any measures is only likely to start early in the new year, at the earliest.”

Read the article in full here.

The long-promised Planning White Paper, heavily trailed in the media last weekend, has been released for consultation by the Government. The document promises “radical reform unlike anything we have seen since the Second World War” and “a significantly simpler, faster and more predictable system”. This is promoted in 24 proposals, upon which views are sought up to 29 October. The proposals are wide-ranging, and have the potential to affect almost all of the major aspects of the planning system – some of the more eye-catching proposals are summarised below:

  • Simplifying the Local Plan system to identify three types of land – “Growth” areas that are “suitable for substantial development”, “Renewal” areas “suitable for development”, and areas that are “Protected”.
  • Growth areas “would automatically be granted outline planning permission for the principle of development, while automatic approvals would also be available for pre-established development types in other areas suitable for building”.
  • Development management policies established at national level, with a suggestion that local development management policies be restricted to “clear and necessary” site or area-specific requirements.
  • Replacing the existing tests of soundness (including removal of the Duty to Co-operate with neighbouring authorities) with a single statutory “sustainable development” test.
  • Establishing a fixed 30-month period to develop Local Plans, streamlining the “disproportionate burden of evidence” that supports them.
  • Changes to how local housing need is assessed, seeking to address housing affordability and having regard to local constraints. A new standard method would be a means of distributing the national target of 300,000 new homes annually, and one million homes by the end of the Parliamentary term.
  • Housing Delivery Test and Presumption in Favour of Sustainable Development to be retained.
  • Faster and more certain decision-making, with “firm” deadlines. Legislation will be brought in requiring local authorities and the Planning Inspectorate to meet statutory timescales, with the possibility of sanctions if they fail to do so.
  • Neighbourhood Plans to be retained, with greater emphasis on incorporating digital tools and data in their preparation.
  • Local design guidance and codes to become binding on development. In addition, a “fast track for beauty”, reflecting the propositions of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission is mooted.
  • The current system of planning obligations is to be abolished and the Community Infrastructure Levy reformed to an “Infrastructure Levy”, with a mandatory nationally-set rate “to be charged as a fixed proportion of the development value above a threshold”. The Infrastructure Levy regime might be extended to include changes of use implemented through permitted development.
  • A radical overhaul of how people engage in the planning process, establishing a “digital-first approach” to engagement with local communities.
  • An overarching commitment to net-zero greenhouse gas emission by 2050.

In parallel, the Government has also released a more technical consultation paper for comment until 1 October. This seeks views on a range of matters, including:

  • The Government’s proposals to change how local housing need is assessed (as flagged in the White Paper).
  • How the “First Homes” home ownership scheme will be delivered through the planning process.
  • Extending “Permission in Principle” to major development.
  • Measures to assist small and medium size housebuilders, and new entrants to the housing market.

The Government is clearly heralding these changes as a root and branch reform of the planning system, and taken at face value it is fair to say that they would be. However, given that the Government is at consultation stage, it must be assumed that implementation of the proposals will not start in the coming months, some proposals may be subject to change, and some may not be implemented at all. Further, with planning reform the devil is always in the detail, and experience indicates it can take many years before the impact of any changes can be properly assessed.

With that in mind, we will be studying the detail of the consultation closely in the coming days, and will provide a more detailed analysis, going beyond the headlines, shortly. However, if you have any questions about the Government’s consultation, or would like Rapleys to help get your organisation’s voice heard, please contact one of our national team.

As published in Property Week on the 23 July


On 1 August, a new permitted development right (PDR) comes into force, which will allow additional storeys to be built on top of buildings without the need for planning consent.

The new PDR, which applies to detached residential blocks built between 1 July 1948 and 5 March 2018, was announced by housing secretary Robert Jenrick in early March. At the time, The Guardian wrote that it was “expected to transform the skyline of residential areas”, but less than a month away from its introduction, legal experts and airspace developers have conflicting views on how effective the new legislation will be.

Jason Lowes, Town Planning Partner shares his view on PDR.

“The line between getting planning permission and prior approval for permitted development may start to get blurred,” says Jason Lowes, a partner at Rapleys, adding that we are not quite at that point yet.

Read the article in full here.

As trailed a few weeks ago, the Government laid further changes to the planning system before parliament on Tuesday, bringing significant changes to the current Use Classes Order, coming into effect on 1 September 2020, and the Permitted Development regime, coming into effect on 31 August 2020, representing a major overhaul of key parts of the town planning regime.

• A new ‘Commercial, Business and Service’ Use Class: (Class E) will subsume and replace Use Classes A1 (Shops) (albeit with a notable exception – see below), A2 (Financial and Professional Services), A3 (Restaurants and Cafes) and B1 (Offices, Research & Development and Light Industrial), as well as certain D1 (Non-Residential Institutions) and D2 (Assembly and Leisure) uses such as health/medical centres, gyms and nurseries which will not fall within the new Class F. Under normal circumstances, this will permit premises to switch between these uses without the need for prior approval or planning permission. However, shops smaller than 280sqm mostly selling essential goods, including food, and at least “1km from another similar shop” will fall within a new Class F.2 (see below);

• Class D to be replaced by a new Class F: the current Use Classes D1 (Non-Residential Institutions) and D2 (Assembly and Leisure) will be revoked, and replaced with the following:
*Class F1 (Learning and Non-Residential Institutions) which will include educational premises, museums, galleries, libraries, public/exhibition halls, places of worship and law courts.
*Class F2 (Local Community) which will include some small shops (as detailed above), community halls and meeting places, outdoor sports and recreational facilities, swimming pools and skating rinks.

• Other Use Class Order changes: consequentially, a number of different land uses which currently fall into Use Classes will become sui generis, and therefore planning permission will be required to change to and from them, including: pubs and bars, hot food takeaways, music venues, bingo halls and dance halls.

• Permitted Development for the Demolition of Vacant Buildings to Residential Development: specifically, the demolition of a single detached purpose block of flats, or building used for office, research and development or industrial purposes, and its replacement by a single detached block of flats or detached dwelling within the footprint of the old building. The building to be demolished must have been vacant for a period of at least 6 months, have a footprint no larger than 1,000 sqm and be no taller than 18 metres. There is, also, a more wide-ranging prior approval process which will require confirmation from the Local Planning Authority that the new development is acceptable, before the work can commence. In this regard, the Local Planning Authority will consider, amongst other things: the design and appearance of the new building, possible transport and highway impacts, residential amenity impacts including the right to light, and the impact on heritage and archaeology.

• Two-storey Upward Extensions: the upward extension of existing dwellings and blocks of flats by up to two storeys. The rights will only apply to dwellings constructed between 1 July 1948 and 28 October 2018, and to buildings for flats, between 1 July 1948 and 5 March 2018. The new rights are also subject to a number of other limitations and conditions, including the requirement for prior approval from the Local Planning Authority in relation to matters such as the design and appearance of the new extension, possible transport and highway impacts, and residential amenity impacts including the Rights to Light.

Guidance providing further details about how the changes will work in practice is still to be published, but they are likely to have wide-ranging consequences. From a landowner and developer perspective, they are very likely to present a range of opportunities to repurpose existing residential, commercial and retail assets in order to respond and adapt to fluctuating market conditions. If you have any questions following these announcements, particularly in relation to the exceptions, limitations and conditions to such measures, please contact Jeevan Thandi or any member of our nationwide Town Planning team.

As published in Property Week on the 16 July


The government shut down many industries in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, but not the construction industry.

Virtual future: online meetings have stopped the planning process from grinding to a halt during lockdown, as an increase of VPCs (Virtual Planning Committees) take place.

Duncan Parr, Town Planning Partner comments “Put simply, without the ability to progress applications virtually, the planning system in large parts of the country would grind to a halt, particularly affecting large and important schemes and having a detrimental impact on the long-term development pipeline,”

Read the article in full here.

As published in RICS –  Journal for July / August 2020


An article by Dan Tapscott, Partner and Head of Neighbourly Matters and Angela Gregson of Child & Child. A recent case Peter Knox QC in Beaumont v Florala [2020] has illustrated how new technologies might be used to measure losses of light.

The recent judgment of Peter Knox QC in Beaumont v Florala [2020] EWHC 550 CH was met with some surprise by commentators. In this case, the owner of neighbouring land obtained an injunction ordering the cutback of a development that caused relatively small losses of light to the claimant’s office accommodation. In this article, we consider the court’s comments on the methods of measuring losses of light in the context of the future of how these losses should be measured.

Among other things, the court considered both the Waldram analysis and radiance testing methods.

Waldram analysis uses the principles set out by Percy Waldram in the 1920s, whereby a proportion of light (1/500th of a notional sky dome from a given point within the room being tested) is calculated at multiple points, to show where diffuse skylight can reach the working plane. Before Beaumont v Florala, the Waldram method was the only method of measuring rights to light that had ever been considered by the courts.

To read the article in full please click here.

Rights to Light and Daylight & Sunlight Amenity are two separate neighbourly matters which require consideration during the course of a development. Ignore them and they can have serious implications on a scheme. Embrace them and there is scope for maximising the development potential on your site.

Rights to Light and Daylight & Sunlight Amenity are two separate neighbourly matters which require consideration during the course of a development. Ignore them and they can have serious implications on a scheme. Embrace them and there is scope for maximising the development potential on your site.

A Right to Light is an easement, similar to a Right of Way, where apertures such as windows, doors, even rooflights, can acquire or be granted rights that are protected by law.

The easiest way of considering the light which can be protected is thinking about the amount of ‘blue sky’ which can be seen at the working plane (roughly desk or kitchen work surface height) within a room.

If ‘interference’ in the level of ‘blue sky’ is caused by the construction of a new building or structure and this is deemed to be to an unreasonable degree, then there may be grounds for the neighbour to take action. An objection could then be raised through the courts that could lead to either damages in the form of compensation being paid or even worse, an injunction being granted to cease construction and / or remove the offending part of the development causing the injury.

By contrast, Daylight & Sunlight Amenity is purely a Planning matter with the final decision as to what is considered acceptable belonging to Local Authorities. This subject reviews the orientation of buildings, room uses and the effects on external amenity space in terms of shadowing. It also considers the light within a development itself; not just the surrounding properties.

This should be a reminder to all developers, large or small, not to confuse these two subjects; just because a scheme may have been granted planning permission, this does not necessarily mean it can be constructed without further action. If a Rights to Light risk management strategy has not been fully developed or if the disclosure of sensitive information is prohibited by an insurer, tabling the wrong report could be significantly detrimental to a development proceeding.

It is therefore crucial that consideration of these subject areas is given as early as possible, designing out risks or managing them accordingly.

For further advice on the above or any other Neighbourly Matters such as Party Wall or Access Arrangements for crane oversail, scaffolding or hoarding licences, Rapleys Neighbourly Matters team operating throughout the UK will be well placed to assist.


Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced measures that are promoted as “the most radical reforms to our planning system since the Second World War, making it easier to build better homes where people want to live”.

Much of the announcement anticipates further reform of the permitted development regime, to allow the following without the need for planning permission:
• The change of use of retail floorspace to other town centre uses;
• The expansion of the types of commercial premises that can be converted to residential;
• The redevelopment of “vacant and redundant” sites, provided they are developed for housing, and
• Upward extensions—coming hot on the heels of last week’s proposed changes to the permitted development regime (which included the ability, under certain circumstances, to build new homes on top of existing blocks of flats).

Although many developers and landowners would support the above initiatives, those watching closely will recall that very similar measures were subject to consultation, by the Government, over a year and a half ago.

Also announced was the commitment to a cross-government strategy to improve the use of public land, alongside reiteration of spending commitments.

We can expect further detail relative to the above in next month’s planning policy paper, which it is said will introduce “comprehensive reform of England’s seven-decade old planning system, to introduce a new approach that works better for our modern economy and society”. Following this will be a “Local Recovery White Paper”, which will, amongst other matters, introduce wider deregulation. Therefore, there will evidently be a few more hurdles to come before all of the reforms come into force.

As ever, Rapleys will continue to keep a close eye on the Government’s planning reform initiatives, and continue to issue regular updates once announcements are made. In the interim, if you have any questions following the Government announcements, please contact Jason Lowes, Town Planning at Rapleys or any other member of our nationwide team.

Planning updates are coming thick and fast this Summer. Following the Government’s announcements on Monday, the associated Business and Planning Bill has received its first reading in Parliament. This includes the further legislation required to enact the following interventions to support the development industry:

  • ‘Automatic’ extensions to time-limits for implementation of planning permissions, where these would have expired during the lockdown period;
  • ‘Fast-tracking’ requests for changes to construction working hours; and
  • Greater flexibility for planning appeal proceedings.

The Bill also includes a series of changes to licensing laws to ease rules for consuming food and drink outdoors.

The ‘automatic’ extensions will come into force 28 days after the Act is passed, the construction site working hours proposal will come into force six days after the Act is passed, while the appeal procedure flexibility would be implemented as soon as the legislation is passed.

Most notably, the detail on the ‘automatic’ extensions confirms the following:

  • Planning permissions with expiry dates ranging from 28 days after the date on which the Bill is enacted to 30 December 2020 will benefit from an automatic time limit extension up to, but not beyond, 1 April 2021.
  • Planning permissions that have already expired during the lockdown period (i.e. between 23 March and any day up to 28 days after the Bill is enacted) will be required to secure ‘additional environmental approval’ from the relevant local authority, who will have 28 days to respond to any request for such approval, with deemed approval being the default position if no response is received in that timescale. The additional approval process, in short, requires that the LPA is satisfied that environmental impact assessment and/or habitats assessment information is up to date.
  • The extension provisions will also apply in a similar manner to outline permissions, where there are deadlines for submission of reserved matters or the commencement of works, which have expired, or are due to expire, in the above period (23 March – 31 December 2020).
  • Listed building consents with ‘expiry’ dates from 23 March, up until 31 December 2020, will benefit from automatic renewal until 1 April 2021.

The Bill is due to be ‘fast-tracked’ through all stages of Parliamentary approval in the coming days. It will be advisable to document any extension in writing, with the relevant authority, to avoid any future uncertainty.

In other Planning news, changes to Permitted Development (PD) rights have also been announced, which come into force from 1 August. These will allow existing blocks of flats to be extended upwards by two storeys to create new homes without the need for planning permission. The new right is restricted to buildings of three storeys or more and the extended building must not be more than 30 metres in height. The right only applies to buildings built after 1 July 1948 and before 5 March 2018. Prior approval will be required, which will consider transport and highways impacts; air traffic and defence asset impacts; contamination and flooding risks. In addition, Councils can consider external appearance; daylight; impact on neighbouring amenity and protected views.

Further reforms of the planning system are expected over the Summer, including a new PD right to allow the demolition of existing commercial premises and replacement with new build homes. This is seen as a response to the rapidly changing nature of demand for office and retail space, in particular in town and city centres, as a result of Covid-19.

We will provide regular updates on what is currently a fast changing planning system. In the meantime please get in touch with Neil Jones or any member of our national planning team for further advice.




The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) yesterday announced further measures intended to assist the development industry and boost the economy, including:

  • ‘Automatic’ extensions to time-limits for implementation of planning permissions, where these would have expired during the lockdown period;
  • ‘Fast-tracking’ requests for changes to construction working hours; and
  • Greater flexibility for planning appeal proceedings.

MHCLG stated that the new measures will be introduced this week, albeit they will require secondary legislation to be passed before coming into effect.

‘Automatic’ time-limit extensions

Following strong lobbying from within the industry, the Government has followed some of the devolved nations in confirming that planning permissions which have expired, or are due to expire, during the lockdown period will benefit from an automatic time-limit extension. This means that planning permissions (and listed building consents) which expired from 23 March, or will expire before 31 December this year, will remain valid until 1 April 2021.

Fast-track for changes to construction hours

The Government will temporarily introduce a new fast track route to apply for changes to planning restrictions on construction hours, to allow longer hours to support safe construction working. Local Authorities will have 14 days to determine applications, after which time they would be deemed to be approved. This measure is intended to be in force until 1 April 2021, but will not apply to construction work on individual houses.

Greater flexibility for Planning Appeal procedures

Currently, regulations only permit the pursuit of planning appeals, in any given case, under one procedure (written representations, hearing or inquiry). The proposed changes, which would be permanent, will allow more than one procedure to take place at a time, with the intention of speeding up the decision making process for inquiries and hearings.

In principle, these measures are welcomed as interventions that seek to support the development industry in uncertain and challenging times. There is little detail in yesterday’s announcement, and as ever this will be key to the effectiveness of the measures.

We will provide updated commentary when this detail is known, but meanwhile, should you require any further advice at this stage, please contact Neil Jones or any member of the Planning team.

As the government takes the first tentative steps to bring us all out of lockdown, measures to make it easier for the housing market and planning system to operate have been included in a raft of announcements made over the last 48 hours. These measures, when followed safely, can only be welcomed by everyone in the industry. They will further mitigate the impact of current events on the housing market and planning system, over and above the extensive efforts already being made at a national and local level to, as far as possible, keep local plans and planning applications moving.

Restarting the Housing Market

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced a series of measures to allow buyers and renters to complete purchases and view properties in person, while estate agents, conveyancers and removals firms can return to work while following social distancing guidelines. In addition, and as well as reiterating planning related guidance released shortly before the speech (see below), measures were announced to allow builders to agree more flexible site working hours with the local authority to assist social distancing, not least to ease pressure on public transport.

New Central Government Guidance

The government has released further guidance about how the planning system should continue to adapt to the ongoing situation, this includes:

  • CIL: Amendments to the current CIL regulations will be introduced to help address cashflow issues for small and medium-sized developers with an annual turnover of less than £45 million. The amendments will enable charging authorities to defer payments, to temporarily disapply late payment interest and provide a discretion to return interest already charged.
  • Publicity and Consultation for Planning Applications: New regulations come into force today (Thursday 14 May) which supplement the existing statutory publicity arrangements for planning applications, listed building consent applications and environmental statements. The regulations extend the minimum time period given to residents to make representations and remove the requirement for physical hard copies of certain documents (e.g. environmental statements) to be available for inspection.
  • Local Plans: MHCLG are looking at temporarily relaxing requirements on community engagement and the need for physical documents. They are also engaging with the Planning Inspectorate on the use of virtual hearings and written submissions.

Significantly, the guidance includes confirmation that there will be no amendments to application time limits, with the rights of applicants to appeal against non-determination remaining unchanged.

Other news

The Planning Inspectorate has updated its guidance in relation to Covid-19, confirming that:

  • Inspector site visits will now resume, breaking a significant logjam in the process.
  • The first digital appeal hearing was deemed a success, and the Inspectorate is planning 20 examinations, hearings and inquiries in May and June. A major step towards Robert Jenrick’s request that the Inspectorate “make all hearings virtual within weeks”.
  • A variety of methods need to be used when prosecuting these virtual events, reflecting the fact that the public have differing levels of access to digital technology.

As we have confirmed in previous newsletters, many in the planning industry have been struck by the great efforts that have been taken to keep the planning system moving through what are unprecedented events. It is hoped these further measures will build on that, and it is very likely that some of the reforms that are being brought in now will stick long after the current situation has passed.

If you would like to discuss the above further, please get in touch with Dan Sharp or a member of Rapleys nationwide team.

As published in Planning Resource on 30 April 2020.

The secretary of state last week allowed two appeals totalling more than 800 homes on green belt sites. Commentators suggest that the decisions indicate the weight that ministers place on schemes’ potential contribution to meeting housing need when considering whether they demonstrate the “very special circumstances” required for green belt permission.

Generations of young planners have passed through the doors of Oxford Brookes University’s Wheatley campus. It is fitting therefore that the site, located 3.5km outside of Oxford, should have been the site of a potentially significant planning decision.

In the second of two important decisions on green belt sites, both issued last week, housing secretary of state Robert Jenrick granted the university permission to redevelop the campus and turn it into 500 homes. Just a couple of days earlier, Jenrick had approved plans for 325 homes and a special needs school in the Greater Manchester green belt in Stockport.

However in both appeals, the most important factor was meeting housing need. Claire Dutch, partner and co-head of planning and environment at law firm Ashurst, said the Stockport decision “swung” on the issue of housing need. Similarly, housing was the key factor in the Oxford Brookes decision, said Jason Lowes, town planning partner at Rapleys. “Even though there was a five-year supply, the fact that there was such a shortage of affordable housing was given strong weight.” While meeting housing need in itself is not usually deemed very special circumstances by councils, said Lowes, it formed a large part of the secretary of state’s thinking in both of these decisions.

Lowes believed that while housing need was probably given sufficient weight in the Oxford Brookes decision to justify consent, other factors were deemed to be important too, such as the benefit of getting rid of the campus’s tower that looms over the surrounding countryside. Burden agreed, adding: “It’s not saying that residential sites in the green belt are up for grabs – you have to look at the special circumstances of the site and the planning constraints.

To read the article in full please click here.

As published in Property Week on 30 April 2020.

Roadside retail was in the fast lane before Covid-19 struck. UK petrol forecourt property value grew by 3% in 2019, its eighth consecutive year of growth, according to the Barber Wadlow/Experian Catalist Forecourt Property Index. This is being driven by growing profits, which were also up 3% in 2019.

Customer Flow

Pay at pump terminals are also key to improving vehicle circulation and ensuring customer flow is not stifled by the growing range of goods and services on offer. So too is ‘pay and spray’ contactless technology, allowing motorists to pay for jet washing their cars without needing to queue in store. Many operators are installing banks of up to five jet washes on mostly residential sites because of the boost to profits they can deliver.

It may come as a surprise that services like this, along with offerings such as coffee and food to go, are playing a greater role in the growing size of forecourt sites than technology that’s expected to eventually revolutionise the way world gets from A to B: electric vehicles (EV).

“We’re in a chicken-and-egg situation regarding the provision of reliable charging points nationwide which address consumer anxieties around range versus the inevitable explosion in electric cars with bigger batteries,” says Phil Blackford, head of automotive & roadside at property and planning consultancy Rapleys.

Indeed, just 0.5% of the UK’s licensed cars were ultra-low emission vehicles such as pure electric or plug-in electric/petrol or diesel hybrids in 2018, according to Department for Transport figures.

Yet by 2030 this is expected to have grown to between 7% and 27% and to between 49% and 89% by 2040, predicts the National Grid. One reason for the gap between the highest and lowest expectations for EV take up is the scale of the barriers that need to be overcome.

To read the article in full please click here.

Gateway 14 Ltd, advised by its development manager Jaynic, has appointed property consultants Avison Young and Rapleys to market the 156-acre mixed-use and logistics scheme at Junction 50 of the A14 at Stowmarket, Suffolk. Jaynic was appointed as development manager earlier this month.

Strategic real estate advisor Avison Young has been appointed to market the overall scheme both in the UK and internationally and Rapleys has been appointed to investigate the roadside potential of the site given its immediate proximity to the A14. A further marketing agency appointment will be made in the near future with local and regional expertise to identify occupier demand in East Anglia.

Sir Christopher Haworth, chairman of Gateway 14, said: “We are moving ahead rapidly with Gateway 14 and realising our vision of delivering a multi-million pound boost for the wider economic area of Mid Suffolk. We are delighted to have Avison Young and Rapleys on board alongside Jaynic to deliver this very exciting scheme.”

Ben Oughton, development director of Jaynic, said: “This is a key site for Stowmarket, and East Anglia as a whole and with the help of Jaynic and the agents we are seeking to attract a mix of occupiers providing a range of employment opportunities that could create thousands of jobs for the town.”

John Allan, Director, National Industrial & Distribution at Avison Young, said: “We are delighted to have been appointed as lead marketing agent on this strategically important scheme for Suffolk.”

Alfred Bartlett, Head of Retail & Leisure Group at Rapleys LLP, said: “We are delighted to have been instructed to advise on this strategically located and highly prominent opportunity, and look forward to working with Jaynic to bring the development forward. Our appointment at such an early stage in the master planning of the scheme allows us to influence the layout, mix make up of occupier to reflect the market and more importantly adapt to specific operators’ requirements. We would encourage interested parties to make contact to discuss how they might be accommodated at Gateway 14.”

Gateway 14 Ltd, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Mid Suffolk District Council and has just appointed Jaynic as the development manager for the scheme. This will provide up to 2.3 million sq ft of business, logistics and commercial accommodation over the next 10-15 years, with the first buildings being available in 2021/2. A planning application will be submitted by the end of 2020, to enable a phased development on the 156-acre site.

The masterplan layout is still being developed, however the site could accommodate logistics buildings up to 1,000,000 sq ft, with roadside uses alongside the A14 frontage, and headquarters office/R&D campus style buildings.

The site can support the growth of creative and technology businesses, a sector which is already important to Mid Suffolk, while also maximising opportunities for inward investment and job creation.

The A14 corridor is one of the principal trunk routes for UK logistics offering access from the Port of Felixstowe into the heart of the UK and it is also a primary route for export to European and world markets. The site is 26 miles from the Port of Felixstowe, 12.5 miles to Ipswich and the A12, and 45 miles to M11 and links to Cambridge.


Agents contact details: John Allan – Avison Young
Alfred Bartlett – Rapleys –

As published in CoStar on 22 April 2020.


Will Primrose, Senior Surveyor in the Retail & Leisure Group at Rapleys, looks at the rights and obligations.

Recent weeks have seen massive uncertainty across near enough all business sectors as a result of the Coronavirus, and the Government recently announced a further three-week extension to the lockdown. The majority of retail and leisure occupiers are suffering from a complete suspension of trade and many landlords have announced breaks, rent reductions or rent holidays to aid them during this period. Many operators will have questions regarding their rights and obligations during this unprecedented crisis. Will Primrose, Senior Surveyor in the Retail & Leisure Group at Rapleys addresses some of these key questions.

Can a tenant adversely affected by Coronavirus terminate their lease?

Essentially the answer is no – the only exception in this case would likely be if their lease contained a rolling break clause. Commercial leases generally don’t contain force majeure clauses. The only common factor that would change this is if the tenant went into liquidation.

Can a tenant withdraw from an exchanged Agreement for Lease?

This will depend on the provisions and clauses within the Agreement for Lease (AFL). We will likely see Coronavirus Clauses becoming more common within legal documents. Standard force majeure clauses usually refer to events such as terrorist attacks, wars, acts of God and do not apply here. However, we are seeing Pandemic Clauses become more prevalent. A possible reason for a tenant to withdraw would be on a conditional AFL, with the landlord unable to satisfy certain conditions – for instance delivering a scheme before a long stop date due to issues resulting from Covid-19.

Can a tenant withhold rent or pay a reduced amount due to the financial implications of COVID-19?

The simple answer is no, the tenant is not automatically entitled to such benefits. Rent suspension provisions (common in most leases) don’t apply here as they relate to damage to the premises by insured / uninsured risks. However, Landlords are encouraged to be sympathetic during this time. Covid-19 may lead to CVA’s for tenants, which involves negotiation with all of their creditors, including landlords. A rent holiday can mean a number of outcomes and the tenant is unlikely to be fully released from their payment obligation. It is more likely that a negotiation will result in a deferral / repayment programme. It is advised that these are documented by a solicitor.

Can a landlord evict a tenant for non-payment of rent?

We are now seeing these unfortunate issues coming to the press following the March quarter day. The Coronavirus Act 2020 introduced last month banned forfeiture until 30 June 2020 – or longer if the government deems necessary – for non-payment of rent. However, at the time of reporting they do not prevent landlords from taking steps to force tenants to pay rent withheld because of the lockdown and a number have decided to pursue statutory demand notices and Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR). This can be catastrophic for a tenant with little or no income. Whilst many tenants are having open and constructive discussions with their landlords during this difficult, period, others are in danger of receiving statutory demand notices or winding up orders.

Does a tenant have to continue paying Business Rates?

Under a lease the tenant is usually responsible for Business Rates. There have been government initiatives and concessions to assist them, particularly in Retail & Leisure. During a lease, Business Rates are an arrangement between the tenant and Local Authority, not the landlord.

Whose responsibility is it to manage the virus within a let premise?

The tenant, as they will have a covenant within their lease to comply with all acts of parliament, by-laws and regulations; including health and safety of all customers employees and visitors. However, it should be noted of the difference between leases of whole and leases of part. It can get more complicated when common parts are a factor – e.g. within multi-let office buildings and shopping centres.

How are tenants with a Keep Open covenant being affected?

Whilst many leases in the retail sector contain these Keep Open clauses (e.g. shopping centres or with anchor tenants), in ‘normal’ circumstances these are not usually enforced. Courts are typically reluctant to implement Keep Open clauses and you would expect implementation to be even less likely in the current climate – especially with the aforementioned Government protection for tenants affected by COVID-19.

What are some of the Landlord’s obligations in this situation?

A key obligation will be to comply with Government guidelines which will likely fall within their service charge and estates obligations – a situation that has escalated quickly in the last few weeks. In conjunction with Government guidelines, what started as an obligation to provide enhanced hygiene / sanitising products has become full premises closures. Costs for measures such as deep cleaning, hand sanitisers and other items are usually recoverable for the landlord through the service charge.

Any potential risks to a landlord here?

Potentially. In theory the tenant could make a case that the recent closures mean that the landlord would be liable for damages under a lease under derogation from grant – e.g. breach of quiet enjoyment of the premises or loss of profits. Again, if such claims are brought forward, you would imagine the courts would be reluctant to award damages in this climate with the Government’s lockdown and social distancing guidelines as the backdrop.


As is often the case with landlord and tenant relationships, it is a question of who bears the loss? Whilst a lot of press has been about landlords being sympathetic to tenants, they rely on their rental income for many reasons – to pay borrowings, loans, staff etc. We are now seeing figures published which emphasise the drop in rents that some landlords are receiving and many have as much to be concerned about as tenants. A collaborative approach that focuses more on open discussions and negotiation rather than litigation is going to be key here.

In a move to further the significant Town Planning successes Rapleys has already been delivering in the region, the firm is delighted to welcome to the partnership, from April, its new lead of Town Planning in Cambridge, Richard Sykes-Popham.

Richard, previously of Carter Jonas and Januarys, brings with him a wealth of experience in Cambridge and across the eastern region and enjoys an excellent reputation as a trusted and focused planning advisor.

He joins, the business, as a Partner.

Richard’s background has given him exposure to a broad range of work and to business and team management. In addition to the promotion of planning applications and appeals, Richard has a particular focus on public inquiries, Examinations in Public (EiPs), environmental impact assessment, green belt cases and sustainable urban extensions.

He is able to bring his expertise, to the table, on town planning and wider multidisciplinary instructions: the latter in association with our other service lines in the Cambridge office, including development consultancy.

On his move to Rapleys Richard commented: “I am delighted to be at Rapleys. In the process of joining I have been able to get a good measure of their ethos and values, which have the firm’s clients and its people at their centre. The culture of the practice coupled with its excellent fundamentals make it an extremely exciting business to be part of. My focus will be on getting our planning services to clients and to ensure that we add value in the pursuit of future instructions and commissions.”

Rapleys’ Senior Partner, Robert Clarke, adds “I am delighted to welcome Richard to the partnership. He is a significant appointment in the growth of the Cambridge office. He brings a wealth of local, and national, experience to the business: to the benefit of our client base. I have no doubt that, under his leadership, the town planning team, in Cambridge, will become an important player in the city, its hinterland and wider region”.

In common with all aspects of day-to-day life, the property world has been hugely affected by current events. However, in terms of the planning system there is a huge push by government at national and local level to “keep calm and carry on” as much as is possible. Therefore, if they are in position to, there are several things that companies with property portfolios can do to protect themselves in the immediate term, and prepare for the future, once the storm has passed. 

1. Keep monitoring local plans and applications of interest
Although there are well publicised delays to local plan examinations and planning committees, most local authorities are still doing what they can towards the preparation of local plans and processing planning applications, so it is still vitally important to keep a close eye on local plan consultations, and the progress of planning applications, that are relevant to you.

2. Take stock of what you have
Even if you are not able to actively promote development at the moment, the current situation provides an opportunity to step back and review portfolio strategy.

3. Don’t lose your planning permissions
There are rumours that the Government will announce measures to extend the life of planning permissions. However, until then make sure you are discharging any relevant conditions and planning obligations, in the interests of commencing development at the earliest possible stage.

4. Instruct ecological surveys
Such surveys are time critical, as they can only be taken at certain times of the year, and for many species we are coming into season. Despite the lockdown, a number of ecological consultants are still able to carry out surveys. To avoid missing the window, make sure these are undertaken so you don’t have to wait another year.

5. Keep your eye on the ball
Measures to encourage development and keep the planning system going are being announced on a very regular basis. Make sure that you are up-to-speed with all the changes as they happen.

As the situation is constantly changing, so are the regulations and responses that are being put in place to support the system. For example, and as reported in our previous newsletter, the Coronavirus Act 2020 has received royal assent last week to enable planning committees to ‘meet’ without being together in the same place – regulations providing further detail of this were published this week, and will be reported in full in our next newsletter. Also, some local authorities are seeking to reduce the need for committees in the first place, by expanding powers of delegation.

Rapleys will continue to closely monitor the situation and will keep you updated. If you have any questions or wish to discuss this or any other queries you might have arising as a result of the current circumstances, please contact Jason Lowes, Town Planning at Rapleys.

As published in Property Week on 7 April 2020.


As part of the UK government’s response to Covid-19, Boris Johnson announced the closure of all pubs, restaurants, cafes and leisure facilities, with the closure of retail units following shortly afterwards.

The exception to the rule is a relatively small number of essential services such as supermarkets and other food shops, pharmacies, post offices and petrol stations.

To assist in supporting businesses through the coronavirus outbreak, the government has temporarily relaxed planning legislation to allow pubs, restaurants and cafes to speedily implement a change of use and operate temporarily as food takeaways.

Hot food takeaways operate in a different land use to pubs, restaurants and cafes, and would ordinarily require the submission of a planning application to the local authority. An over-concentration of hot food takeaways is commonly resisted by many local authorities owing to their perceived impacts on residential amenity, including noise, odours and loitering, as well as more general concerns relating to public health. However, in light of lockdown restrictions, limited food supplies and the closure of many businesses, the need for takeaways and food deliveries is more essential than ever and they are in incredibly high demand.

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order is a statutory instrument permitting certain types of development without the need for planning permission, including both physical development and changes of land use. To enable pubs (use class A4), restaurants and cafes (use class A3) to operate for the provision of takeaway food, amendments to the order were laid before parliament on 23rd March 2020 and came into force the following day.

The provision of takeaway food is interpreted as: “any use for any purpose within class A5 of the schedule to the use classes order, and any use for the provision of hot or cold food that has been prepared for consumers for collection or delivery to be consumed, reheated or cooked by consumers off the premises.”

The change of use can be brought into force any time between 24 March 2020 and 23 March 2021 and is subject to the following conditions:

  • The developer must notify the local planning authority that the land is being used for the provision of takeaway food during the period;
  • The use of the land for the provision of takeaway food does not affect the use class for the purposes of the use class order – in other words, the original land use is retained even during use of the permitted development right;
  • The use of the building and its land will revert to its previous lawful use at the end of the relevant period, or earlier if the temporary use ceases before 23 March 2021.

Those wishing to benefit from the amended legislation must therefore notify the local planning authority to ensure the temporary use is lawful, and must be aware that any physical changes associated with the temporary use are likely to still require planning permission (for example, the installation of an external flue).

Jason Lowes is a partner and Olivia St-Amour an associate at planning and property consultancy Rapleys.


Recent weeks have seen massive uncertainty across near enough all business sectors, nowhere more so than in the Retail & Leisure sector. An issue that has been well publicised throughout the press is tenant’s obligations on their lease – with many seeking breaks and rent reductions/holidays as the impact of Covid-19, and particularly the ongoing lockdown, on property assets has become apparent. Some common Questions & Answers below.

Can a tenant adversely affected by Coronavirus terminate their lease?
Essentially the answer is no – the only likely exception in this case would be if their lease contained a rolling break clause. Commercial leases generally don’t contain force majeure clauses.

Can a tenant withdraw from an exchanged Agreement for Lease?
This will depend on the provisions and clauses within the Agreement for Lease (AFL). We will likely see Coronavirus Clauses becoming more common within legal documents. Standard force majeure clauses usually refer to events such as terrorist attacks, wars, acts of God and do not apply here.

A possible reason for a tenant to withdraw would be on a conditional AFL, with the landlord unable to satisfy certain conditions – for instance delay to Practical Completion (PC) due to issues resulting from Covid-19.

Can a tenant withhold rent or pay a reduced amount due to the financial implications of Covid-19?

The simple answer is no, the tenant is not automatically entitled to such benefits. Rent suspension provisions (common in most leases) don’t apply here as they relate to damage to the premises by insured/uninsured risks. However, Landlords are encouraged to be sympathetic during this time.

Covid-19 may lead to CVA’s for tenants, which involves negotiation with all of their creditors, including landlords. A rent holiday can mean a number of outcomes and the tenant is unlikely to be fully released from their payment obligation. It is more likely that a negotiations will result in a deferral/repayment programme. It is advised that these are documented by a solicitor.

Does a tenant have to continue paying Business Rates?
Under a lease the tenant is usually responsible for Business Rates. There have been government initiatives and concessions to assist them, particularly in Retail & Leisure. During a lease, Business Rates are an arrangement between the tenant and Local Authority, not the landlord.

Whose responsibility is it to manage the virus within a let premise?
The tenant as they will have a covenant within their lease to comply with all acts of parliament, by-laws and regulations; including health and safety of all customers employees and visitors. However, it should be noted of the difference between leases of whole and leases of part. It can get more complicated when common parts are a factor – e.g. within multi-let office buildings and shopping centres.

How are tenants with a Keep Open covenant being affected?
Whilst many leases in the retail sector contain these Keep Open clauses (e.g. shopping centres or with anchor tenants), in ‘normal’ circumstances these are not usually enforced. Courts are typically reluctant to implement Keep Open clauses and you would expect implementation to be even less likely in the current climate.

Are there any risks to landlords here?
Potentially. In theory, the tenant could make a case that the recent closures mean that the landlord would be liable for damages under a lease under derogation from grant – e.g. breach of quiet enjoyment of the premises or loss of profits. Again, if such claims are brought forward, you would imagine the courts would be reluctant to award damages in this climate.

As is often the case with landlord and tenant relationships, it is a question of who bears the loss? Whilst a lot of press has been about landlords being sympathetic to tenants, they rely on their rental income for many reasons – to pay borrowings, loans, staff etc. Some landlords can have as much to be concerned about as tenants and a collaborative approach is likely to be key here. It is going to be crucial to look at negotiation rather than litigation between landlords and tenants.

To discuss commercial leases and any other queries arising as a result of the current situation, please contact Will Primrose or James Clark in the Retail & Leisure Team at Rapleys.

Dan Tapscott, Head of Rapleys Neighbourly Matters team comments on important reminders and lessons learned from a recent Rights to Light case.

Rights to Light case law moves at a relatively slow pace. It has been 10 years since the notable HKRUK II (CHC) Ltd v Heaney [2010] judgement, where the courts awarded an injunction against a constructed and occupied scheme in favour of a neighbouring office rather than allow compensation to be paid. We then had Coventry v Lawrence [2014] which questioned whether the courts’ willingness to opt for an injunction first before allowing compensation was correct or has been adopted too readily. Scandia Care Ltd and another v Ottercroft Ltd [2016] reminded us of the importance of the conduct of the parties. Now we have the outcome of Beaumont Business Centres Limited v Florala Properties Limited [2020] to consider.

It is a case where Rights to Light matters have been rumbling along for quite some time between the parties, but in brief:

• Beaumont’s property is a serviced office building which was refurbished and extended by a further storey in 2011/12.

• Florala purchased their property in 2013 and raised concerns over their Rights to Light because of Beaumont’s building work, with a reciprocal agreement tabled for Florala’s impending development of their building.

• Discussions surrounding this continued, but in 2015 Beaumont sold its freehold interest and a sale and leaseback agreement resulted in another Beaumont property taking on a leasehold interest in the property. The original Rights to Light claim remained with the new freeholder which resulted in Florala arguing that the end goal was therefore a ransom demand rather than a preservation of light.

• Meanwhile, in 2015 Florala obtained planning permission for the redevelopment of their own building into an apart-hotel. In 2017/18 Florala proceeded with these works which included a vertical extension of 11.25m. Beaumont had objected to the proposals and although proceedings for an injunction began, they did not apply for an interim injunction for the works to be paused. Florala sought a summary judgement claiming that Beaumont had no grounds for the injunction but this was dismissed.

• Beaumont’s proceedings reached the High Court which led to an injunction being granted requiring Florala to pull down part of its offending development which had been completed almost 2 years ago.

The court considered a wide variety of aspects of Rights to Light and there are a number of key conclusions and reminders for the industry. These can be summarised as follows:

1) The primary remedy the court will use is awarding an injunction before damages via compensation. Developers should not assume compensation in the commercial world is the natural default;

2) The pre-existing Rights to Light Deed between the defendant and the landlord of the claimant’s property didn’t help the defendant even with changes in ownership to contend with. Careful consideration of such documents needs to be paid, when relying on them or on the drafting when entering into them;

3) The claimant’s neighbouring property was poorly lit to begin with therefore the court found the remaining light received to be precious and worth protecting. The fact that there was a previous reliance on artificial light in these offices was irrelevant;

4) The analysis used in the case to quantify the levels of interference was Waldram analysis (based upon the calculations of Percy Waldram in the 1920s). Comparable analysis was submitted considering ‘Radiance testing’ which is more advanced and, in our opinion, more holistic, considering reflected light bouncing off adjacent surfaces. However, this was largely ignored by the court;

5) If damages via compensation were to be accepted (by Beaumont choosing not to join the tenant) then the basis of these calculated by the court was again a third of the developers profits from the offending parts of the massing; and

6) The matter was dealt with over a long time and on a reactive basis. Hindsight is a great thing but ‘neighbourliness’ at the outset seemed to be thrown out of the window. Conduct of the parties remains key, proceeding at risk of is unadvisable. The ‘high handed’ manner the courts regarded of the developer pressing on when there were clear and unresolved objections did not help them. Florala has sought to appeal this decision. It will be interesting to see what arises from this or whether the matter is resolved ‘on the steps’ as was the case with the appeal for HKRUK II (CHC) Ltd v Heaney leaving the construction industry to either proceed at risk or to prudently tread carefully.

Rapleys Neighbourly Matters team operate throughout the UK providing Rights to Light, Daylight & Sunlight, Party Wall and Access Arrangement services for both developers and neighbours to development.

If you are planning a development where we can be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Dan Tapscott or a member of the Neighbourly Matters team at Rapleys.

In March, housing secretary Robert Jenrick outlined a number of measures to reform the English planning system. Announcing his plan the day after the Budget (11 March), he said the proposals would create a more efficient planning system, enabling more houses to be built in the places where people want them. Jenrick promised that the white paper would be “ambitious” enough to create a “planning system truly fit for the 21st century”.

Planning for the Future included: fully digitising the planning system; setting a deadline of December 2023 for completion of all local plans in England before government intervention; and extending permitted development rights. Jason Lowes, Town Planning at Rapleys spoke to The Planner and give his view on this ambitious measurement.

The need for speed

Many people involved in the planning process will have experience of “multi-dimensional delays” due to the planning system’s complexity and the lack of resourcing at a local level, said Jason Lowes, partner in the planning team at Rapleys.

“One of the government’s main priorities should be to speed up the planning system and create more certainty in the development management process, and aid better decision-making. The Planning for the Future paper indicates that the planning white paper will contain a number initiatives aimed at streamlining the system – for example, zoning tools – which, if done properly and effectively, have the potential to have a long-lasting impact to help meet housing need.”

Connected to this is the need to speed up the system to meet the demand for housing and, said Lowes, developers “will no doubt welcome” further extensions to permitted development rights. In doing this, the government needs to ensure that permitted development rights help to increase housing supply, he urged, “whilst also being mindful that the focus on streamlining the delivery of housing should not be at the expense of the quality of accommodation or design”.

“The government appears to be going in the right direction to continue to utilise permitted development rights as a means to drive forward housing, whilst also confirming that changes will have regard to design, and meeting light standards, all of which should be welcomed and it will be interesting to see the detail on this.”

Read The Planner article in full, which includes other professionals opinions on the White Paper.

In common with everything else in these unusual days, the restrictions imposed on movement as a result of the coronavirus outbreak have had a huge impact on the planning system, resulting in well-publicised delays to local plan examinations and public inquiries. However, it is a credit to decision-makers at both a national and local level that great efforts are being put into reducing the disruption as far as possible.

To date, these efforts and changes have included the following:

The Coronavirus Act

Passed in Parliament last week, in addition to giving the Government considerable powers, this emergency legislation allows the convening of planning committees via video-conferencing, addressing a major potential hurdle to planning decision-making.

Temporary relaxation of planning regulations

Extended permitted development rights came into force on 24 March 2020 to enable pubs, restaurants and cafes to operate as food takeaways for a 12-month period. This is on top of other government advice aimed at cutting red tape, for example the Written Ministerial Statement by Robert Jenrick on the 13 March 2020, in which local planning authorities are encouraged to act flexibly, and not to take enforcement action that would result in unnecessarily restricting the deliveries of food and other essential items during this period.

Activity at local authorities

It is fair to say that the current performance of local authorities is mixed, but working from home has become commonplace in many councils over the last few years and in a lot of places decision-making is still happening, including at committee level (and we can expect this to increase as a result of the Coronavirus Act – see above). As a result, in local authorities with good technological support, the immediate impact has been relatively limited to matters which require human contact, such as meetings and consultations, and even here there seem to be improvements all the time.

Keeping the system moving

Last week the Chief Planner, encouraged local authorities to be innovative in decision making, including exploring opportunities to use technology for meetings and consultations, anticipating and seeking to address the areas of greatest challenge – ie officer/applicant meetings, and public consultation exercises (both pre-and post-application).

In short, things are changing on a daily basis, but one of the bright points of the situation is the commitment that the Government and many local authorities have to maintain their planning services as far as possible and under very challenging circumstances. Therefore, our advice to clients is that – where possible – development should continue to be vigorously promoted in order to ensure that proposals are in “pole position” once normality starts to set in again.

As the situation evolves, further updates will be circulated over the coming weeks. In the interim, to discuss this and any other queries arising as a result of the current situation, please contact Jason Lowes, Town Planning at Rapleys.

Dan Tapscott, Head of Rapleys Neighbourly Matters team comments on the Government’s “Planning for the Future” guidance [published in March 2020] and considers the direction of travel regarding vertical extension rights.

It is applauded that the Government are looking at ways to enable ‘innovative’ development to happen, including building upwards with vertical extensions. However, we know this is an area that will still warrant detailed consideration by developers in order to avoid Rights to Light objections. These could be quite costly or make developments unviable, even if they get a green light in terms of planning.

A Right to Light (or Right of Light; there is no difference) is an easement, similar to a Right of Way. This enables the passage of diffuse skylight through a defined aperture such as a window to be protected by law. If the level of light received is reduced to an unreasonable degree, then the relevant owners of the property who can make use of the right can raise an objection. The remedy to an objection would either be damages via compensation or the awarding of an injunction to forbid the offending construction commencing, or for its removal, even if the new building is occupied.

Planning laws do not override common or civil law and therefore it is important that before detailed design work progresses, developers ensure they are aware of where the risks are and their strategy for dealing with them. The use of Rights to Light Envelope Studies is an area that could prove invaluable to help guide a design team to work within certain parameters, to avoid unreasonable levels of interference to the neighbouring properties. We believe that in taking this course of action prior to considering what can be achieved via any relaxation in planning laws for Permitted Development, would be the best all-round approach.

The remaining options for developers to deal with matters arising are negotiation with the effected parties in a proactive manner, ignore the issue and wait six years after the injury has been triggered for an objection to arise or consider an insurance based approach.

There has been talk of reform in the Rights to Light industry since the issuing of the Law Commission report in 2014, although nothing has progressed since then. As and when this comes back online (when we hope that the advances in technology for calculating light loss are taken into account), it will be interesting to identify areas of joined up thinking rather than those which conflict.

Rapleys Neighbourly Matters team operate throughout the UK providing Rights to Light, Daylight & Sunlight, Party Wall and Access Arrangement services for both developers and neighbours to development.

If you are planning a development where we can be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Dan or a member of the Neighbourly Matters team at Rapleys.