The impacts of COVID-19 are being felt across the globe, and the town planning system is no exception. Social distancing measures threaten to slow the system, given that:

  • The Planning Inspectorate are postponing all local plan examinations, appeal site visits, hearings and inquiries. The decisions on how to proceed will be at the discretion of the individual Inspector, but this could mean more appeals being dealt with under written representations, although technological solutions are being considered, where feasible.
  • There are an increasing number of planning committee meetings being postponed to uphold the social distancing guidance, although with no centralised guidance currently available to Councils on how to proceed, it will be down to each local authority to decide how best to avoid a growing backlog. This may encourage some local authorities to engage a smarter use of technology, or even a shift towards more applications being dealt with under delegated powers; however there is unlikely to be a seamless transition or centralised solution and some delays in the short term at least, seem inevitable.

However, on the other hand the government are already introducing a number of measures to ensure that the planning system doesn’t act as a barrier in these unprecedented times. So far, such changes include:

  • The government are relaxing permitted development rights to allow pubs (Use Class A4) and restaurants (Use Class A3) to operate as hot food takeaways (Use Class A5) for a period of up to 12 months.
  • In a Ministerial Statement, Robert Jenrick announced that local planning authorities in England should take a positive approach to ensure that planning controls are not a barrier to food retailers and distributors, as well as the freight industry to enable the delivery of food, sanitary and other essential products to be made as quickly as possible.

Evidently the news, impacts and responses are changing on a daily basis at the moment, but Rapleys will keep you up to date with these changes and what they could mean for your sites, applications and businesses.

As published in Forecourt Trader on 18 March 2020.


Rates relief announced in last week’s Budget could be worth £40m for the forecourt sector, according to property and planning consultancy Rapleys.

It also suggested that forecourts may benefit from some of the new £500m funding to support development of rapid chargers.

Stacey Jolly, surveying technician in the ratings team at Rapleys, said: “Rapleys’ rating team welcomes the recent budget announcement and have calculated that approximately 38% of petrol stations (circa 3,200 across England and Wales) will benefit from the 100% retail relief announced by the chancellor in his budget on the 10 March.

“The announcement, which affects the financial year 2020/21, covers any petrol station with a rateable value of £51,000 or less and means that they will receive a full relief on their rates payable. Having investigated the potential rates liability of all the sites, those affected could benefit from a total saving of up to £40m pounds for the financial year 2020/21.”

Mark Frostick, senior associate in the automotive and roadside team at Rapleys, commented: “This comes as good news in a time of uncertainty. Although fuel prices are slowly coming down, this sector will be hit hard with the panic the country is facing over the Covid-19 outbreak and the potential self-isolation of many people.

“In addition to the rating relief the government also announced £500m towards rapid charging hubs for electric vehicles. It may well be that some of the very petrol stations that are getting rates relief will also benefit from the investment from grants to provide a charging point.”


As of 19 March, Stacy adds ‘with the ever changing announcements being made by Government in the last few days, this has now been extended to all retailers regardless of the level of rateable Value. Therefore, all retail properties will get 100% relief from 01 April 2020.’

As, like many other businesses, Rapleys continues to follow Government guidelines by ensuring all our staff are safely working from home. We are still operating as a fully functional property consultancy service by putting our clients at the forefront of our efforts.

Myself, fellow partners and knowledgeable teams are contactable to discuss how we may be able to assist you with your property assets during these uncertain times.

To stay up to date with our news and announcements you can visit our News section.

Updated 5 May 2020


During such uncertain times following the outbreak of COVID-19, as an organisation, we at Rapleys wanted to reassure you inline with Government guidance all colleagues are set-up to work from home. By doing so, we will be able to assist you with your property and planning needs in a safe environment.

Updated 27 March 2020


We are, quite clearly, living in unprecedented times with the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and, in this context, I just wish to reassure you of Rapleys’ plans for the foreseeable future.

Essentially, as I am sure you can appreciate, the health and wellbeing of clients, staff and other contacts are of paramount importance to me as well as my board and fellow partners.

In this context, we have been taking a proactive stance in the issue of regular updates, and advice, to our teams in the interests of reducing, or delaying, COVID-19. Such advice has been relative to matters of general and personal hygiene whilst, further, seeking to limit non-essential engagements, public gatherings/events and travel (as per the Prime Minister’s latest announcements). We have also encouraged our staff to engage with clients in order to understand any general, or specific, concerns that may be held in respect of COVID-19 and any associated contact with our business. Some team members have been self-isolating, already, as a sensible and measured response to the pandemic.

However, as further pre-cautionary measure (and, in this context, please note that we have no reported cases), we are now actively encouraging our teams – with some minor exceptions – to work from home and, thereby, to only attend our offices for critical business engagements (which, of course, will need to be determined in consultation with other, involved parties). There is no doubt that we have the capability to work remotely. We have the infrastructure and technology in place (including virtual desk-top capabilities with lap-top back up) and our intention is to ensure – and deliver – business continuity. It will be business as usual, although with more reliance on the phone and e-mail rather than meetings.

Let’s get through this safely, and together.

Robert Clarke
Senior Partner

Published 17 March 2020

Yesterday’s Budget announcement contained a clear message of business continuity as the Chancellor relayed emergency measures to mitigate the impact of Coronavirus. Public health, the NHS, SMEs and workers were the primary focus, but for the property industry, there were still some takeaway messages. Not least, an announcement of short term emergency Business Rates relief, as well as a programme of investment launched for roads and infrastructure. Key members of our service teams add their comments.

Retail & Leisure Group

Russell Smith, Partner, comments; ‘overall there was some welcome, positive news for the high street, in particular for small shop and restaurant owners who will see an increased business rates discount. It is a temporary and extreme step sadly in light of the destabilising Coronavirus pandemic, but nonetheless it is well needed and overdue for the ailing retail sector.

The announcement to hold a review into the long term future of business rates should make a marked change to the future of the high street. This will need to be implemented in a timely manner however as there is likely to be a further reduction in footfall in high street across the country in the months to come.’

Alfred Bartlett, Partner, adds ‘ironically, the digital service tax (2% tax introduction on digital businesses) will also help bricks and mortar retail and may prove a good first step in balancing the investment in trading formats and redressing the high street decline.’

Automotive & Roadside

Phil Blackford comments; ‘the Government have announced a fund of £500 million over the next five years to support the rollout of a fast-charging network for electric vehicles ensuring that drivers will never be further than 30 miles from a rapid charging station. That is very welcome news to both manufacturers and EV charge suppliers and hopefully will provide the much needed kick start to creating the necessary infrastructure in the UK to align Government targets, manufacturer’s development and production and a structured network of EV charging stations.’

Town Planning

Jason Lowes, comments; ‘in terms of planning, most of the announcements in the Budget were primarily financial commitments, with the Government’s planning reform initiatives saved for today’s announcement by Robert Jenrick. These indicate that a planning white paper will be released in the spring, addressing a wide range of matters, including:

  • Introducing a “zonal” element to the planning system
  • Further measures to encourage development on brownfield land
  • Initiatives to speed up the planning system

By way of background to the above, the Government feels that the planning system is holding back the delivery of housing, and that these initiatives will break down barriers. However, they are all at a very early stage, and we will be looking very closely on how they develop. Nevertheless, any initiatives that render the planning system more predictable and straightforward to navigate will no doubt be welcomed by the industry. Rapleys Town Planning team will be releasing a fuller newsletter on these reforms shortly.’

 

Rapleys’ Town Planning and Retail & Leisure Group work closely with Lidl’s national acquisition department and are delighted to share some of our latest acquisitions for the discount grocer as they reach a pivotal milestone in Great Britain and open their 800th store.

Rapleys work in partnership with Lidl on a spectrum of services, from initial planning appraisals, scoping reports, property acquisition and public consultation. See below for highlights of some of the deals or speak to the team for more information.

Lidl acquisition Altrincham Lidl acquisition Cambridge Lidl Swindon acquistion Lidl Manchester picadilly

Featured properties include Altrincham Retail Park, Cambridge Retail Park, Swindon Orbital Retail Park and Manchester Piccadilly Gardens.

Further details are available here or via the download button.

In February the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) called for Britain’s biggest supermarket chains to review thousands of land agreements and prove they are lawful. This came to light after the CMA openly wrote to Tesco Chief Executive calling the retailer out on unlawfully preventing landlords from letting properties to its rivals at 23 sites across the UK.

We asked Richard Curry, our food retail expert, for his opinion, specifically asking how permeated is this practice in the industry and do you predict more agreements of this nature will be uncovered? He commented:

The CMA’s ruling will come as no surprise to anyone who has observed the food retail market over the years, as restriction covenants have been a known feature of supermarkets’ strategies for decades.

In the period prior to the rise of discounters and ecommerce, when the race for space still dominated the food retail sector, supermarket operators would often purchase an old industrial site, occupy one of the smaller lots, with a view to establishing a larger-format store in one of the other lots once trading had increased. Restrictive covenants were a crucial part of this strategy. In order to prevent loss of trade to competitors in the meantime, they would sell the other lots with a restriction of use clause, ensuring the subsequent owners could not sell on to another food retailer.

Even when the race for space ended, the covenants continued to protect retailers from loss of trade to competitors and were waiting patiently for another bullish market when rollout of larger stores was back on the agenda.

Restrictive covenants do have their uses – if a food retailer takes a gamble by investing in a new location, such as within a new urban extension or trading estate, they should be able to benefit from their initial financial commitment to an unestablished trading location without competitors coming along and building next door as soon as trade increases.

However, most convenience stores should be up to maturity within five years so they should not need protection further than that. It may even be the case that a food retail store enjoying an unrivalled position on a retail park by for over five years by virtue of a covenant, could have been overtrading, as their levels of traffic were being artificially raised by covenants now deemed unlawful.

In 2010 the CMA limited the length of restrictive covenants to 5 years, after which food retailers must allow competitors to occupy nearby locations. The fact that the CMA claims 20 different agreements by Tesco violated this rule could be seen as evidence of the high-risk strategy the retailer has taken when choosing new locations.

Another point to consider is that the terms of restrictive clauses only prevent nearby spaces being occupied by major competitors, which essentially comprises the other members of the big four food retailers. Up-market food stores such as Waitrose or M&S, and more significantly the discount food retailers such as Aldi or Lidl, were permitted to establish, with the latter taking full advantage. Restrictive covenants may therefore have been one of the factors contributing to the dramatic expansion of discount food retailers in recent years.

The smart money would say that this ruling will not necessarily result in any significant increase in the number of store openings in the retail sector, as this is tied to many other factors, not least the general health of the sector and its main actors, some of which are actively downsizing. However, if the market picks up, and space once again becomes a priority, this ruling could open-up new opportunities for expansion.

It has not generally been possible to assess just how significant an impact restrictive covenants have had on the marketability of key retail sites. That is until now. With the release of these spaces from extended covenants, their performance on the market should indicate just how much of a lead weight these kinds of clauses have been.


Further expert commentary alongside Richard’s can be found in this article from Property Week, published on 28 February 2020.

Women make up around 14% of construction industry professionals and this number can only be set to rise with more and more women choosing construction jobs. Misconceptions about gender specific roles are gradually diminishing with the industry and a growing number of women choosing a career in construction.

Women in Construction are helping to challenge the diversity divide and reshape the industry. Each year they hold a summit at The London Build Expo and last year Natasha Bray was selected as a Woman in Construction Ambassador.

Natasha joined Rapleys in November 2017 and is the lead contact for Neighbourly Matters services in London. She specialises in Daylight & Sunlight and legal Rights to Light. Last year Natasha was selected as a Women in Construction Ambassador to help reshape the gender imbalance of the construction industry. Natasha has a strong background in Compulsory Purchase and s.203 Housing and Planning Act 2016 with Council related schemes. She also has experience in managing large scale developments and schemes with a large number of potentially affected neighbours.

We spoke to Natasha to find out more about her experiences as a woman in the construction industry and what that has meant for her since the start of her career and her role in here at Rapleys.

What does a typical day involve?
My day is always extremely varied, one day I could be meeting clients discussing the best strategy for their sites, the next I could be at the other end of the country taking measurements of a property. A lot of the work is heavily reliant on technology so you will always find me with a laptop in hand.

What makes you proud of your work?
Many of the clients I have worked with tend to find the Neighbourly Matters area particularly problematic. I am therefore always proud to be able to find a solution to a problem that seemed impossible to begin with.

What personal qualities help you succeed?
As a person I am very goal orientated, if I have a list of tasks to do for either the day or the week, I do not feel satisfied until they are complete. This really helps me keep on top of my work and allows me to provide the best service I can to my clients.

What perks are there about working in this industry that not many people know about?
For me the biggest perk is the variety of people and work I get involved with. No two days look the same and that really helps to keep the day to day interesting.

What was it about a career in the construction industry that appealed to you?
I have always like the idea of being part of creating something out of nothing. My role allows me to be part of solving the problems that come along with that.

What advice would you give someone interested in a career in construction?
Work experience is worth its weight in gold. I would encourage everyone looking at construction as a career prospect to get experience in as many different roles as possible. Even if you decide you do not like a good number of them, it is better to start ticking off things you don’t like that to fully commit to something you may not enjoy.

How do you think the construction industry can attract more women?
This is a question that in my opinion has many different answers. However, for me personally I think that an active effort to celebrate the women in the construction industry currently is very important.

In order to open the field up to more women it makes sense to make the current women more visible. The sooner we can spread the message that the industry has plenty of jobs women would enjoy, the sooner young women will realise this industry is an option.

What are the challenges, if any, that you face as a woman in a male-dominated field?
Aside from the occasional comment of “oh are you not feeling well” on the days where I have decided not to wear makeup. I luckily have not faced any substantial challenges as a result of being a woman in a male dominated field. I do however recognise that this is likely a result of my personality.

I have over the years called out any occasions where I have felt that actions or comments have occurred because I am a woman and that the same treatment would not have been received if I were a man. This has certainly reduced the number of similar comments I would have received than if I had just laughed them all off.

I think as a woman in this industry it really benefits you to be confident enough in yourself and your convictions to speak up in uncomfortable situations. Hopefully the more people that speak up, the easier it will be to reduce the amount of these situations.

How do you think women are leading the charge on improving diversity in the construction workplace?
Being one of the largest groups of underrepresented people in the industry I think a lot of women have made it their mission to improve access to the industry for those that would normally not look to construction as a viable career route. This is certainly something that I myself am keeping under constant review.

Rapleys are pleased to confirm that our Building Consultancy Group have been shortlisted for the Property Awards 2020. The Building Consultancy Group, headed by Justin Tuckwell, are shortlisted alongside Hollis, Savills, Knight Frank, Shoosmiths, Aitchison Raffety and others, for Professional Team of the Year.

After a period of significant growth, driven by the team’s pioneering approach to the specialist services delivered, we are grateful for the recognition by the prestigious Property Awards and look forward to celebrating in the success of all come April.

Justin Tuckwell comments; ‘To have a niche building consultancy division leading the way in terms of revenue, profit, client and staff growth in a national multi-disciplinary business is unique. Reaching the shortlist of Professional Team of the Year further confirms our forward-thinking position within the business and industry. It is testament to the hard work and dedication of the whole team and I am very grateful for all their efforts throughout this incredible time for us.’

Click here for the full details of all the award categories and nominations.

Godwin Developments have purchased a former Pizza Hut site on Baths Road, Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, close to the town centre.

Jonathan Jones, Retail & Leisure surveyor here at Rapleys said: ‘I am delighted to have identified and acquired this prominent site on behalf of Godwin which has clear potential for drive-thru /quick service restaurants uses. Early conversations have indicated there is strong demand for out of town location and as such I am looking forward to promoting the site when it goes live!’

Stuart Pratt, group development director at Godwin, said ‘I am pleased with the speed in which we have completed this site purchase.’

The full press release from Godwin Group can also be viewed at Insider Media Limited and Commercial News.

 

The latest results for the annual Housing Delivery Test (HDT) were made available last week. The HDT requires councils to deliver a set number of houses in line with adopted requirements. Those who do not meet these targets incur penalties of increasing severity depending on the degree of their failure. Rapleys have reviewed the latest figures, and provide the following analysis.

The HDT requires councils to have met their cumulative housing requirement over the past three years, with the results recorded as a percentage (where 100% indicates that delivery is exactly equal to the requirement). Failure incurs consequences. Local authorities may be required to publish a Housing Delivery Action Plan (all results below 95%), apply a 20% buffer to their Five Year Housing Land Supply calculations (all results below 85%), or – in the most extreme circumstances – be subject to the presumption in favour of sustainable development (all results below 45%).

Last year’s results, published in February 2019, did not apply the presumption to any Council. However, the stringency with which the HDT is applied has increased over the period 2019-2021; as the test becomes more demanding local authorities are finding it harder to keep heads above water. This year, eight authorities are subject to the presumption: Basildon, City of London, Eastbourne, Havering, New Forest, North Hertfordshire, Thanet and Three Rivers. In total, 81 authorities are required to apply a 20% buffer to their housing supply (including the eight authorities listed above).

For those who are subject to the presumption, and therefore the ‘tilted balance’, it will be harder to justify refusal of planning applications. For those required to apply a 20% buffer to their supply calculations, they will find it harder to maintain a demonstrable five year supply. Authorities who are unable to demonstrate adequate levels of both delivery and supply, find themselves impaled by both of the presumption’s twinned horns.

This year has certainly given teeth to the government’s latest initiative to increase the rate of housebuilding across England and we expect next year’s results to show a substantive increase in the number of authorities subject to the presumption as the bar will rise from 45% to 75%.

Rapleys has experience in providing detailed, evidence-based analyses of housing positions in authorities up and down the country. This expertise, taking into account the latest HDT results, is able to identify the severity of present circumstances (and likely future positions) for the next five year period and beyond. Using this research, we can help to advise you of promising opportunities in the short, medium and the long term.

 

Last year saw strong margins on fuel sales and the continuation of acquisitions among some of the smaller groups by the larger independents. However, as per the last few years there has been a relative lack of stock and it has remained a seller’s market.

Whilst the Brexit uncertainty may be a little less we haven’t, and are unlikely to, see a significant change in the levels of demand for sites in 2020. However, with some of the oil companies that have previously exited the direct retailing market returning, as well as TOTAL re-emerging as a brand in the UK, we expect demand for good quality sites to remain. Likewise, we expect continued demand for new to industry sites from the oil companies and the independents. At this pace, 2020 could see a net addition of sites over the course of the year.

Market Share

Graph of the petrol station market share

Whilst the independents make up more than 50% of the market(*) it’s interesting to see that oil companies appear to be moving back to operating sites themselves. Harvest took over HKS last year, Gulf have been opening new sites and Jet have acquired a number of existing forecourts. With the bigger oil companies also likely to follow, competition remains strong for opportunities.

On existing portfolios we also expect to see some more refurbishments/redevelopments to enhance sales. This will be both with some clever use of the existing property and some complete redevelopment. There are sure to be some more groups selling out but there are relatively few left that won’t have already considered the option in some detail.

2020 is likely to see electric vehicles continue to dominate the news but perhaps less so on the forecourts themselves. At present there has been some limited uptake, but unless a forecourt has sufficient space to accommodate long term parking and sufficient demand to make it worthwhile, this position is unlikely to change significantly. Where we are likely to see it happen more is on new to industry sites (notably, there were 54 in 2019). With councils being extremely keen on environmental and green issues, we expect new builds to require some level of electrical charging as part of any planning consent.

This is not to say electric is not making a difference, there is strong demand from operators and we are expecting some stand alone electric charging petrol stations this year, along with the continued rollout of charging points across the UK. Forecourt operators will need to consider this if they lose traffic and therefore custom to other locations but this is a part of the industry that is certainly here to stay.

With Ikea revealing plans to close its Coventry store in the summer, its first big closure in the UK, Russell Smith reflects on the current state of the retail market and how property strategies need to adapt in line with evolving consumer demands.

The retail market is undergoing fundamental disruption and Ikea’s Coventry store is, sadly, just the latest casualty. It probably won’t be the last, as retailers and landlords seek to rebalance their strategies and property portfolios in line with changing shopping patterns.

Larger format stores are being scrutinised closely, and we’re seeing real efforts made to try and subdivide space to ensure that every square foot is maximised – importantly that’s just not about range of product, it’s about diversity of experience and generating footfall and dwell time. Ikea aren’t alone, the same is true of the big department and DIY stores – some of which have had to go down the route of a CVA are even administration – who are rationalising their property portfolios in response to poor sales.

Retailers have learned, the hard way in some cases, that bigger is not always better when it comes to store format. Many large store concepts really struggle with design, accessibility and connectivity with the wider location and footfall. Ikea Coventry demonstrates not just the need to respond to the change in customer profile, but also the need for quality design thinking to make the most of location and footprint.

Ikea’s setback in Coventry is as much to do with location as anything else, but the retailer has made some strides overall. In Ikea’s case, the core product is flat pack furniture and, in reality, people either want to buy it online and have it delivered, or they want to go – or have to go – to an out of town fulfilment centre to collect in a car or van. Formats and locations that fall between these two poles are the ones that are going to be at risk. Ikea are therefore looking at smaller showroom format stores in affluent locations and with high footfall – such as Bromley or Hammersmith – or larger stores close to motorways or in accessible out of town sites.

Put simply, retailers have to understand that the way consumers want to buy their products has changed, and property decisions need to be made firmly in that context.

 

In the latest installment of Insider’s Property Perspective Q&A series, Stuart Harris was asked to comment on the South East property market.

As head of the Cambridge office, he discussed how office space remains in strong demand, how the industry is adapting to changes in investor perceptions and the key obstacles to development. The following questions were asked and answered in full throughout the article, below is a snapshot of detail.

In what sectors (residential, industrial, office, leisure) do you see the highest demand for new space and why?

‘Online retail habits are well documented, and have been for some time, but we see this feeding strong continuing demand for industrial space.’

What are the key industries that are diving demand for property?

‘Technology, innovation and biomedical industries are affecting demand across many property sectors…’

What changes to legislation do you want to see in the coming years?

‘Green belt legislation is having a stifling effect on the scope for continued investment in progressive cities such as Cambridge, where pioneering industries show a great appetite to grow within clusters.’

What future changes to the industry do you see making a significant impact on your business?

‘The industry is adapting to changes in investor perceptions and a realignment of the scenery in the built environment.’

How much of a role should the market/local authorities play in development?

‘Increasingly, there is scope for local authorities to participate and lead development through the creation of partnerships between the public and private sectors.’

What are the key obstacles for more development and how can they be overcome?

‘With confidence growing in relation to the long-awaited resolution of Brexit, the adoption of more progressive attitudes towards planning and taxation would assist in removing obstacles.’

How can areas away from the main motorway corridors and urban centres become more attractive to investors?

‘Investors are telling us that town centres under pressure can still provide attractive yields, particualrly where risk can be mitigated by the delivery of a greater degree of mixed-use…’

For the full article follow the link to Insider Media here, published on 31 January 2020.

 

With a new year come exciting changes, as our Corporate and Investor Management team joins forces with our Asset Management team, and rebrand as Rapleys Property & Asset Management.

Strong growth in both the property management and asset management service lines along with clear overlap and synergy, meant it made good sense to merge these teams as we enter a new decade and perhaps more political and economic stability.

For our vast range of investor, occupier, developer and landlord clients it’s business as usual, but we firmly believe a more focused ‘one team approach’ will deliver enhanced service levels and generate exciting opportunities for clients. Added to that, the team name sends out a clearer message to the industry about its focus on:-

Property ManagementAsset Management
  • Lease management
  • Formulating strategies aligned with clients’ business plans
  • Property accounting & reporting
  • Identifying and executing ‘value add’ opportunities
  • Service charge management
  • Transaction management
  • Facilities management
  • Strategic refurbishments or major works programmes
  • Critical events management
  • Identify/appraise redevelopment opportunities
  • Vacant space management
  • Added value through alternative uses
  • Insurance & service charge challenge
  • Sustainability

 

Adam de Acetis, Partner and Head of Property & Asset Management commented ‘both teams have built a great platform. Looking ahead, we see tremendous opportunities with our asset managers working immediately alongside our property managers to maximise asset performance for clients. Our partner led approach will not change, nor will our mission to provide a great service’.

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner commented ‘it’s exciting times for these service lines. A ‘one team approach’ and greater collaboration aligns with our business values and will undoubtedly benefit both service lines, our wider business and our clients.

For full details on all of the services that Adam and his team can provide, on a national basis, you can refer to the webpage or get in touch directly with Adam directly.

Ken Brown Motor Group have opened a new Hyundai dealership in Letchworth Garden City.  The deal involved a new 10 year lease on the 0.78 acre site in Icknield Way, with the previous tenant surrendering an existing lease and withdrawing from the town.  Rapleys Automotive and Roadside team brokered the deal on behalf of the landlord, Fevore Limited.

Richard Forman of Fevore said: ‘We are delighted that Rapleys were able to secure continuing long term occupation of the property in a tricky market and without a rental void. The deal really was a ‘win win win’ allowing Progress to exit and Ken Brown to step in while also enhancing our asset’.

Geoff Sayer, partner at Rapleys said: ‘This demonstrates that opportunities exist in the current market for brands to invest in new and affluent territories’.

Jon Taylor, Managing Director of KBMG, said: ‘We are delighted to have this opportunity to expand with Hyundai and look forward to growing our business in Letchworth and beyond with this exciting new brand for the town’.


As featured in Automotive Management Online on 16 January 2020.

“Petrol filling stations are still the ‘darlings’ of the property market with strong demand and therefore values on the up.”

Forecourt Trader speaks to industry experts, including our own Mark Frostick.

Mark Frostick, senior associate in the automotive and roadside team at Rapleys, comments, ‘in 2019 we saw some dealer group takeovers, but less of the really big deals that characterised the last few years. While most of the eye-catching mergers and acquisitions have probably happened, we expect to see some continued consolidation in the sector as the market rationalises in what is a highly competitive and challenging consumer market. At the same time, some of the larger independents have continued to expand overseas at least in part, perhaps, as a hedge against any negative impact Brexit might have in the future on the UK market.’

Frostick says the real challenge continues to be a lack of stock in the market. ‘The difficulties in unlocking new sites vary from location to location for example, a trunk road site in a rural area may have the highest potential value but can face complexities when it comes to planning. Meanwhile, urban sites can face more competition from a variety of alternative uses both residential and commercial with drive-thru restaurants likely to be the biggest competitor.

Forecourt site values have continued to hold up particularly due to the lack of stock and competition for sites and the market is interested in good performing sites at every level. Freehold demand is stronger than leasehold, but we continue to see issues, particularly at the lower level, where deals have failed to get over the line in an appropriate timescale as parties have struggled to keep up the pace and momentum to complete. With competition for sites high, it is paramount that operators are equipped to move swiftly and those who use professional advisers and solicitors with petrol station experience will always be better placed. At least partly as a consequence of limited property stock, we have seen operators looking at innovative ways to improve existing sites and fully utilise what space they have, for example by expanding upwards to create a multi-storey forecourt retail offering.

As for electric vehicles, Frostick says that while there continues to be much discussion about the long-term impact of electric vehicle infrastructure on the forecourt industry this is yet to fully translate into notable and widespread innovation on site. According to a recent government announcement, there are now more charging points than petrol stations but, for the most part, operators so far have been simply squeezing in charging points on existing sites where they can. “With the government now publishing league tables on electric infrastructure though and making new funding available for Local Authorities we may see the landscape begin to change, particularly as and when electric vehicles become more affordable and ubiquitous.’


The full article is available in print only from Forecourt Trader (01/01/2020).

 

Following a six-week period of consultation in Summer 2019, Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet have recently resolved to enforce a new city-wide Article 4 Direction, meaning a planning application will need to be submitted for proposals to convert family houses (C3 Use Class) to small Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) accommodating between 3 and 6 people (C4 Use Class). This will cancel existing Article 4 Direction which has been in place for some time across the Selly Oak, Harborne and Edgbaston areas of the city.

The new Direction will come into effect on 08 June 2020, with the existing Direction being cancelled on the same day.

The Council are also requesting that landlords of existing small HMOs declare their properties online by 8 June; after this date, existing HMOs which have not already been declared may require the submission of an application for a Certificate of Lawful Use or for retrospective planning approval.

For more information, including on how to declare an HMO property, please visit the Council’s website, or do get in touch with Sarah Smith or Jeevan Thandi in our Birmingham office for advice on planning implications.

The food WAREHOUSE is one of the fastest growing retail park outlets. But can it take on Aldi and Lidl? Property Week reports. 

food WAREHOUSE, from Iceland, focuses on bulk buys, value packs and pallet deals that showcase Iceland’s latest products. ‘We didn’t know if it would just be an innovative lab for the core Iceland stores where we could try ideas and products and ways of working, but very quickly it became apparent that this was a great, separate business model in its own right’ recalls Richard Walker, Managing Director of Iceland.

After just five years, food WAREHOUSE has 118 UK stores and, despite no firm targets being set, Walker is confident they will continue the current rate of 30 to 35 openings a year. With them offering an attractive covenant to landlords this seems achievable. The food WAREHOUSE provides a solution for a retail park site that might otherwise be sitting empty, according to Richard Curry, partner in Rapleys’ retail and leisure team. ‘They have taken the opportunity to take sites that other [food retailers] wouldn’t possibly consider and have become the focal point for those sites’ he says.

Curry adds ‘the brand has also benefited from the inflexibility of discount rivals Aldi and Lidl when it comes to store expansion, which need to have exactly what they are looking for or they just won’t do it’. However, it looks as though that is changing as their search parameters widen and food WAREHOUSE poses more of a threat. This isn’t seen as too much of a challenge by Walker however who states, in today’s market ‘everyone is a competitor’.

 


 

For the full story head to Property Week – click here.

Client feedback is critical to our continued delivery of excellent service so we are always delighted to hear from clients on existing and completed projects.

Rapleys Building Consultancy Group are pleased to share the following feedback:


Keith Hurford, Project Director, Millbrook Park 
‘Rapleys are engaged by Inglis Consortium as Lead Consultant/ Development Project Manager assisting me as Project Director in all matters relating to the development of Millbrook Park, a development of 2240 units. This work has included planning, cost consultancy, infrastructure strategy, infrastructure procurement, delivery, sales and marketing, land disposals and liaison with residential phase developers.

Rapleys have a keen eye for driving value through the design process and driving performance from a multi discipline consultant team. Their team led by Jason Mound is pragmatic, determined and particularly good at problem solving when they arise.

Rapleys have provided an excellent service and are a valuable member of the overall delivery team. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend their involvement in similar developments.’

The case study can be viewed here. 


Nathan Ross, Project Manager, WH White
‘Rapleys are providing development PM support to WH White Limited for the development of up to 800 homes and associated development at Bearwood in North Poole. Jason has significant experience in the management and delivery of large residential developments similar to Canford Park and has brought this experience and wealth of knowledge to WH White to enhance the development asset at Canford Park.

We found Rapleys and Jason to be knowledgeable and efficient in the process and design of the development and would certainly use them again on future projects. We are currently assembling a team for a larger development in the area through the next local plan process and will be seeking support from Rapleys for the project.’

The case study can be viewed here.


 

The RICS released the first ‘Professional Statement for Affordable Housing Viability’ in May 2019, which has been in effect since 01 September 2019. The ‘RICS First Edition of the Financial Viability in Planning: Conduct and Reporting’ is mandatory for all RICS members and sets out what must be included within all Financial Viability Assessments (FVA) and how the viability process must be conducted. The key changes that must now be incorporated when carrying out the viability process are relevant not just to viability practitioners, but also to developers and consultants that contribute to FVA submissions as part of the planning application process.

The statement was compiled against the background of the High Court decision in Parkhurst Road Ltd v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Anor [2018] EWHC 991, which emphasised the need for clarity in relation to problems regularly occurring within the practice.

It has also been previously reported from various stakeholders in the sector that FVAs were of a varied standard. Namely, they don’t all include the required information to provide proper regard to all material facts and circumstances both area wide and scheme specific.

Whilst the statement focuses on the reporting and processes involved, more specific details on development viability in planning will be dealt with in the forthcoming second edition of the RICS guidance note ‘Financial Viability in Planning’. A few new and amended processes are detailed here.

Increasing the transparency of reported information has been a hot topic in viability over recent times and this statement increases the need to make FVAs public material during the planning application process. It states that FVAs must be prepared on the basis it will be made publically available. This should provide more clarity to the general public and should increase the trust that the viability process is being carried out in an appropriate manner. In addition, it is now mandatory that viability appraisals should be based on market information rather than client specific information.

Previously it was up to the developers’ consultants to provide the information to prove an appraisal input is justified when there was a disagreement. Whereas it now ensures that if a reviewer does not agree with an assumption they must provide a detailed summary of the differences, including the supporting or reasonable justification as to why there is a disagreement. This is of benefit to the developer as it should reduce the time spent negotiating disagreements as both sides will start with fully justified information rather than just a disagreement with no evidence.

To further ensure that all information is consistent, impartial and without interference, it is now a mandatory requirement that all contributors to reports utilised within the FVA process, both acting for developers or public authorities, must comply with the mandatory requirements within this document. It is the responsibility of the RICS member or firm carrying out the FVA to ensure that is carried out. This should help to improve the trust that all inputs of the FVA process are reasonable, justified and provided by a competent and capable individual or firm. By ensuring that all inputs are reasonable and provided by a competent practitioner the negotiating time of the FVA will be reduced.

As a partnership we have been adopting best practice guidance for many years but the production of this Professional Statement formalises the process that needs be followed in the preparation of FVA reports.

We carry out a large number of FVAs for our developer and landowner clients on sites of varying scale and quantum nationally and would be happy to assist with all matters in relation to both FVA report submissions and affordable housing matters.

In addition to this professional statement the RICS is producing a second edition of the guidance note Financial Viability in Planning (published in 2012), to reflect on the changes in the revised National Planning Policy Framework 2018 (updated February 2019) and the Planning Practice Guidance 2018 (updated May 2019). There is no date set for the publishing of this document but we continue to monitor the matter to ensure we adopt the most up-to-date and relevant guidance.

For any further guidance do not hesitate to get in touch with Jamie Miller or Nick Fell.

 

Rapleys’ property and planning consultancy continues to show the ongoing growth of its business by announcing this week that the Cambridge team will relocate to larger premises, and therefore increase their profile, just nine months after opening in the city.

Remaining in the CB1 business district was of upmost importance to Rapleys and its new and existing client base. The practice has taken a private office at 50-60 Station Road; a modern, high quality environment, next to the station.

The new office will house, amongst other teams, the practices’ Town Planning, Development, Building Consultancy, Business Space and Automotive & Roadside departments.

Stuart Harris, Head of Cambridge Office comments: “Whilst Rapleys’ arrival in Cambridge was far from any ‘cold start’ with our long standing presence in the county, we have been delighted by the traction gained in our opening months in the city. This has necessitated a fairly rapid expansion of both the size and quality of space available to us.”

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner, adds: “I am very pleased with the new office at Station Road and look forward to welcoming our clients to the innovative space. Our move is a direct response to client needs. We are excited by the future prospects in Cambridge and the wider region.”


Full contact details for the Rapleys Cambridge office:

50/60 Station Road, Cambridge CB1 2FB
0370 777 6292 |  info@rapleys.com


Featured in Commercial News.

 

On 01 October the Government released a replacement suite of planning practice guidance relating to design, as a key part of its attempts to encourage better quality development. The release follows the interim report of the ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful’ Commission a few months ago and was trialled at the Conservative Party Conference earlier in the week. Although the new guidance does not have the formal status of planning policy, it is nevertheless relevant to both policy making and decision taking.

National Design Guide

Arguably at the heart of the new guidance is a ‘National Design Guide’ (NDG), a 70 page document which is intended to build on the policies within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) that encourage high quality development, specifically by:

  • Defining ten characteristics of ‘beautiful, enduring and successful places’ with ‘looking forward’ checklists which include; the context and identity of different locations, natural and public spaces, efficiency in use of resources, and ensuring that development is ‘made to last’
  • Setting a ‘common overarching framework’ within which specific, detailed and measurable design criteria can be produced at the local level
  • The introduction of a National Model Design Code, which is intended to set the standard for local design guides and codes to be prepared by local authorities. However, the code itself is not included, instead it is confirmed that the draft code will be subject to consultation early next year, following the final reporting of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission in December.

On a practical level, it is clear that the Government wishes greater emphasis to be placed on the ‘story’ of the design evolution of development proposals, highlighting the role of design and access statements (which were brought in just over 10 years ago to address this matter in any event).

Other elements of the replacement guidance

The guidance framing the NDG includes further detail as to how the planning system should support well designed places. In addition to the NDG, the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) update includes:

  • Clarification of the role of strategic and non-strategic policies, masterplans and design codes
  • A commitment for local authorities to prepare a ‘Local Design Guide’ to be adopted as supplementary planning documents or appended to a neighbourhood plan
  • A reiteration of the Government’s commitment to pre-application discussions, and guidance on planning application related documentation such as parameter plans (for outline applications) and Design and Access Statements (as flagged above)
  • A commitment to community engagement on design matters and design review more generally.

Commentary

It is clear that improving the quality of development design is a key Government aspiration for the planning system. However, in truth (and unsurprisingly, given the youth of the prime minister’s administration) this is at a very early stage. As matters stand the guidance, and in particular the NDG, deals with general concepts on a nationwide basis. In the short term, it can be anticipated that some local planning authorities will expect developers to design their schemes in a manner which clearly takes the NDG into account.

However, the new guidance and the NDG is likely to start in earnest once the National Model Design Code is published, and local authorities start to prepare their own Local Design Guide and Codes (albeit there is a question as to how many local planning authorities will have the resource and expertise to produce them).

More generally, if the design code approach promoted by the Government provides a greater degree of certainty in the planning process on a matter which is inherently subjective, this will no doubt be welcomed by landowners and developers. However, on the other hand, if not applied flexibly or geographically there is a danger that the national model design code approach promoted by the Government will create a level of prescription to development which is unjustified. This could result in monotonous development that does not take into account the unique physical context, history and the cultural characteristics of its location and surroundings.

If you have any questions or comments on the design guidance please speak to Sarah Fordham or Jason Lowes in the Town Planning department.


Furthermore, Neil Jones spoke to Property Week on his take on the timing of the announcement by Jenrick as well as the wider story. More details can also be found in The Times (04.10.2019).

 

 

Third-party logistics operators (3PLs) are gobbling up warehouse space like there’s no tomorrow. They account for 35% of all spaces transacted in 2019 – massively up on the more typical 19% share they have had in recent years, according to Savills.

Online retail has been growing steadily and now accounts for close to 20% of the overall retail market…it is difficult for retailers to stay on top of everything and to be periodically investing in this software or that racking system, agrees Colin Steele, partner and head of business space at property and planning consultancy Rapleys.

Uncertain outlook

The sheer uncertainty retailers dace is a further factor inducing them to limit their longer-term commitment and to instead rely more on 3PLs, says Steele. Typically, 3 PLs look for commitment of up to three years, with break clauses, he says.

‘Shorter leases are what the market was wanting anyway and the 3PL approach is an extension of that trend,’ he adds. ‘Retailers are finding it difficult to justify signing up for 10-year plus leases. Even three years is a longer-term position for them now.’.

Onerous lease commitments on balance sheers are a further disincentive for financial directors in retail and manufacturing. ‘If a property becomes surplus, you have to make provisions for the full liability of the lease,’ explains Steele. ‘On some buildings, that can blow a massive hole in someone’s P&L. It’s a major mind-focuser for finance directors.’

However, given the significant demand for space, landlords are in a position to resist demands for shorter-term leases, says Steele, further strengthening the hand of the 3PLs and encouraging their customers to grow their business with them. ‘If anything, I think lease lengths have been edging out and incentives have been shortening.’

‘Another factor in the 3PLs favour is that traditionally logistics requirements tend to come up very quickly in what is a relatively short procurement window. There is a temptation to give the problem to the 3PLs to sort out.’

Growth begets growth. The 3PLs’ greater buying power and familiarity with landlords and developers means they can do multiple deals as well as fast-track construction. ‘Development has been been as quick,’ says Steele. ‘You have very slick procurement now.’…

For the full article go to Property Week (27/09/2019).

The former Renault/Hyundai dealership on Hilton Road in Ashford, Kent, has been sold to Dunmore Ltd to be split up into three trade counter units.

Motorline placed the property on the market with Rapleys’ specialist Automotive & Roadside team, in advance of their relocation of the brands to a new site on Orbital Park elsewhere in Ashford.

The property was a dual branded dealership of nearly 17,000 sq ft on a site of 0.86 acres, with two glazed showrooms, offices and dedicated workshop facilities.

Mark Frostick of Rapleys commented; ‘we had interest from a variety of occupiers and users and we were able to tie up a purchase to coincide with our client’s relocation to their fantastic new premises elsewhere in the town. It was also somewhat of a homecoming deal for myself in that 20 years ago my first surveying job as a graduate was with Colyer Commercial in  the town.’

As reported in AM Online where Motorline’s latest openings in the area are summarised.

Rapleys Automotive and Roadside team were pleased to complete a deal on a former car showroom on Regents Park Road, North London. The 4,030 sq ft premise had a prominent frontage to the busy road and attracted significant interest from trade, retail and leisure operators which resulted in competitive bidding in excess of the quoting rent.

Toolstation were successful and secured a 10 year lease with V8 Properties Ltd. The unit is one of the first of a new retail format being rolled out by Toolstation within London. Planning consent for A1 was refused previously but after successful appeal it was overturned and the unit has now been refurbished to Toolstation brand standards.

Rapleys client Daniel Sayers of V8 Properties Limited, comments: ‘As a small family owned property business we are delighted that Rapleys have been able to secure excellent terms for the letting of our former car showroom, enabling its modernisation and long term occupation by a well-known national operator, thus safeguarding and significantly enhancing the value of our asset.

Geoff Sayer and his colleagues at Rapleys steered us expertly through a successful marketing campaign, a contentious dilapidations dispute and a tortuous planning process, aided by an enthusiastic tenant in Toolstation Limited.

Rapleys were able to advise us on marketing, rental value, dilapidations, business rates, planning and project management ultimately leading to a better deal than we had hoped for and enabling us to make significant savings along the way.

The constructive partnership of Geoff and his colleagues with us as the client and also with our tenant enabled this project to succeed (even when at times it seemed unlikely) and we are very grateful for that.’

Rapleys has made several new appointments across the business over the summer months, collectively strengthening our service offering, and representing the ongoing growth of the practice.

  • Campbell Moffat (Senior Associate, Corporate Investor Management)
  • Laura Briggs (Senior Surveyor, Corporate Investor Management)
  • Jamie Alderson (Planner, Town Planning)
  • Harriet Nind (Planner, Town Planning)
  • Marcus Fatoye (Surveyor, Corporate Investor Management)
  • Callum Dickinson (Graduate Surveyor, Automotive & Roadside)
  • Oliver Exton (Graduate Surveyor, Automotive & Roadside)
  • Bradley Wild-Smith (Accounts Assistant)
  • Stacey Collarbon (Property Accounts Assistant, Corporate Investor Management)
  • Ben Godfrey (Data Analyst, Corporate Investor Management)
  • Serena Ridley (Client Accountant, Corporate Investor Management)
  • Stephen Wilde (Client Accountant, Corporate Investor Management)
  • Shanice Redmond (QHSE/Data Management Assistant)
  • Emma Bailey (PA to Head of Building Consultancy Group)

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner, comments; ‘I am delighted to welcome our new recruits and look forward to working with them to serve our clients’ needs in the future.’

Planning practice guidance (PPG) has been updated to reflect new Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) regulations that came into force on 1 September. Here are five key things you need to know about the changes.

  1. A section on ‘monitoring and reporting’ has been introduced.
  2. Councils are given autonomy over how they should consult when introducing a levy.
  3. More detail has been provided on how indexation should be applied to section 73 applications, which amend an existing planning permission.
  4. Guidance on spending CIL revenue has been revised.
  5. Authorities are explicitly advised that ‘charging authorities can use funds from both the levy and section 106 planning obligations to pay for the same piece of infrastructure.

Neil Jones, Partner in our Town Planning department, shares his views and comments on each of the above and how the updates might impact local authorities, developers and the general public alike.

The full article is on Planning Resource (4/9/2019).

Rapleys, the planning and property consultancy, has said the automotive retail industry is taking a “wait and see” approach on investment in electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure.

While there are some franchises that will mandate a certain level of infrastructure and charging points based on their corporate identity, Mark Frostick, Rapleys senior associate roadside and automotive, told AM: “Investment in EV infrastructure is generally not on a lot of people’s radar from a property perspective right now.

“Everyone is looking at how technology is changing and doesn’t want to be caught investing in the wrong thing or to the wrong level.

“There are a lot of groups waiting to see what is happening before making that investment decision.”

For more from Mark Frostick and Peter Nicholas click through to the full article on AM Online.

Today’s statistical analysis from the ONS makes interesting reading. There was somewhat of a furore about a year ago when the ONS published – for the first time having taken over the statistical responsibility from MHCLG – the 2016-based Household Projection figures. These updated figures were interpreted by many to mean that fewer homes needed to be built than was previously thought. In particular, those arguing for lower levels of housebuilding saw the numbers as justification to scale back housing plans.

However, this approach risked undermining the government’s pledge to prioritise housebuilding and the overall national target of 300,000 new homes built every year. As a result, Government quickly stated that when calculating housing need, the previous2014-based Household Projections should be used. The primacy of the 2014-based figures was re-confirmed inupdates to the Planning Practice Guidance earlier in the year.

Given that today’s analysis concludes that the difference between the 2014 and 2016 figures were as a result of methodological improvements informing the latter, the issue looks likely to be a continued bone of contention between Local Authorities, developers and the government. Notwithstanding this, at least for now the 2014-based figures look likely to be the first port of call for the majority of base-line housing need calculations.

As featured in Planning Resource.

Rapleys’ Building Consultancy Group is pleased to introduce the most recent Associates’ to join the team.

Adam Reed, Bristol

Adam is a commercially driven chartered Building Surveyor who joins the team with a wealth of experience across a broad spectrum of building surveying services. Having a strong working knowledge of the regional market, and notably being a member of the BCO NextGen Committee for the South West region, will prove invaluable for the Bristol service line within the national Building Consultancy Group.

Adam is adept at providing the full range of commercial building surveyor services to clients including; technical due diligence, dilapidations, contract administration and CDM advisory. Recent projects have included CAT A office refurbishment and industrial contract administration. Each project has been approached professionally and client relationship management always prioritised, ultimately providing reasoned commercial advice and added value to each project.

Adam comments: ‘I am looking forward to getting involved in the wide-ranging projects and services that the whole Building Consultancy Group delivers at a national and regional level. My move to Rapleys comes as they go from strength to strength in the market and I am confident I can add further to the growth of the team and services.’

Jack Downing, Birmingham

Jack joins the Land Development Project Management service line within the Building Consultancy Group. This move follows experience leading the design and delivery of primary infrastructure on a range of mixed use developments nationally.

Bringing over ten years’ experience in infrastructure engineering, Jack is a qualified member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and has managed numerous land development and building schemes. With a strong track record in value led and outcome based design, Jack has a keen eye for delivery strategy whilst keeping a firm grip on the detail to ensure risks are managed and opportunities are realised.

Jack comments: ‘I am exciting to join the team and I feel there is a significant opportunity to build and expand our offering to clients. I am very much looking forward to playing a key role in residential and mixed use development sites and making use of Rapleys’ full range of property services. Delivering a client focused service has always been at the heart of my approach. I do this by investing the time to understand the client’s key drivers so I can ensure these are achieved and I will continue this as I progress here.’

Justin Tuckwell, Head of Building Consultancy, comments: ‘I am delighted to welcome both Adam and Jack to Rapleys. Their talent and skillsets were carefully considered to enable a continued, and improved, service to our clients. I am excited to support their careers and develop their skills. I am confident that with their combined experience and proven service delivery our position will be further strengthened in the market as the Building Consultancy Group continues to expand.’

 

There has been plenty of activity in the automotive sector across the UK in the last twelve months and Scotland is setting the pace. From business acquisitions to site relocations and new build projects, the dealership market is changing and growing.

In the used car market we have seen a second CarStore open by Peter Vardy (in Dundee) and a Motor Store, by Arnold Clark which has taken the place of a former supermarket in Aberdeen.

Arnold Clark expanded in Edinburgh and Paisley after acquiring Phoenix Car Company representing Hyundai, Kia, Mitsubishi and Suzuki in the area. Also in Edinburgh, Synter have constructed a brand new Porsche dealership at Newcraighall.

Eastern Western’s impact can be seen clearly in Dundee and Stirling in particular, with the acquisition of Barnetts Motor Group. This includes Volkswagen and Mazda franchises (Dundee), as well as the acquisition of the Honda franchise from the Phoenix Motor Group.

John Clark have also been active in both Dundee and Stirling. The acquisition of the Morrisons, Land Rover, 

Jaguar and Seat business in 2017 will be an asset to Stirling as they’ll no doubt develop a new ‘arch’ concept facility. In Dundee, they also take on the Volvo brand which we understand will be housed in the former BMW dealership once that has been successfully relocated to a purpose built facility.

This represents just some of the activity over the last couple of years but is representative of the consolidation in the sector. The drive from manufacturers for improved facilities has inevitably lead to the movement of franchises and some dealer groups disposing of their business.

We suspect that consolidation in the sector will continue over the next 12 months. Dealers will seek even greater efficiencies and the network concentration will remain in the core cities and towns, which will be supported by online sales and regional service centres.

Customers are traveling further to purchase cars and consequently demand in satellite towns is likely to decline from franchised retailers. However, this will create an opportunity for the used car market, as well as alternative uses, all of which will continue to drive value. For prime sites, these will become more critical for the franchises as they’ll continue to have a positive affect on land values. Rapleys have recently brought the former Volkswagen dealership in Dumfries to the market and it is already receiving good interest. The interest is not only from the automotive sector, but from other mainstream retailers and trade counter operators.

There continues to be speculation around the impact of online business on the traditional dealership model and clearly this is having a transformational impact on the broader retail economy. In our view however, we are still some way off from the bricks-and-mortar dealership being superseded altogether. Fundamentally customers still want the showroom experience and to kick a tyre or two before making a purchase.

If you require any advice on dealerships or any automotive services in Scotland and beyond, do not hesitate to get in touch with Peter in our Edinburgh Office.

Further details of our available properties are available here:
Motherwell – click here
Dumfries – click here

Rapleys are proud to announce a 4 year framework with Coventry City Council. The commission is to provide maintenance and condition surveys, project surveying and design work across a wide range of corporate and educational buildings within the Coventry City boundary.

As part of Coventry City Council’s 10 year business plan, Coventry City Council have set out their priorities and vision for the future of the city. The Council are committed to attracting new businesses, improving the standards of educational facilities and ultimately helping the people of Coventry deliver effective and worthwhile community services, such as libraries and youth services. Each initiative will have clear direction and innovative ideas at the core of their models.

Rapleys role in achieving this for the city is twofold. The first part of the commission includes maintenance and condition surveys of necessary buildings and will commence with a batch of pilot surveys in the area. The second lot includes surveying and engineering projects.

The project is due to be completed by September 2020, with an option to extend for a further 2 years. For Rapleys the commission is set to deliver approximately £100k of consultancy fees each year, for the four years. This is in line with the Council’s budget and will ensure value is retained in their commitment to creating a sustainable future.

This commission coincides seamlessly with the Building Consultancy Groups expansion and the win is critical for the team as a whole to shape a very exciting future, especially for the Birmingham based members of the team who will tackle this instruction head on. Justin Tuckwell, Head of Rapleys Building Consultancy Group comments; ‘From our business development perspective, starting such a varied and large project will provide invaluable experience to our graduate surveyors in the team as well as further enhancing the portfolios of our more experienced surveyors. The Councils ambitions align with ours and we are confident of a long and prosperous collaboration.’

The commission win is part of a strategic plan that Rapleys have developed to grow and develop public sector client portfolios, sharing the best practices that they already provide to private sector clients.

As featured on Insider Magazine – click here. 

‘Lookers car dealership boasts flat above – a one-off or a new mixed-use template, asks Nick Hughes’ – Property Week.

‘Standing three storeys tall beneath a block of modern apartments, Lookers in Battersea, south London, is not your average car dealership – on two counts. Not only is it the largest Volkswagen showroom in Europe, it is also part of what is thought to be the first UK mixed-use scheme to include a dealership.

The development has been the best part of a decade in the making and involves three key players: Lookers, developer Linden Homes and agent Rapleys, which brought the other two parties together.’

Angus Irvine, Head of Development Services, brought Lookers and Linden Homes together to achieve a balanced and innovative scheme in this desirable London postcode. Stretching back for several decades a dealership has occupied this site but Lookers Chief Executive, Andy Bruce, could see the dealership ‘being dwarfed by the rise of surrounding developments’ over the last few years. With no intention to sell the freehold of their site they turned to Rapleys to unlock the value in the land and in this area, the value was in upward development.

The result was a tower development scheme with 173 apartments and ‘a full-blown dealership with servicing. That’s why this is unique’ says Angus. To overcome the challenges the multi discipline Rapleys team, led by Angus, brought together experts from across the firm’s DevelopmentPlanningInvestment and Building Consultancy practices to work with Lookers to maximise the significant land value of the site.

For the full article follow this link to Property Week or for direct advice on how Rapleys can help unlock the land potential on your site speak to Angus Irvine.

 

Rapleys’ Charities/Non-Profit team continue to be very active in the market and are delighted to share some of our available properties:

 

   

 

A full list is available here.

Apart from our usual consultancy of building and property matters, including landlord and tenant and building surveys, we are also currently engaged in a number of exciting development projects which can be found on the download link. For a no obligation initial meeting to discuss any of your property requirements contact Graham Smith or Adam Harvey

 

We are also delighted to be attending and sponsoring the networking reception again at this years Charity Property Conference. To find out more about this event and to secure your space please follow this link. We look forward to seeing you there!

 

 

The Government has introduced changes to the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO), effective from 25 May 2019. The changes are intended to make it easier to convert certain properties to provide more homes and offices, but some changes have not been introduced and the question remains, is this enough?

The changes were made following a public consultation in October 2018 and were confirmed in the Government’s Spring Statement. However some key changes, including the proposed permitted development (PD) right allowing upward extensions to create new housing, have not been introduced at this stage.

PD rights and changes to use classes have increasingly been used by the Government as planning tools to encourage and allow greater adaptation and diversification of our high streets. This latest set of PD changes introduces the following key amendments:

  • The temporary provision in Part 1 Class A, allowing larger residential extensions, is made permanent, having been due to expire on 31 May 2019
  • A new Part 3 Class JA allows shops, financial and professional services, hot food takeaways, betting shops, pay day loan shops and laundrettes to change to office use, up to 500sq m. This is subject to prior approval, which will assess transport and highways impacts, noise impacts from commercial and retail premises, and the impact on the sustainability of the existing shopping area
  • Part 3, Class M will now allow hot food takeaways to change to residential use, up to 150sq m, subject to prior approval application
  • Part 4, Class D is amended to allow temporary changes of use between various high street uses, offices and leisure facilities for a three year period (increased from two years) and is widened to include changes of use to certain community uses

However, the changes do not include the proposed PD right that would allow upward extension to create new housing. Nevertheless, despite the fact that this was the subject of significant objection during the consultation period, not least due to concerns relating to design impacts, the Government has indicated that it still intends to implement this at a future, unspecified date.

The proposed PD right allowing the demolition and redevelopment of existing commercial properties to provide new homes has also not been included at this stage, albeit the Government has indicated that this remains under consideration.

Evidently, the Government is striving to deliver on the promises it has made to use the planning system to reshape and revitalise our high streets and town centres, create prosperous communities and encourage new housing in underused properties. So far, certain PD rights introduced pursuant to these aims have been taken up with vigour by the development industry. For example, since 2015, some 42,000 new homes have been created using the office to residential PD right. The further changes to the PD rights outlined above can therefore be generally welcomed as a means of providing greater flexibility within the planning system.

The delay in the implementation of the wider ranging PD rights relating to upward extensions and commercial redevelopment schemes is not unexpected, in the context of the weight of objections associated with these matters during the consultation period. These represent complex issues, with impacts on neighbouring amenity, and in particular daylight & sunlight and legal rights to light being significant considerations in the potential application of such rights, should they come into force in the future.

As ever with permitted development rights, the devil is in the detail and it is therefore advisable to ensure that full due diligence is undertaken prior to commencing any works that may be considered to benefit from PD rights. Rapleys Town Planning and Neighbourly Matters specialists are well placed to advise on such matters. Please get in touch for further information.

Rapleys updated Use Class Order (England) guide can also be found here.

 

Rapleys’ Automotive & Roadside team have been very active in East Anglia with support from the recently opened Cambridge office. In the attached newsletter are some examples of recent automotive instructions – you can also click here.

The team can advise on the full spectrum of property services on a confidential basis. For full details of all available properties click here.

 

Richard Curry, Partner in the Retail & Leisure team, speaks to Food Navigator about Amazon’s investment in Deliveroo. The online retail giant will lead a new $575m investment into the food delivery company alongside other investors. This investment will allow the food delivery service to improve the company’s tech team in the UK headquarters and expand further to reach new customers.

Is Amazon laying the foundations for a move into bricks and mortar? 

Amazon’s move is evidence of it tapping into a growing trend for food delivery, in urban zones especially, and possibly setting the foundations for a move into bricks and mortar, believes Richard Curry, partner in the retail team at property and planning consultancy Rapleys.

If a consumer could receive Deliveroo delivery of Amazon’s range of goods, he told FoodNavigator, “that is tapping into a food market and competing with retailers.”

If Amazon were looking to set up in bricks and mortar space, he notes, then, “having all this infrastructure in place is going to be key, as most of the bigger organisations that are already established in bricks and mortar have antiquated distribution networks that are focussed on stores.”

It would also need to show a point of difference to stand out. ” Having this facility would give them that in my view.” He added that from Amazon’s perspective the investment was a ‘win-win’.

“It gives them another way of breaking into that [food goods delivery] market in its own right and at the same time if they did want to go nationwide into bricks and mortar they are setting up that to give themselves the opportunity to make that decision without it being expenditure on a gamble.

They know that the [Deliveroo] operation works and it doesn’t necessarily commit them to go into bricks and mortar but it would be required by them if they were to.”

For the full article with opinions from other experts click here.

Rapleys’ Automotive & Roadside team have been very active in East Anglia with support of service lines offered from the recently opened Cambridge office. In the attached are some examples of recent petrol filling station and roadside retail instructions. Click on the download button for full details.

For our full list of available properties click here. 

 

Rapleys are pleased to confirm a number of promotions across the business this month:

Senior Associate

Guy Davies – Building Consultancy Group, London
Rebecca Harper – Investment, London

Associate

Josie Hayes – Building Consultancy Group, Birmingham
Chloe Ballantine – Town Planning, London

Senior Planner

Conor Healy – Town Planning, London

Senior Surveyor

Charles Alexander – Development Services Group, London

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner, adds: ‘It is a great pleasure to announce these promotions. They are well-deserved. I look forward to their ongoing contribution to the business and, more particularly, our valued client base.’

 

As featured in various publications. CoStar – click here.Commercial News – click here.

Upcoming petrol retailer group RBK Services has acquired the former Co-Op petrol station in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, and plans to re-open the site.

Rapleys were appointed by Central England Co-Op to market their site once they had let their former superstore in Ramsey to Poundstretcher.

“Despite the site being closed, we had strong interest in the location and competitive bidding before finalising a deal,” said Mark Frostick, Senior Associate of Rapleys Automotive & Roadside team. “Operators are still seeing a lack of supply in the market and we continue to be able to market well-priced sites across the country and price ranges. It’s also great to see another site re-open.”

Ratnasingam “Bala” Balakrishnan, the MD of RBK Services Ltd, commented: “I have some major plans for the site once it has re-opened and rebranding and redecoration will soon have the site back to historic trading levels. The following services will be available to the public: a filling station with off licence, tyre centre and a hand car wash, as well as weekend cut price fuel and gas oil available at a reduced price for a limited time.”

Featured in Commercial News – click here. 
Featured in Forecourt Traderclick here.

Rapleys’ Neighbourly Matters team have been extensively involved in a mixed use redevelopment of a former brewery site in South Bristol.

The development, which was granted planning permission last week, comprises a residential led scheme of 94 new homes, with apartments arranged in two blocks of 7 and 8 storeys. With 2,000 sq m of co-working and commercial space also being provided on the site of the former Ashton Gate Brewery and Thomas Baynton’s Brewery with a number of the original buildings retained and refurbished.

Rapleys have been onboard since the early stages advising on Daylight & Sunlight Amenity, carrying out several analyses on a variety of neighbouring properties. Rapleys have also engaged early on in the design process, advising on Party Wall matters and will shortly be serving notices on the relevant adjoining properties for the demolition and construction phases.

The Old Brewery MCC LLP is a joint venture between Change Real Estate and Cannon Family Office.

Dan Tapscott, Partner, Head of Neighbourly Matters, comments: ‘This development has been a pleasure to get involved with; a variety of building types on a brownfield site with circa 35 neighbouring properties to consider is just the type of challenge our national Neighbourly Matters team are geared up for. The clients approach in enabling early engagement across the project team will ensure the effective delivery of the scheme.’

The last market update, in February 2018, was delivered as the potential takeover of MRH by MFG was announced. At the time we predicted corporate activity would remain high and as we reflect and look forward, that is certainly still a strong theme within the industry.

Since the takeover of MRH by MFG we have seen many changes. Petrogas’ takeover of Welcome Break (reflecting our prediction of the market looking at Motorway Service Areas); Harvest Energy purchasing HKS; Phillips 66 buying NJB group; and Cretas acquiring 6 sites from David Taylor Forecourts.

These changes have seen a number of oil companies joining the likes of Esso, BP and Shell in both offering supply agreements and retailing directly themselves.

Elsewhere, the independent operators (Indies) have continued their growth both in this country and abroad with acquisitions in the USA, Italy and Australia for Euro Garages. Other Indies have continued to look to acquire sites in the UK however, there remain relatively few opportunities on the open market – as has been the case for the last few years.

The corporate acquisition currently hitting the headlines, which potentially has the biggest effect on the market, of course is Sainsbury’s buying Asda, and it hasn’t even happened yet. The CMA has been investigating the potential issues of this deal and the initial report was fairly damning. The CMA predicted that the merger would lead to fuel price rises, which presumably reflects the different pricing policies that the two supermarkets currently run. That said, it does also suggest any site currently close to an Asda petrol station might be seeing better margins in the future, if the sale does take place.

The total number of operational sites has again been relatively stable with a net closure of only 12, after 70 new sites opened, or re-opened. We expect this trend to continue and indeed we recently let a site that had been closed for over 15 years! There have also been a number of sites that have been knocked down and rebuilt, refurbished or extended. We expect this process to continue as forecourts continue to modernise in line with customer expectations.

The last 12 months have also seen an increase in collaborative work with our Planning team on several sites. Looking at extending opening hours, which will only add to the potential for operators to improve trading.

Outside of corporate and property acquisitions, the market has seen a few other changes. In June there was a massive 6p jump in the price of a litre of unleaded – it is worth noting since then prices have stabilised.

Electric charging has continued to grow with Tesco tying up with VW and BP’s acquisition of Chargemaster. Whilst electric vehicles are still only a small part of the market we expect that this will continue to grow and petrol stations will look to incorporate those on sites where there is a market for charging.

Going forward, we expect 2019 to be more of the same; corporate acquisitions, demand for new to industry sites and potential for existing sites to improve with new options.

However any prediction of 2019 can not avoid the looming presence of Brexit. At the time of writing, nothing had been decided and we haven’t seen signs of any major effects on the petrol retailers. The effect on the economy as a whole is more likely to be an issue than to retailers themselves in the long term, but like everyone at present, it’s a wait and see situation.

If you are looking for further sites or currently have a site that you need advice on do not hesitate to get in touch.

“Housing minister Kit Malthouse has announced the five successful bids to create new towns across England. Between them, these settlements could deliver 64,000 homes.

The communities will receive a share of £3.7 million in funding that aims to ‘fast-track’ specialist survey and planning works necessary for their development…

Jason Lowes, a partner in the planning team at Rapleys, said the funding deal is further confirmation that garden communities ‘very clearly’ remain a key part of the government’s new homes strategy. While they should be welcomed in principle, Lowes said they are ‘by their nature a long-term solution and only part of the picture.’

‘Nearer-term solutions, such as the expansion of existing cities, towns and villages, are also critically important to ensure that people who want to can find new homes close to their families. This needs to be pursued through intensifying densities in appropriate locations, not least town centres, and reviewing the spaces around existing settlement boundaries – including, if necessary and appropriate, green belt land – particularly brownfield green belt land.'”

For the full article go to The Planner by clicking here.

As the Scottish Planning Bill continues to make its way slowly through the Parliament, further concerns are being raised at the cost of the amendments proposed at Stage 2.

MSPs on the local government committee had made 230 amendments to the bill adding in extra powers and responsibilities for planning authorities.

A new Financial Memorandum on the Bill has also been published and it highlights a few key figures which would result from these proposals:

  • Planning Authorities could see up-to an additional £75 million of costs for managing the system
  • Businesses/development community could see more than £400 million in additional costs

Since the turn of the new year, many of us involved in advising clients and working within the planning system, as well as economists and professional bodies have voiced concerns at the nature of this Bill and how it has been transformed from its original purpose. From our considerable experience of working across numerous Planning Authorities in Scotland, Rapleys agree that this additional financial burden will do nothing to help the already stretched planning services. How this helps make Scotland a competitive and attractive location is also questionable.

There has to be a realisation that if Scotland makes the planning system too difficult and burdensome for those seeking to invest here then that capital can go elsewhere.

Rapleys Scottish Planning Team has been and continues to monitor progress of the passage of this bill in order to be able to fully advise on its potential ramifications on our existing and future clients, and we would be interested to get the views of others on this crucially important stage.

Please contact James Reilly or Grant Allan to discuss the bill, or for any general planning requirements.

Commercial property and planning consultancy Rapleys has advised Lookers PLC on the development of its new £10m dealership located on York Road, Battersea.

The 90,000 sq ft Volskwagen dealership forms part of a multi-million pound mixed-use joint venture between Lookers and Linden Homes. The state of the art dealership comprises the first three floors of the development, including significant amenity and customer experience space as well as a state-of-the-art automotive services department.

The multi discipline Rapleys team, led by partner Angus Irvine, brought together experts from across the firm’s Development, Planning, Investment and Building Consultancy practices to work with Lookers to maximise the significant land value of the site.

Principally this included a full planning and feasibility study, resulting in the unlocking of air rights to facilitate a multi-storey, mixed-use development comprising both the car dealership and a residential scheme. Rapleys identified and secured Linden Homes as the joint venture partner for the project, subsequently securing planning permission for the full commercial and residential scheme, to include 174 one, two and three-bedroom apartments, both private and affordable, across the fifteen storey, four tower development.

Rapleys also advised Lookers on relocating the existing dealership to an alternative site while works were being undertaken, to minimise any disruption to the day-to-day business.

Angus Irvine, Partner and head of Development, commented: “As competition for land, particularly in urban conurbations, increases, it is critical that investors and developers have a creative approach to maximising the value of their assets. Frequently this means changing or expanding uses and more often than not, building up rather than out. Lookers’ new dealership is a terrific example of this; maintaining and enhancing commercial operations while delivering much needed private and affordable housing in the heart of London courtesy of JV partner Linden Homes.”

As part of a series of announcements last week, the Government surprised many by replacing its national planning policies with a revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). However, now that the dust has settled it looks like two of the other announcements, changes in National Planning Practice Guidance and the Government’s first annual reporting on its Housing Delivery Test, are nevertheless as, if not more, relevant.

Another National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

The original NPPF was published in 2012, and it took six years to be replaced in July 2018. Less than 9 months later, this document has now been superseded. However, the changes in the document appear, at first glance, to be minor at best. The substance of the changes can be summarised as follows:

• As a result of a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling, a paragraph has been changed to make it clear that the presumption in favour of sustainable development does not apply where the proposal will have a “significant effect” on a habitats site, unless an assessment has concluded that the proposal will not adversely effect the integrity of that habitats site (paragraph 177).

• A footnote has been amended to state that “where local housing need is used as the basis for assessing whether a five year supply of specific deliverable sites exists, it should be calculated using the standard method set out in national planning guidance” (footnote 37).

• An amendment to the glossary to confirm that non-major sites with outline consent should be presumed deliverable, unless there is evidence that they are not, effectively flipping the presumption for this type of development (definition of “deliverable sites”).

• A further glossary amendment to clarify that alternative approaches to the standardised method of calculating housing yield should only be used in policy making and not, for example, housing land supply statements (definition of “local housing need”).

All in all, the changes to the NPPF can be boiled down to; one change in the main body of the document, one footnote change and two glossary amendments. As such, they represent a tightening up of the 2018 version rather than indicating any broader change in approach.

On the positive side, planners across England will be heaving a sigh of relief that they don’t have to memorise another raft of paragraph numbers. However, the publication of such a similar policy document, so soon after the last one, raises the question of whether we can expect new NPPFs to be published on a regular basis.

Practice Guidance changes relative to calculating housing need

In an attempt to simplify the system, last year the Government introduced a standard method of calculating housing need, based on household projections. However, this was somewhat undermined by the publication, last autumn, of new household projections based on 2016 data, which suggested, when applied to the standard methodology, a housing need that was far below the Government’s nationwide aspirations.

The Government has since made it clear that these projections should not be used, preferring the earlier, 2014 based data. Last week’s change to practice guidance represents a further cementing of this position. However, this is likely to prove temporary as the Government is reviewing its methodology and we can expect further announcements on this later in the year.

Housing Delivery Test (HDT) results

HDT was introduced by the Government in the 2018 NPPF as a way of measuring the actual delivery of additional dwellings in a local authority area against need. The results of these tests are of high importance to both local authorities and developers; substantial under-delivery against the test triggers the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

The results indicate that over a third were below the 100% pass rate and many were considerably lower. Of these, 87 of the worst performing local authorities will need to apply a 20% buffer when calculating housing need. In addition they, and a further 22 authorities, will need to produce “action plans” to remedy the situation.

The presumption in favour of sustainable development has not been triggered by any local authority yet, but this is because the threshold for substantial under-delivery is currently 25% of need. It will rise next year, and then again in 2020 to its final level of 75%. Around 20% of local authorities would currently fail against this yardstick.

Summary

The release of new national policies would normally be a major planning story, but in reality the changes are incremental and reflect government thinking that we were already aware of. The same is true of the changes to planning practice guidance.

In this context, the biggest takeaway of last week’s announcements is likely to prove the HDT results – these illustrate that housing delivery falls short (in some cases far short) of Government aspirations. Although this is hardly news in itself, local authorities will be under considerable (and growing) pressure to increase the numbers of new homes, particularly in the worst performing areas, with knock-on opportunities for developers and landowners.

If you would like to discuss how the planning system might add value to your property portfolio, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) cast doubt on the planned Sainsbury’s-Asda merger as it reports ‘extensive competition concerns’. The experts react to the findings, with partner in Retail & Leisure, Richard Curry, sharing his views with The Grocer, Bloomberg and the European Supermarket Magazine.

As reported in The Grocer, Curry comments ‘…the only two alternatives that offer the same product range and shopping experience are Tesco and Morrisons – who are unlikely to be interested in enough of the large format stores likely to be seen as problematic by the CMA to make a difference.

The CMA’s provisional findings do increase the likelihood of the Sainsbury’s-Asda deal being scrapped. However, Walmart will clearly still be looking to offload Asda and there will likely be other suitors waiting in the wings.’

The full analyst from Richard and other experts can be views in the following publications:

 

 

Rapleys’ property and planning consultancy continue to deliver on their ambitious business development plan with the announcement of the latest office move for the Edinburgh team.

The team moves to Rutland Square this week, after a decision was taken not to renew the lease in Caledonian Exchange. The move provides Rapleys with superior accommodation that better suits their needs as well as a growing client base. By stepping over into EH1, Rapleys are at the centre of the commercial property market in the city and ultimately their valued clients will benefit from this accessible and vibrant location.

The key service lines offered from this hub are Town Planning, Corporate & Investor Management, Business Space, Retail & Leisure and Automotive & Roadside. With local knowledge and national insight from the wider network of offices the professional teams provide comprehensive property and planning solutions on a value-added basis consistently.

Colin Steele, Partner and head of the Edinburgh office, comments: “this move comes at a great time as we continue to expand the team and service lines available here from our Edinburgh hub. On a wider practice level, the last 12 months have seen many of our regional offices move up and on to better spaces, improving the environment for the benefit of colleagues and clients alike. It is great to align ourselves to the overall business development plan and we will continue to offer the excellent, local services that our clients value us for, from this new location.”

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner adds: “I am delighted with the new office space at Rutland Square. It is a recognised and established business address in the heart of the city. Needless to say, we look forward to welcoming clients to, and advising from, our new home in Edinburgh.”

Full contact details for Rapleys Edinburgh

8A Rutland Square
Edinburgh EH1 2AS

0370 777 6292
info@rapleys.com

Property and planning consultancy Rapleys announces the launch of a new office in Cambridge. The new office is Rapleys’ second in Cambridgeshire, with the firm being founded in Huntingdon and maintaining a strong presence and heritage in region since 1951.

The Cambridge office consists of both professional advisory and transactional teams from across Rapleys’ service lines, delivering a joined-up, multi-disciplinary offering to clients in the region. Each team consists of professionals who live and work in the city, with strong established relationships across Cambridge’s range of complementary consultancy services.

Stuart Harris has been appointed Head of the Cambridge office, and joins Rapleys with more than 30 years’ experience working in the industry and region, including roles with Strutt & Parker and Carter Jonas.

Stuart, alongside the existing partnership, will be responsible for promoting and coordinating the delivery of the firm’s core property consultancy and town planning services in the city, including: Town Planning, Building Consultancy, Development, Affordable Housing & Viability, Commercial Agency, Landlord & Tenant and Investment.

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner at Rapleys, commented: “Our new Cambridge office, alongside the appointment of Stuart, represents a key further stage in Rapleys’ evolution, which builds on our long-established heritage, presence and reputation in the region going back to the founding of the firm in Huntingdon in 1951. We saw a real opportunity in Cambridge, which is undergoing substantial growth, and a market opening where we can bring in services – such as Affordable Housing and Viability, Strategic Land, Building Consultancy and Town Planning – which are currently underrepresented in the region or are subject to increasing demand. At the same time, our expanded footprint and capacity in the region further complements our national expansion programme – providing clients access to partner-led teams with both local expertise and UK-wide reach.”

Stuart Harris, Head of the Cambridge Office at Rapleys, added: “Principally I am delighted to join Rapleys at this exciting juncture. There are significant opportunities in Cambridge, which is rapidly increasing in commercial importance and is one of the fastest growing cities in the UK. This looks set to continue – not least driven by the wider strategic plan for the region including the Cambridge-Oxford arc and expressway – and we are seeing an increasing demand particularly for planning and consulting services from businesses seeking to capitalise on this growth. I look forward to working with the wider Rapleys team to help clients seize these opportunities.”

Rapleys’ Cambridge team can be contacted at 20 Station Road, Cambridge CB1 2JD / 0370 777 6292.

Rapleys’ Retail & Leisure team are pleased to be reporting a number of significant deals, see the download. 

Speak to Richard Curry, Partner, Retail & Leisure Group, for more details on 07876 747146 or via email.

 

Those of us in the surveying world of Daylight & Sunlight have been waiting with baited breath to understand the implications of the new European Standard for Daylighting and its ever so snappy title EN17037. With great thanks to the CIBSE Daylight Group and the many great speakers at their event, all was revealed recently.

EN17037 does consider other factors, such as sunlight, view and glare but the most interesting topic of conversation was the new provisions for daylight. Very helpfully, Paul Littlefair of the Building Research Establishment, was on hand to translate the new provisions and explain how these deviated from the current standards used by consultants and Planning Authorities contained within the Building Research Establishment’s Report 209 “Site Layout Planning for Daylight and Sunlight – A Guide to Good Practice” (2011 2nd Edition).

The new standard, EN17037, recommends using daylight illuminance testing; requiring that a room obtains certain lux levels over 50% and 95% of the space for 50% of daylight hours. Minimum, medium and high levels are recommended as a means by which to judge the performance of a room. The recommendations are as follows:

  • Minimum – 300 lux exceeded over 50% of the space (median illuminance) and 100 lux exceeded over 95% of the space (minimum illuminance), for 50% of daylight hours
  • Medium – 500 lux for median and 300 for minimum for 50% of daylight hours
  • High – 750 lux for median and 500 lux for minimum for 50% daylight hours

The procedure for this testing requires that the daylight illuminance is calculated on a grid of points for every hour of the year. Taking the hourly median daylight illuminance exceeded over half the space and the minimum daylight illuminance. Choose the values equalled or exceeded for 2190 hours.

Comparing this to the current recommendations for Average Daylight Factor the recommendations for median daylight factor translate to an ADF figure around 1.5 times higher. As an example, looking at the minimum recommendations of EN17037, 2.1% median daylight factor equates to roughly 3.2% average daylight factor. Therefore, even the minimum recommendations of EN17037 are likely to be difficult to achieve and are certainly an uplift on the current highest targets of 2% for any room containing a kitchen. This will be especially problematic for dwellings in urban areas, such as London. It is also worth noting that the recommendations are the same for all room types, so the increase in light that needs to be achieved will be more apparent for rooms that had lower ADF targets, such as bedrooms (1%).

In reality this will reflect the current situation, in that it is likely the units on upper floors will have the best chance of meeting the high recommendations. With each floor moving down the façade of the building going from high, through medium and minimum and some even below that.

This reality naturally causes some concern and worry about the difficulty this would create in designing schemes that would meet these higher targets. Thankfully, the National Annex, soon to be proposed by the BRE would seek to relieve this.

Currently, a few options are on the table in terms of proposals for the National Annex, these are summarised below:

  1. Use minimum values of average daylight factor in BS 8206 Part 2 (or largely that contained within the BRE guide) as an alternative method for dwellings
  2. Adapt EN17037 methodology, but use lower illuminances for dwellings, resulting in lower recommended median daylight factors
  3. A combination of the above two options.

A vote among the event attendees was taken at the time, giving a clear winner, however final decisions of course remain to be seen. In short, Rapleys are in favour of the proposed method changes, but certainly agree that there will be difficulty in achieving the recommendations. If these can be reduced to a more achievable level we can see only good things for the industry going forward.

With the changing climate and potential impact this may have on developers moving forward Rapleys are acutely aware that this may pose challenges in the future.

The market may also question, due to Brexit, whether this Standard has to be embraced or can be ignored. As with any Daylight & Sunlight Study, those reviewing a design should always consider the requirements outlined by each specific local authority, so best to consider on a case by case basis. Although, it should not be forgotten that all designs should strive to ensure the best levels of Daylight & Sunlight and not the minimum.

As well as Daylight & Sunlight, Rapleys advise on other Neighbourly Matters including Rights to Light, Party Walls and Access Arrangements.

 

A new Burger King which has opened at Godwin Developments’ Brampton Hut Services on the A14 near Huntingdon has already created 14 new jobs with the team expected to grow to 25 during peak trading.

Now the focus is on two further turnkey units to let on the site which will create even more jobs at the busy A1 and A14 routes.

Jason Doe, area manager at EuroGarages, who are the lead tenant on site, said: “Brampton Hut Burger King represents a fantastic opportunity for a progressive, forward thinking and rapidly expanding organisation such as the EuroGarages to bring a high-profile quick service offering to what promises to be one of the foremost roadside services currently under development in the UK.

“We very much look forward to growing our team and customer base both here and further afield.”

Letting agents were Rapleys who specialise in the retail, leisure and roadside markets.

Jonathan Jones, surveyor at Rapleys said: “Rapleys are delighted to have acted on behalf of the Godwin Group in the letting to EuroGarages trading as Burger King at Brampton Hut Services.

“The excellent traffic of the A1 and A14 combined with the critical mass of food and beverage occupiers has established Brampton Hut Services as a strong ‘Food to Go’ destination and as such Burger King will undoubtedly trade well here.

“There are now only two turnkey units available to let, one of which benefits from a drive-thru lane, and leasing enquires in the roadside market are encouraged for this rarely available opportunity,” he said.

Ketan Patel, development manager at Godwin Developments, said: “This site now offers a Greggs, Subway, Starbucks and Burger King with close amenities to a large BP Connect filling station and truck park, with a Brewers Fayre restaurant, Premier Inn Hotel close by.

“It is clearly a magnet for motorists looking to take a break and top up at this busy A14 and A1 interchange, and so the remaining two units to let provide an excellent opportunity for food outlets that are complementary to the existing local provision and add value and consumer choice.”

Godwin Development update – click here. 

Following another exciting and active year Rapleys are delighted to see the range of clients and projects continue to grow across all property sectors nationally. It is encouraging that any doom and gloom in the media is not what we have been experiencing. Perhaps our clients are being a bit more cautious but if anything this gives us a greater opportunity to provide crucial and practical Neighbourly Matters advice to reduce levels of uncertainty for them and their investors.

From arenas to offices, hotels to fire stations, universities/student accommodation developments to strategic city centre reviews to car showrooms and high rise residential buildings; the cross section of work undertaken and our geographical spread has been wide. These projects all bring with them individual and exciting challenges, whether our client is the developer or neighbours to the development.

We’ve also had a busy year promoting the service having delivered over 50 seminars to developers, architects, solicitors and local authorities as well as speaking at industry conferences. In addition to several published articles on our specialism, we have also developed a dedicated website to collate all our Neighbourly Matters services together: www.rapleysrightstolight.com

In November we were thrilled to host our first client drinks reception in the new London office which helped demonstrate the new in-house Rights to Light and Daylight & Sunlight analysis we can run. Bringing this in-house has certainly been an aspiration fulfilled, ensuring we continue to be as responsive, competitive and agile as possible for our clients.

Peer recognition in the industry is always welcome and there were two notable achievements in the past twelve months. As you may be aware, the RICS has launched a new Rights to Light pathway to chartership status and our own Dan Tapscott was only too happy to accept the invitation to become an assessor to assist in bringing on those entering the profession. Similarly, Dan was approached to be on the panel of the Bristol Urban Design Forum to critique significant and substantial upcoming planning applications which is both rewarding and insightful.

Of course Dan would not have been able to take up such roles were it not for the wider Building Consultancy Group, especially Natasha Bray, who leads the service in our London office. Natasha has been with us just over a year and has been a fantastic addition to Rapleys. Input from the Building Surveyors has also been substantial and invaluable in the delivery of our Party Wall service.

Turning to this year, we are on an ambitious recruitment drive throughout our network of offices to keep our exemplary service deliverable. If you are or know someone who would be keen to join us, please get in contact. There are positions available across the sector so get in touch with Dan Tapscott for the Neighbourly Matters roles or Justin Tuckwell, Head of Building Consultancy Group, for the other surveyor roles.

 

Following a two year delay since the first draft of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF), the revised draft was finally approved by the Combined Authority on 7 January. Once adopted the GMSF will provide the strategic plan for the ten combined authority areas of Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan.

If you have sites in any of these areas, now is the time to be considering promoting or protecting them through the planning system.

The revised draft follows Mayor Andy Burnham’s manifesto pledge of 2017 for a ‘radical rewrite’ to ensure no net Green Belt loss. In reality, this has been impossible to achieve, but the revised net loss of the Green Belt (at 2,419 hectares) has been reduced by around 50% with, instead, a clear focus on making the most of Greater Manchester’s brownfield sites.

Other notable changes include:

  • Prioritising redevelopment of town centres and other sustainable locations;
  • A revised minimum housing target of 201,000 net additional dwellings to be delivered over the period 2018-37 (an annual average of around 10,580) – a drop in average homes per year of about 7% compared to the 2016 draft;
  • Optimising densities in sustainable locations with a requirement of up to 200 homes per hectare in city centre locations, 120 homes per hectare in designated town centres and up to 70 homes per hectare in other town centres; and
  • A marginally greater increase in industrial and warehousing floorspace, of 4,220,000 sq m (compared to the 2016 target of around 4,000,000 sq m between 2015-2035).

Notwithstanding the overall reduction in the annual housing target, it will represent a challenge for some local authorities to deliver the number of homes now identified for their areas, with our assessment indicating that Stockport, Trafford and Oldham will be a key focus for new residential development in the context of existing delivery rates and 5YHLS. Depending on revised delivery test and 5YHLS figures, other authority areas may also need to find more sites for housing.

The current consultation and the updates to the 10 Local Plans that will follow therefore represent an important opportunity for businesses and landowners to promote sites and/or ensure that existing interests are protected. Rapleys can advise in this process so please do contact us for more information.

 

Two years after the original draft was torn up, the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework has now been rewritten. Whilst the rewrite represents a significant change in approach from the authorities, does it go far enough in aiding growth ambitions in the region?

On 21 January 2019 the rewrite of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework will go out to consultation for an 8 week period. The document has been highly anticipated and when compared to the 2016 consultation document, it is refreshing to see the change in approach from the Greater Manchester authorities. The amount of Greenbelt to be released now stands at around 50% of the amount previously proposed and there is a renewed focus on meeting the need for new development through Brownfield sites.

Alongside the scaled back Greenbelt release, housing targets have also been decreased from 227,000 in 2016 to 201,000 in the current document. This 26,000 home decrease is likely to be viewed negatively by the development community and advocates of growth for the city region. It is considered that the scaled back Greenbelt release and the decrease in housing targets will be challenged by the development community through the consultation exercise and subsequent examination of the plan.

This plan has a greater focus on housing delivery via Brownfield sites and high density development in the most accessible locations. This in theory, represents the most sustainable approach to housing delivery, however actually delivering development on Brownfield sites is often more complex than it may initially appear.

To ensure these sites can practically meet the housing needs, contaminated land must be remediated, site constraints must be overcome and appropriate infrastructure provision will need to be in place. In many locations throughout Greater Manchester, the key to these sites coming forward will be the public and private sector working in partnership, as many sites will simply not stack up in viability terms at present for private sector developers alone. This approach has already been seen throughout Greater Manchester with many regionally important schemes being brought forward on this basis.

The shift towards an increased quantum of development in town and city centres within Greater Manchester, bringing more residents to these areas, can only be seen as a positive. The increased urban population will in turn, increase the amount of available expenditure and benefit the retail and leisure sector within these centres.

However, many town centres within the region simply have too much retail floorspace at present, which is no longer needed to serve their role and function. This surplus space should be consolidated through redevelopment or diversification. Secondary and tertiary centres also no longer need the wide range of retail representation they once had due to seismic change in shopping patterns currently being experienced.

Overall, the adoption of this plan is fundamental to ensuring the need for new development across Greater Manchester can be met. The delays in the plan coming forward to date have hindered the ability of investors to make decisions on development proposals in the region and hopefully, momentum is now behind the new plan which will get it over the line and provide certainty.

The plan will also provide the 10 Greater Manchester authorities with a basis on which to prepare their own Local Plans, which will work alongside the framework.

That said, political change and pressures still have the potential to de-rail the new plan’s progress. The key point of disruption in the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework’s progress was the appointment of Andy Burnham as Mayor, which led to the plan being rewritten. Therefore getting a final plan agreed and submitted for examination before the next mayoral election in 2020 is likely to be crucial.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority has confirmed that the official consultation period on this plan will run from 21 January to 18 March 2019.

If you would like any further information or wish to discuss how Rapleys can assist in promoting development sites within Greater Manchester via the new spatial framework and forthcoming local authority development plans please get in touch.

 

As we soar into 2019, there is no slowing down across the business and the Building Consultancy Group, in particular, are delighted to announce exciting opportunities to join their team.

As the service experiences rapid expansion across the network of UK offices, there are several graduate surveyor positions available in Bristol, London, Manchester, Birmingham and Huntingdon. To add to this, Bristol also require a Neighbourly Matters assistant to join the team in carrying out essential work in this highly specialised area.

Collectively, the team cover the full spectrum of services from party wall advice, dilapidations, project work, building surveys and everything in between. The role will be fast paced and provide an excellent platform to harvest all the skills required to progress your career with us.

We recruit and retain knowledgeable and passionate professionals and provide a collaborative culture that enables individuals to thrive in our robust training and development programme. Through this system, Rapleys are proud to be recognised as an Investors in People awarded company, independently verifying our commitment to you.

For more details you can go directly to our jobs page and view the various positions or speak to Justin Tuckwell, Head of Building Consultancy Group, on the available opportunities.

Case Study 

Rapleys acquired a site, of circa 2.4 acres, for a new build dealership to be fully compliant to Ford’s corporate identity. The site includes a 6 car showroom, 10 bay workshop, parts store and a fully surfaced site for used car display and new car storage.The client needed the project delivered in 12 months due to relocation.

The client’s previous site was sold by their landlord and therefore they had to relocate relatively quickly. Rapleys were appointed to acquire the site, successfully finding somewhere suitable for redevelopment and terms were agreed on a subject to planning basis. Once planning was approved, Rapleys acted as Lead Consultant, procuring other consultants services, and Project Managing the delivery of the new dealership.

Successfully managed the project team, delivered the brief on time and on budget to the clients satisfaction.

Today in Property Week, Nick Hughes asks ‘what impact the divestment of Sainsbury’s/Asda stores would have on the sector.’

‘A great deal for customers, colleagues, suppliers and shareholders of both businesses.’ That’s what the leaders of Sainsbury’s and Asda promised in April as the two confirmed plans for a £51bn mega-merger that, if approved, will reshape the grocery landscape with significant implications for the retail property market…

…A rebalancing of the big four’s property portfolios, although meaningful, is unlikely to significantly alter the dynamics of the grocery market; however, Rapleys partner Richard Curry floats a prospect that has the potential to change the face of the food retail landscape in the UK and send every supermarket executive into a state of high alert.

‘The CMA included (Amazon-owned) Whole Foods as part of its phase-one investigation’, Curry notes. ‘While Whole Foods itself is unlikely to take on a large-footprint Asda or Sainsbury’s unit, it does raise the question of what role Amazon more broadly will play going forward’. ‘We know the CMA is considering the impact of online retail on grocery shopping and if Amazon senses an opportunity to take on a nationwide portfolio of large units that can be subdivided to house various operations – from Whole Foods groceries to non-food and logistics – the temptation to make a big bricks-and-mortar splash will be strong indeed.’

The full article is available here on Property Week. 

In the Budget Statement on 22 November the Chancellor announced “Retail Relief” but there were no specific details of the type of property that would be included in the scheme.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has recently issued a retail discount – guidance note and it was thought to be important to make clients aware of the guidance note which can be accessed here.

The relief will apply to properties for the 2019/2020 & 2020/2021 rate years with a Rateable Value of less than £51,000 and which meet the following requirements as detailed in the guidance note:

We consider shops, restaurants, cafes and drinking establishments to mean:

1. Hereditaments that are being used for the sale of goods to visiting members of the public:

  • Shops (such as: florists, bakers, butchers, grocers, greengrocers, jewellers, stationers, off licences, chemists, newsagents, hardware stores, supermarkets, etc)
  • Charity shops
  • Opticians
  • Post offices
  • Furnishing shops/ display rooms (such as: carpet shops, double glazing, garage doors)
  • Car/ caravan show rooms
  • Second hand car lots
  • Markets
  • Petrol stations
  • Garden centres
  • Art galleries (where art is for sale/hire)

2. Hereditaments that are being used for the provision of the following services to visiting members of the public:

  • Hair and beauty services (such as: hair dressers, nail bars, beauty salons, tanning shops, etc)
  • Shoe repairs/ key cutting
  • Travel agents
  • Ticket offices e.g. for theatre
  • Dry cleaners
  • Launderettes
  • PC/ TV/ domestic appliance repair
  • Funeral directors
  • Photo processing
  • Tool hire
  • Car hire

3. Hereditaments that are being used for the sale of food and/or drink to visiting members of the public:

  • Restaurants
  • Takeaways
  • Sandwich shops
  • Coffee shops
  • Pubs
  • Bars

The guidance note also mentions that if a Rateable Value that was originally less than £51,000 is increased to that figure, or above, then the relief will stop from the date of increase.

The European Union State Aid De Minimis Regulations will apply so a business is only entitled to 200,000 Euros of State Aid in a three year period (the current financial year and the two previous financial years).

If the UK leaves the EU on 29th March then the guidance note mentions that the Government will transpose EU State Aid Rules into UK domestic legislation.

The list below sets out the types of uses that the Government does not consider to be retail use for the purpose of this relief.

Hereditaments that are being used for the provision of the following services to visiting members of the public:

  • Financial services (e.g. banks, building societies, cash points, bureaux de change, payday lenders, betting shops, pawn brokers)
  • Other services (e.g. estate agents, letting agents, employment agencies)
  • Medical services (e.g. vets, dentists, doctors, osteopaths, chiropractor
  • Professional services (e.g. solicitors, accountants, insurance agents/ financial advisers, tutors)
  • Post office sorting offices

Local authorities have to determine for themselves whether particular properties are broadly similar in nature to those above and, if so, to consider them not eligible for the relief under their local scheme.

For any help on your business rates please contact Alan Watson or Stacey Jolly.

 

Rapleys has secured outline planning permission for 1,100 new homes at the former British Sugar factory site in York, following a Public Inquiry held in January 2018.

The 98 acre site, one of the largest brownfield sites in the City, is owned by Associated British Foods (ABF), who have been working with the City of York Council (in the context of appeal proceedings) and the local community to achieve the sustainable regeneration of the redundant site since its closure.

The approved masterplan provides new family homes, a primary school, two nursery schools, a multi-use community and sports hall, and over 22 acres of new public open space. In addition over £4 million of funding will be contributed towards infrastructure improvements, including highways works, sports and community facilities and secondary education provision in the local area.

The key matter addressed at the Public Inquiry was the provision of affordable housing. The Secretary of State agreed with the evidence put forward by the landowner, which demonstrated that given the significant remediation costs associated with the regeneration of the site, it was appropriate to accept a viable level of affordable housing in the first phase, with additional affordable housing at each subsequent phase of development to be provided based on a staged viability reassessment process.

Rapleys acted as lead Planning Consultant, as well as providing specialist advice on viability, affordable housing and Environmental Impact Assessment. Rapleys is delighted to have secured outline planning permission on behalf of ABF, and will continue to advise on the implementation of the regeneration scheme, which will provide much needed new housing and leave a positive legacy for British Sugar in the City of York.

Rapleys is delighted to announce that real estate investment company Aprirose has sold the former Volkswagen dealership on Edgware Road to Jemca.

The 19,859 sq ft site was originally marketed to let, but after being inundated with bids and following an offer from Jemca, Aprirose chose to move forward with the sale. The location of the site was a big draw for potential buyers with the property situated in a prominent position amongst other big-name retailers.

Heading up the deal was Rapleys Automotive and Roadside Partner Daniel Cook and Paul Taylor from Latitude Real Estate advised Jemca.

Daniel commented that the circumstances surrounding the sale “demonstrate clearly the difficulty car dealers are having in finding suitable premises as they now have to compete with not only potentially higher value uses, but also the investment market in order to locate to an appropriate site.”

Published in MotorTrader.com

Last week’s new housing statistics from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government may have gone slightly unnoticed coming on the same day as Theresa May outlined her proposed Brexit agreement to ministers, triggering a sharp fall in housebuilders’ share prices. 

While the statistics showed new housing numbers have shot up 78% from the relative doldrums of 2012-13, when the effects of the financial crisis resulted in a decline in completions, year-on-year figures for 2017-18 only showed an increase of 2% on 2016-17. There is a danger that housing delivery is plateauing.

The Budget did contain an important loosening of planning rules, which may have an impact. Permitted development rights (PDR) remain an important tool for developers looking to bring forward housing and the sharp decline of PDR office-to-resi conversions in the housing statistics is eye-catching. The number of office-to-resi PDR conversions fell by 6,196 from 17,751 in 2016-17.

Clearly, after an initial wave of applications the number of viable sites has begun to dwindle. The Government has sought to address this by extending PDR to certain retail properties – both to boost housing supply and stimulate high street footfall.

But there are bigger changes on the horizon. The Letwin Review sought to find solutions that would improve housing supply, having acknowledged the lack of evidence of so-called land banking by developers. The numbers certainly suggest that developers are not holding back from delivering housing once planning consents have been given.

The Government’s response to Letwin is expected in February 2019. It will need to ensure it does not stymie, or undo, recent progress by increasing the complexity of the planning system. The 300,000 homes per year target remains an extraordinary tough challenge, one that can only be met with a sensible and sustainable approach to planning and development.

Published by Property Week on 20 November 2018. 

With expansion plans well underway for the Building Consultancy Group, head of the Group, Justin Tuckwell, welcomes a new look line up to the Birmingham base.

This regional hub has gone from strength to strength over the last 12 months – including a move to a bigger and brighter space – and the variety of service offerings are showing no signs of slowing down, just like the city skyline surrounding them. Dan Tapscott, head of the Neighbourly Matters service, adds “the number of tower cranes is always a good barometer of development in a city and Birmingham is no exception. Our Neighbourly Matters service operates throughout our UK office network and we are now dealing with a number of developments in Birmingham and the Midlands delivering Rights to Light and Party Wall expertise in particular.”

Within the wider Building Consultancy Group, Josie Hayes, previously of Faithful+Gould, has joined Chris Barnett to lead the team and further develop key services to the existing client base and bring on new and valued clients.

Jason Mound sits within the team and provides development management consultant advice, which complements our other services in the Midlands such as planning, strategic land and development agency.

Collectively, the expertise available within this region and throughout the whole office network cover a full spectrum of building consultancy services, ensuring our clients projects can be fully supported by Rapleys and the client remains at the focus of every project.

Godwin Developments has announced the first two occupiers, secured by Rapleys Retail & Leisure agency team, on its Pineham neighbourhood retail site in Northampton.

The Midcounties Co-operative and Blossom Tree Day Nursery will be the first two tenants on the development.

Godwin Developments acquired the 1.1 acre site from Taylor Wimpey Homes and is building 12,600 sq ft of retail and nursery space.

Co-op has taken 4,000 sq ft and Blossom Tree Day Nursery will move into the slightly larger unit of 4,550 sq ft. Other units on the site are still available and continue to be marketed by Rapleys, cick here for the marketing brochure.

Stuart Pratt, group development director and co-founder of Godwin Developments, said: “We are delighted to have secured Co-op and Blossom Tree Day nurseries as the first two tenants for the Pineham Neighbourhood centre.

“The overall development has now provided over 600 new homes as well as a new primary school opposite our site. We now have only two remaining retail units totalling 2,500 sq ft and one D2 use class unit available.”

Alfred Bartlett, head of retail and leisure at Rapleys, said: “We are extremely pleased to have effected these key lettings and that Co-op and Blossom Tree Day Nurseries as anchor tenants, have been able to envisage the strategic benefits of the Pineham Neighbourhood centre, which not only serves the new primary school development and over 600 houses coming on stream but the existing Pineham village also as well as the adjoining Prologis Park and the wider distribution and business development just off junction 15A M1.

“The remaining units provide great opportunities for complementary retail, café or food to go operators.”

Source: Godwin Developments

Buoyed with revised forecasts from the OBR, the Chancellor certainly had more wiggle room on Budget day than many expected, but there are questions over how his despatch box announcements will impact the delivery of much needed new housing. In other news, the Government is gathering opinions on two key housing related initiatives.

The Budget

In advance of the Budget, planning matters were heavily trailed, particularly in terms of promoting housing and rejuvenating the high street. However, perhaps inevitably, firm announcements were arguably a little thin on the ground.

In terms of housing, an extension (albeit a temporary one) of Help to Buy and the roll-out of backdated stamp duty relief for first time buyers of shared ownership property will likely provide a welcome boost to the voting public seeking to get on the property ladder. The stimulus package to support smaller house builders as well as strategic partnerships with nine Housing Associations across England will also be welcomed.

However, beyond this, a major focus relative to housing was on the publishing of the full recommendations of the Letwin review. Critically, Letwin found no evidence to support the allegations of so-called ‘Land Banking’ levelled against many developers. The real reasons behind the gap between planning consent and housing delivery are, as many planners would attest, far more complex (so complex, in fact, that the Government’s response will not be published until February next year).

Letwin’s recommendations relate particularly to the largest development sites (i.e. those with more than 1,500 homes) and would potentially see planning rules requiring developers to offer a range of “housing products” (which already happens to a large extent) and allowance for a bigger role for councils. When responding to the report, the government will need to be wary of making a complex system more complicated for developers and stretched local authorities.

As for the high street, the new reduction in Business Rates for certain small businesses is a welcome move but, at the same time, those retailers who have had difficult times recently would not blame this factor alone – rates are an important, though singular, piece of this puzzle. In terms of planning, the chief response was the announcement of a consultation to further extend permitted development rights – further details below.

Consultation 1: “Supporting the high street and increasing the delivery of new homes”

Although this consultation takes in a number of matters, such as reforms to how local authorities can dispose of surplus land and compulsory purchase guidance for new town development corporations, the most eye-catching part of this consultation is proposed extensions to permitted development rights.

These include:

  • Greater flexibility relative to land use in the high street although the only new suggestion relevant to the delivery of housing is the suggested ability to change the use of takeaway premises to residential without planning permission, which will surely have, at best, a limited impact.
  • The ability to add floors to existing development (potentially up to five storeys) without the need for planning permission – although, reading between the lines, the tension between this initiative and how it would take local circumstances into consideration is exercising the Government.
  • The ability to demolish commercial buildings and redevelop sites as residential without planning permission – this would, potentially, be a major step, and if implemented is likely to be highly restricted/controlled.
  • Other matters, including increasing the scope of permitted development in terms of electric charging, and a proposal to make permanent some temporary measures, specifically the ability to change storage and distribution facilities to residential use and residential extensions.

All in all, the consultation suggests some fairly sweeping changes relative to the delivery of housing. However, in our view it falls short in terms of land use in the High Street – many were hoping for a further widening of permitted development relative to converting shops to residential. Comments on the proposal are sought before 14 January 2019.

Consultation 2: “Technical consultation to updates to national planning policy and guidance”

Announced the Friday before the Budget, the Government is also seeking views on matters relative to national planning policy. Given that the NPPF was only adopted in July, it might seem slightly counter-intuitive to be considering changes already, however as much as anything this consultation is about how local authorities should consider housing need through the planning policy process, in light of the household projections, based on 2016 data, released by the ONS in September.

As suggested by the title, the consultation is somewhat technical, but the broad background to this is the Government’s moves to standardise the calculation of housing need across England (Standard Objectively Assessed Need, or SOAN). Using the Government’s methodology, SOAN is calculated using household projections as a starting point. However, the latest household projections were seen as putting a spanner in the works, as in many places the resulting SOAN calculations resulted in a significant drop in numbers, in sum falling far short of the Government’s aspirations to deliver 300,000 new homes per year.

For those following this closely, the headlines are:

  • For the short term, 2014-based household projections should be used as the demographic baseline (not the aforementioned, and lower, 2016-based projections).
  • It is clarified that the 2016-based projections cannot be used as an ‘exceptional circumstance’ to justify a departure from the standard methodology.
  • In the long term the standard methodology will be reviewed to support the aspiration of delivering 300,000 dwellings a year.

Other matters included within the consultation include defining “deliverable” in terms of housing, and a suggestion that the assumption in favour of sustainable development should still apply for development requiring a Habitats Regulation Assessment, if there is no adverse effect. Comments are sought before 7 December 2018.

If you would like to respond to the consultations, or discuss the Government’s changes to the planning system further (and in particular explore how they could add value to your property portfolio), please get in touch.

Jason’s comments were cited further in CityAM 30 October 2018 – click here

“Aberdeen Standard Investments has announced that it has exchanged contracts with Explore Learning, leasing a new unit at Two Rivers Shopping Centre Staines-Upon-Thames – an outdoor hybrid retail, leisure and lifestyle scheme.

Explore Learning’s Richard Curry, of Property and Planning Consultancy firm Rapleys, has worked alongside Two River’s Letting Agency – Lunson Mitchenall to secure Explore Learning with a new 1,443 sq ft unit, bringing a complementary community use into Two Rivers Shopping Centre.

The retailer has agreed the terms on the lease, and will open the educational tuition centre in autumn/winter 2018. The acquisition further enhances the portfolio of Explore learning who now have 140 centres throughout the UK and are actively looking to continue their expansion.

Since 2001, Explore Learning has helped over 200,000 children excel academically and reach their potential with dedicated tutors always on hand to encourage, explain and ensure children progress. The popular learning centre aims to inspire fearless learners: whether it’s getting ready to start a new school, meeting a new teacher or making friends.”

Explore Learning still have active requirements at several other locations, contact Richard Curry with any suitable opportunities. Full details available here.

It could take until next year to get a final picture on how and where a merged Asda/Sainsbury’s business will have to dispose of sites (stores and petrol stations), according to Mark Frostick. Mark states it will be an even longer term before a final position on pricing is agreed, so, for now, it will be a question of wait and see.

It is likely that the majority of the petrol stations that the new company will operate will be dependent on the food store attachment. In terms of potentially disposed properties, with the discount stores still held as most likely purchasers,  the likelihood of them keeping the petrol elements operational seems very slim indeed. However, it is early days and the outcome could still prove unpredictable.

Mark expands on his expert opinion of the market and the possible outcomes of this merger in the full article in Forecourt Trader here

The very public collapse of House of Fraser and Homebase highlights, once again, the need for retailers, shareholders and landlords to be realistic about the potential pitfalls and solutions created by property assets in an insolvency or distressed sale situation.

Mike Ashley offered £50m for HoF before administration, but once creditors rejected a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) and it filed for administration, an insolvent HoF was worth £40m more to him and Ashley upped his bid to £90m. Why?

Insolvency versus CVA

The benefits to a purchaser of buying an insolvent company is the ability to jettison existing creditors, to negotiate with landlords to novate leases, renegotiate terms with suppliers, vacate properties and to avoid the costs of dilapidation charges to exit stores and of writing down stock. To Mike Ashley, £40m was the opportunity cost of obtaining all the same restructuring choices retailers are increasingly looking to achieve through a CVA – but with a completely free hand.

In contrast, and possibly even because of what unfolded at HoF, nearly 96% of Homebase’s creditors approved a CVA. These creditors will incur the costs of supporting the proposal but the potential upside to the company and ultimately to them, is a return to profitability and of course continued occupation of their asset.

Monthly rental payments, downsize options, rent concession periods and business rate reductions are all tools the Homebase CVA is seeking to implement. Currently 42 of its 241 stores will shut and head office jobs will go. The business plan to improve financial performance over the next three years across a significantly rationalised store portfolio will be the test of a successful CVA process and will be watched closely by the market.

Step change

CVAs, just like Administrations, are governed by the Insolvency Act 1986 but are more restrictive. Whilst there is a growing trend for retailers to seek the CVA route and categorise landlords into different pots as a means of restructuring, it is nothing new.

A decade ago, retailer The Works was under administration. The purchaser didn’t want all the stores so ahead of the sale, and to facilitate the deal being done, some stores were closed and some taken on a ‘licence to occupy’ for between a month and up to a year, allowing the purchaser to renegotiate lease terms, assess trading levels or trade out stock.

So, whilst not a new phenomenon, the pace and frequency of the CVA process is undoubtedly increasing.

Will retailers use insolvency/CVAs to ditch unprofitable stores?

A perfect storm is brewing; declining sales, increasing costs, rising business rates, Brexit-related currency fluctuations, the introduction of the national living wage and apprenticeship levy, and the rapid growth of online retailing. The result is many retail and restaurant businesses toying with CVA or even administration, as a ‘simple’ way to shed unprofitable stores.

Thankfully, there is nothing to suggest, yet, that operators are jumping the gun and using this tool to get their businesses into better shape. This may be because there is still a stigma that comes with pursuing this route and the increased corporate governance scrutiny means directors risk prosecution if their actions are seen to defraud creditors.

CVAs often allow a company to keep trading, which may prove a better outcome for creditors, long-term, than going into administration. For purchasers, buying out of administration allows an element of wiping the slate clean, enabling fresh negotiations on every element of the business, including property assets. As pressure on the high street continues to mount, it’s clear that flexibility and imagination are needed from both retailers and landlords to use property assets more creatively to prevent sizeable losses on both sides.

To learn more or discuss how Rapleys can assist contact Alfred Bartlett, Head of the Retail & Leisure Group or Russell Smith, Partner in Retail & Leisure Group. This article can also be viewed on the CoStar column

As part of emerging growth plans for the Oxford – Milton Keynes – Cambridge Arc, which includes the £215 million Growth Deal for Oxfordshire announced in late 2017, the Government has published a plan showing the broad alignment of the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, a key component of its future growth strategy for the Arc.

The Oxford – Milton Keynes – Cambridge Arc is one of the most economically successful in the country and competes internationally for high-tech and science investment. Following a request from the Government, the National Infrastructure Commission investigated ways to maximise the potential of the area. The report subsequently published in November 2017, concluded that rates of house building in the area will need to double if the arc is to achieve its economic potential.

The absence of a direct dual carriageway link between Oxford and Cambridge had been recognised as a significant infrastructure barrier and constraint to growth. To address this, in November 2016, the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway Strategic Study Stage 3 Report (Highways England/Department of Transport) was published and identified three corridor options for further assessment:

  • Option A: a northern option, roughly following the existing A421 to the south of Bicester and via Buckingham to the east of Milton Keynes.
  • Option B: a central option, following the east-west rail corridor.
  • Option C: a southern option via Aylesbury, linking to the M1 south of Milton Keynes.

A decision on the preferred corridor option for the expressway has been eagerly awaited by the development industry. There are areas within this corridor and in close proximity to the expressway, that will in future become natural locations for strategic housing and employment growth that will be identified in future Local Plans. The announcement this week, that Option B is the preferred broad alignment will help to define the parameters of this critical growth axis and establish areas of search for long term strategic development opportunities.

Rapleys has significant experience in undertaking site searches and identifying long term strategic development opportunities. For further information please contact either Tony Clements or Dan Sharp.

Rapleys is delighted to welcome several new faces this month, including three new partners to the business – Simon Matley, Will Maby and Adam de Acetis.

Simon Matley joins the Manchester office working within the Building Consultancy & Project Management team and brings a wealth of experience across all services within the sector. Combining experience and innovative approaches Simon is sure to assist in further expanding the services of the team over the North West and far beyond. Simon commented: “I am very much looking forward to working for a company focused on consultancy services and delivering a more independent interdisciplinary approach to clients. Together with my experience in the North West and Manchester markets I am excited to apply a national approach to business development giving the clients the consistent approach to service that is at the heart of the Rapleys ethos. Exciting times ahead!”

Will Maby joins the Viability & Affordable Housing department, which is a service increasingly in demand at Rapleys, to support Nick Fell and the wider team. The specialist experience Will has garnered during his career to date will be invaluable to Rapleys’ clients, focusing on strategic valuation advice to private developers as well as registered providers. Will adds; “I am delighted to have joined Rapleys in what is an exciting period of growth for the business. I am very much looking forward to contributing to the further expansion of the Viability & Affordable Housing team.”

Also joining the business, Adam de Acetis brings unrivalled asset and property management experience to the Corporate & Investor Management team based in London. Adam will identify and execute added value opportunities for Rapleys existing clients, whilst providing senior resource to generate and support the growth of the client base. Adam comments: “Rapleys are at an exciting stage with their positioning in the market place. They have an excellent platform and superb people and I look forward to being involved in the next phase of Rapleys progression”.

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner, added:I am delighted to welcome Simon, Will and Adam to the business. They are proven professionals and will, undoubtedly, add value to our client base, whilst further extending our service lines across the UK. Their appointments underscore the ongoing growth, and reach, of Rapleys.”

All eyes are back on the Sainsbury’s–Asda deal after the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) announced the start of its investigation. Should the deal progress, everyone will be closely watching what happens to the combined business’s property portfolios should the CMA force a sale of stores.

Digging below the surface, we might read this as being phase two of Sainsbury’s strategy of pushing into the discount market. Asda traditionally has a reputation for value and a core customer base which is, generally speaking, a different demographic from the average Sainsbury’s shopper. There are also geographical factors at play here, with Asda strong in the north and Sainsbury’s in the south.

In the case of retained stores, Sainsbury’s will be acquiring some significant issues. The extent to which the Asda stores holding company continues to operate and whether Sainsbury’s decides to, or is able to, guarantee the status of Asda stores may have a real impact on landlord relationships and negotiations in the future.

It is possible that we will see some sort of restructure, with retailers turning to mechanisms such as CVAs, even in businesses that are performing well, to force a conversation with landlords.

At the same time, it shouldn’t be forgotten that both Asda and Sainsbury’s sweet spot is in food retail, with many of the stores Sainsbury’s is acquiring are just too big for the market these days. The fact is that many food retailers are now facing the challenge of having significant surplus space because of historic expansion strategies – an issue Sainsbury’s itself sought to mitigate with the acquisition of Argos. Asda’s policy has generally been based on very large-volume stores and while it has a decent non-food range, the format on the whole is not optimised around the core food product.

Looking ahead, if the CMA forces a re-sale of stores, the irony is that the likely buyers are just those brands – Aldi and Lidl – that Sainsbury’s is looking to defend itself against.

Amazon ambitions

Debate will continue to swirl around Amazon’s bricks-and-mortar ambitions and they will likely be part of the equation, even if they’re not going to be a realistic suitor for true customer-facing stores.

What is perhaps more interesting is whether the CMA considers the likes of B&M and Home Bargains in its deliberations. In some of their larger stores, despite having a restriction of 30% food sales, they could be offering an equivalent sales area to the likes of Aldi and Lidl.

They would be more able to maximise the space on offer in any larger stores that the CMA forces the disposal of, and could arguably compete with the discounters, as well as Sainsbury’s and Asda, on both food and non-food.

Overall, in any enforced sale the most attractive sites will likely be any freehold stores in the Sainsbury’s/Asda portfolio, which may be sacrificed by Sainsbury’s/Asda in order to fulfill the merger requirements.

Another possibility in this scenario is that if no, or limited, prospective buyers for the largest sites can be found, the CMA may be forced to consider forcing a sale of Sainsbury’s smaller or convenience stores. These would arguably be much more attractive to potential buyers and any significant convenience portfolio reduction could be a real fly in the ointment for the merger.

For further discussion or information get in touch with Richard Curry, Partner in Rapleys Retail & Leisure Group. The full article can be viewed here in Property Week as well as The Grocer and European Supermarket Magazine.

We have restructured our retail and leisure business to operate as a single, dynamic and cohesive entity in the interests of more finely responding to the current challenges, and opportunities, facing today’s market place.

Previously, the partnership’s retail and leisure offer was split into Agency, Development and Lease Consultancy services operating from four of our six offices. Now, the function will combine these services into a single nationwide team as supplemented, where necessary, by the advice of our Investment, Asset Management, Town Planning and other related services. The new retail and leisure offer, with associated services, will be across the entirety of our office network.

The new Retail and Leisure Group focuses on all areas of the sector, including food and beverage, and offers its clients a comprehensive service from deal origination through acquisition, development management, lease consultancy and disposal/exit. As part of its remit the team is addressing an increasing demand to advise and devise strategies to let vacant space, or boost the appeal of new developments or existing schemes, in the face of an ever changing market as fuelled, at least in part, by online competition. Through the combination of our national skill base and regional expertise the new Group has already been successful in working with, amongst others, operators and landlords to either source the right floor space opportunities or attract an appropriate and robust tenant mix across a number of schemes.

The new Group is headed by Equity Partner, Alfred Bartlett, who commented that “This is a progressive move by the partnership and I am delighted to be heading this exciting group within the business: the co-ordination of which has already resulted in some significant wins for national retailers, lifestyle operators, investors, developer and others. The retail market is, clearly, providing opportunities from the widely reported challenges and we look forward to assisting our clients, in the future, in realising their goals and aspirations.”

Alfred is supported by fellow Equity Partner, Russell Smith, in managing the Group. Other partners include Tim Holt and Richard Curry. A number of new appointments throughout our office network have also been recently made within the Group, including Henry Lang in Bristol, Matthew Guest and Jonathan Jones in Birmingham, Thomas Ball in Manchester and Rebecca Hughes in Edinburgh. There will be more to come.

If you would like to know more about the group, or simply wish to discuss your future requirements, please do not hesitate to get in touch. We will be delighted to hear from you.

 

A Right to Light is an easement where apertures, such as windows and doors, can acquire or be granted rights that are protected by law. If additional massing is proposed close to any neighbouring apertures, it is very possible the light loss may be considered to be actionable.

Such actions range from simple conversations with the development site owner, to formal negotiations and can even go as far as needing the input of the courts. One of the more formal means by which to finalise any dispute over Legal Rights to Light is via the use of a Summary Judgement. This simply is a request to the court to decide on the issue without the need for a trial.

The recent case of Beaumont Business Centres Ltd v Florala Properties Ltd brings the use of Summary Judgements back to the forefront. In this case a Summary Judgement was sought by the property developer to finalise the dispute with the neighbour.

During this, the property developer made reference to a deed between the objecting party and their former and present Landlords. This stated that should light loss occur as a result of an increase in height of the development property, the former Landlord and objecting party (tenant) would have the right to negotiate a settlement.

The property developer felt that this clause highlighted that the intention of the objecting parties were to use this claim for monetary gain, rather than to protect their right. The seeking of monetary gain rather than preserving rights can threaten the ability to seek an injunction. As a result, the developer felt that an injunction was not the appropriate remedy in this case.

It was the courts decision that the clause did not remove the objector’s right to a full hearing on the matter of an injunction. It however, did not go on to pass comment on the likely outcome of such a trial. The courts interpretation of the deed in question was that its purpose was to make clear the beneficiaries of any negotiated settlement, rather than to only confer the ability to seek financial settlement.

Two distinct perspectives can be drawn from this case:

  1. For all property owners seeking to protect their rights against the impact of new developments, this is a win, with another case preserving the right to make a claim for an injunction; and
  2. Conversely, the property developer in this case is clearly knowledgeable enough to know the importance of the intention of the objectors claim. They took their time to understand and form an opinion on the objector’s deed, arguably using everything at their disposal to allow the development to go ahead. The area of Legal Rights to Light can easily be a minefield for less knowledgeable developers.

Clearly, the area of Rights to Light remains a challenging territory for development and growth, with the scope for a greater amount of cases to lift the veil on the multiple grey areas. With the subject of Rights to Light reform having been sidelined by the Government for the time being this case illustrates that each case is different and requires detailed, expert advice from the outset.

For further advice on Rights to Light or other Neighbourly Matters such as Daylight & Sunlight Amenity, Party Wall or Access Arrangements such as for crane oversail or scaffolding licences, Rapleys Neighbourly Matters team who operate throughout the UK will be well placed to assist. Contact either Natasha Bray or Dan Tapscott.

 

 

Following the release of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) earlier this week, teams across Rapleys have been reviewing and digesting it all in depth. Further to the immediate Planning team response, one particular section of the new policy which has caught the attention of our Neighbourly Matters team is ‘Section 11: making effective use of land’. Dan Tapscott, Head of our Neighbourly Matters team comments:

“The drive for making better use of the land we have is a key aspect of this policy which makes specific reference to the importance of Daylight and Sunlight [para 123 (c)]. The Policy calls for local authorities to exercise a flexible approach when considering this subject. This translates to accepting compromise and levels of natural light that fall below recognised guidelines for both neighbours to development and the developments themselves.

Therefore the value and worth in getting maximum efficiencies in the design of schemes and delivering good quality design has never been more crucial. Encouragingly, our clients are increasingly embracing a reverse engineered approach via the use of envelope studies that can inform the design team of where the constraints and areas of sensitivity lie. I think the outcome of the NPPF’s comment on Daylight and Sunlight will inevitably see a rise in the requirement for detailed and accurate studies and therefore the benefits to all parties of a diligent approach from the outset are clear.”

At the eleventh hour before Parliament broke for recess and amid a flurry of social media anticipation (“#freetheNPPF” trending heavily), the Government has finally released its new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), replacing the erstwhile version published in 2012.

The new NPPF represents the Government’s planning policies for England when local authorities are determining planning applications, albeit it will only come into force relative to local plan making for plans that are submitted for examination after 24 January 2019.

The document has been sold by the Government as a key tool in unlocking housebuilding, but in truth it is very tempting to see it as an update of its predecessor, rather than a root and branch reform. For example, the concept of the “presumption in favour of sustainable development” remains, and the policy framework relative to matters such as retail and the Green Belt remains largely unaltered.

Nevertheless, there are a number of important headlines, as well as concepts formalised, within the document. Some of the key points arising are as follows:

  • Standardised housing need – the Government’s standard methodology for calculating a local authority’s need for housing will come into force on an England-wide basis in January 2019. However, allowance is made for local plans not meeting all of its identified need for housing in “exceptional circumstances”, and one can anticipate a number of local authorities arguing that these arise in their areas.
  • Housing delivery test – every November, the Government will publish statistics of how many new homes are delivered in each local authority against the number of homes needed (see above). Where authorities score poorly in this will trigger the “presumption in favour of sustainable development” (as will a lack of five year housing land supply). Most developers will welcome this, but it can be anticipated that how this works in practice will be debated for some time to come.
  • Green Belt – although the basic principles of the Green Belt remain from the previous NPPF (which, in itself, broadly replicated its predecessor on the matter, PPG2), there are some differences. Potentially the most significant change is the inclusion of the redevelopment of brownfield sites that would “contribute to meeting an identified affordable housing need” and not cause “substantial harm” to the Green Belt as “appropriate development”.
  • Viability and affordable housingunlike the draft NPPF published earlier in the year, the final document explicitly confirms that developers will continue to be able to submit viability assessments on individual sites at the planning application stage. However, the onus is on the developer to make a site specific case. Local authorities are given discretion as to how much weight this should carry, and the price paid for a site cannot be used as a basis for benchmark land value. The Government published new guidance providing further details on this in parallel to releasing the NPPF – we will issue a more detailed newsletter on the key points arising shortly.
  • Design quality – the document places additional focus on design and indicates that the quality of development should not be “materially diminished between permission and completion” – however, few suggestions are presented as to how this should be implemented.
  • Residential density – the well-established principle of making the best use of land is strengthened, and the document states that local authorities should adopt minimum density standards in their areas, and take a flexible approach to matters of daylight and sunlight.

Looking at the bigger picture again, although the focus on dealing with England’s massive shortage of housing is laudable, there is a risk that other land uses are overlooked. Not least, the NPPF appears to have little new to say as to how the planning system can ensure employment-generating development (not least retail) can adapt to an ever-changing economy.

Largely, the NPPF should be seen as evolution of the existing planning system, and it is a positive step forward even if it is not a leap. However, if experience from the last NPPF is anything to go by, one can expect a flurry of appeals over the coming years as developers and local authorities put the document into practice.

For any future details on this Planning Policy please get in touch directly with Jason Lowes, Partner in Rapleys Town Planning department.

This week, the Scottish Government Reporters recommended that the next strategic development plan for South East Scotland, SESplan 2, fell far short in terms of housing targets and needed to be revised.

Planning authorities in South East Scotland have spent four years preparing a new plan and housing targets proved the main area of contention. Rapleys have always been of the opinion that the plan did not go far enough in tackling the widely acknowledged shortfall in housing within Edinburgh, the Lothians and Fife and the same conclusion has been reached by the Reporters.

Key findings include:

  • 94,416 new homes need to be built across South East Scotland by 2030 – an increase of over 30,000 on what was originally proposed.
  • To meet this target, more land (not limited to previously developed/brownfield land) will need to be allocated for home building.
  • Planning authorities must recognise and address the shortfalls in supply that commonly arise as plans age. If too few homes are built in the first few years, more will need to be built in the rest of the plan period.

Following this publication James Reilly (Planning Associate, Edinburgh) comments: “we are pleased to see the findings of the Scottish Government Reporters which paralleled our thoughts as SESplan progressed. Being based in the SESplan area, the Scottish Planning Team are acutely aware of the housing issues in the region and have long advocated for further housing allocations across the numerous local authority areas. We understand that our clients wish to deliver new housing and this is a very positive step in helping them deliver this. We will certainly be taking these comments on board and advising clients on how to take their sites forward”.

Please get in touch with the Rapleys Scotland team (James Reilly, Grant Allan, David Costello and Richard Huteson) if you require any advice on new or existing development sites; or arrange to come into the office for an initial discussion on development opportunities.

 

 

Following Justin Tuckwell’s appointment as head of the Building Consultancy team in 2016, it’s been a strong period of growth across the entire network of offices.  

Simon Harbour, based in Bristol, was recently appointed an equity partner in the business representing the Building Surveying function. This appointment further strengthens the determination to offer a comprehensive service to all parts of the South West and beyond.

The Neighbourly Matters service has a dedicated team with Dan Tapscott, appointed in 2017, leading the team and Natasha Bray heading up the function from the London office. The unique position of the Neighbourly Matters team, sitting within a wider Building Consultancy Group, can really benefit the client and sets them above and beyond others.

Twelve months since joining Rapleys Balvinder Sagoo has expanded his team in the Birmingham office and now has three more building surveyors, Chris Barnett, Josie Hays and Mohammed Afran. Birmingham, as well as the wider area, is showing great signs of regeneration and growth in construction so it has never been a better time to offer a full spectrum of Building Consultancy services on their doorstep.

In London, Paul Adams, former head of automotive and aerospace at Arcadis, has recently joined to drive forward the project management service with a particular focus on the retail and automotive sectors. In today’s market we are seeing the retail and automotive properties merging, and Paul’s expertise in this field will be a very welcome addition to the services Rapleys can provide, from conception to completion.

Jason Mound, started with Rapleys on 2 July to develop a new function within the Building Consultancy Group – Land Development Project Management. The focus will be on strategic land sites and Jason will offer management services through the full spectrum of development including due diligence, acquisition, delivery and estate management plus much more. Along with the Planning consultancy services and the Strategic Land team the offering to clients will be broader and offer the unique insights desired.

The Rapleys Healthcare arm of the Building Consultancy group has not slowed down either and has recently secured large instructions from Dental Partners, backed by August Capital and Colloseum Dental, further reinforcing Rapleys leading position in the dental healthcare market.

We are also delighted to welcome Matthew Bromley, former head of Building Surveying at RLB, who has been appointed to set up a new bid consultancy department focusing on public sector frameworks/commissions.

Rapleys is pleased to announce the introduction of Land Development Project Management services to developers, land owners, Local Authorities and investors on a national basis, complementing our existing service offering to the development market.

Jason Mound joins Rapleys to lead the Land Development Project Management service having previously worked with national regeneration specialist St Modwen Properties plc and since led Atkins Land Development consultancy, also having worked previously in design and build contracting.

Jason offers clients land development management services through the full spectrum of development including due diligence, acquisition, planning, delivery and estate management phases helping to optimise land assets. Jason’s key experience is in infrastructure planning and delivery, managing multi-disciplinary design teams and helping clients to de-risk their land assets, thus enabling land for development, whether through sale of serviced land parcels or joint ventures with housing partners.

This service, coupled with Rapleys strategic land and planning consultancy, offers clients a unique insight in bringing forward land for development. Jason is currently supporting master developers and land owners on strategic land developments across the UK.

Justin Tuckwell, Head of Rapleys Building Consultancy Group comments: “We are absolutely delighted to have secured the services of Jason, a clear leader in his market. With Jason on board we are now able to offer a further service line to our client base throughout the UK.”

Rapleys are delighted to sponsor the networking at the 11th annual Charity Property Conference on Tuesday 3rd July. The conference provides a platform for strategic review and ensures charities are unlocking the potential within their property portfolio.

Graham Smith will be representing Rapleys Charity Consultancy at the event and be on hand to advise across the full spectrum of property related issues. Rapleys can provide a range of services from Qualified Surveyor Reports, the disposal or acquisition of assets as well as assisting in planning queries and issues. If you would like to get in touch ahead of the conference and understand any services we offer click through to the Charities Consultancy page or speak directly with Graham

Full event details can be found on the Civil Society website.

Within the Charities sector of Rapleys we have had a number of church buildings to sell recently. We have come to expect a strong response from a diverse range of faith groups when these redundant buildings are in a city. Lately, however, rural locations have proved to be equally stimulating in responses. This is some cheer when we are equally well aware of some churches that have been struggling to keep the doors open.

All around we see closures along the high street which have left empty retail buildings. Can we find a silver lining here? Usually a church does not want to relocate; location, location, location after all! However, by integrating our ecclesiastic specialists with other teams at Rapleys, between planning, retail agency and charities consultancy, we have a one-stop-shop formula that we are finding to be of great interest to clients.

This collective approach has resulted in a number of groups being introduced to empty retail units or warehouses. Out of town retail or commercial parks can be attractive where travel and parking can be easily provided, but the location remains close. In some cases we have considered shared occupation on different days of the week.

Rapleys are currently instrumental in working with a number of churches who have existing property suitable to facilitate the development of their site to gain new facilities. The sale of part of the site is the primary funder for a new church. Not everybody is so fortunate to have such circumstances however. Therefore, the acquisition of redundant buildings might be a worthwhile consideration as an opportunity, at a preferential price or at a reduced rental. In either case there is the likelihood of follow up with a change of planning use application and maybe a conversion to suit.

The creation of new space for church activity, possibly in support of the neighbourhood, demonstrates the integration of church life with that of its community. For example, we have recently agreed many tenancies for preschool companies.

Should anything in the above strike a chord and you would like to enquire further, please contact Graham Smith in the first instance for either an introduction to the charities consultancy or any other department at Rapleys.

Phil Blackford, head of automotive and roadside, shares his opinions with The Grocer on how independent fuel suppliers have partly benefited from the majority of oil suppliers exiting direct fuel retailing. ‘This gap in the market has given the independents almost free reign to expand.’

There has been a fundamental rethink from the forecourt traders and the retail offering they want to make, moving away from the ‘mags and fags’ to the more sophisticated convenience offering of local produce, craft beers and artisan breads. This shift has opened up the forecourts offerings with ‘food to go’ options increasing also (for example Applegreen’s partnership with the likes of Chopstix Noodle Bar) the forecourts are switching to an attractive destination.

To read the full story go to The Grocer or get in touch with Phil Blackford to better understand the new business models and benefits they could have.

In 2015 the government extended permitted development rights to create more housing and then the 2017 autumn budget announced potential further extensions. But does bypassing the full planning process mean local authorities are missing out and are some homes failing to deliver an acceptable standard of living?

The RTPI has warned of ‘unintended consequences’ of permitted development over the years with a danger of curtailing the proper provisions of amenities and general standard of living, but is it as bad as that?

Jason Lowes shares his comments and states ‘this line of thinking risks undermining the advantages that PD can offer…’

Read more in The Planner here.

We are pleased to confirm the following promotions (effective May 2018):

Equity Partner

Simon Harbour – Building Consultancy & Project Management

Nick Fell – Affordable Housing & Viability

Neil Jones – Town Planning

Richard Huteson – Town Planning

Partner

James Porter – Building Consultancy & Project Management

Senior Associate

Colin Arnott – Corporate & Investor Management

Associate

Alex Chambers – Building Consultancy & Project Management

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner, adds ‘I am delighted to announce these promotions. They underline the growth and ever increasing profile of the practice. I look forward to sharing our onward journey with them.’

Rapleys’ Automotive and Roadside team has strengthened its northern presence with 3 new additions to the team; Stuart Lobb, William Seddon and Peter Paphitis. They are all based in our new Manchester home at 55 Spring Gardens and will enable us to service an ever increasing workload across all property disciplines. Our specialist sector offering also extends to planning, rating, building consultancy and project management and investment. In this newsletter we highlight some of our recent successful transactions showing the range of work we undertake in the sector.

Click here for the full newsletter.

Jardine Motors Group has completed the sale of the company’s former Jaguar Land Rover dealership in Slough, Berkshire. The building was available due to Jardine relocating to a nearby purpose-built 42,000 sq ft JLR dealership.

Mark Frostick, senior associate at Rapleys added: “This clearly shows that in spite of negative headlines about the automotive market in the press, there remains a market in the press, there remains a market for prime freeholds from the sector.”

For the full story go to motortrader.com

Top 50 Indie Karan Retail has secured the lease on the BP-branded petrol filling station fronting the A2 at Bapchild just outside of Sittingbourne, Kent, in a deal arranged by Rapleys.

Damien Lippet commented ‘due to the client’s requirements the property was offered confidentially to the market. However, opportunities to acquire well-established forecourts such as this are relatively few and far between in the south east…’

For the full details click through to Forecourt Trader. 

On 6 April 2018, updated planning regulations came into force which allow for larger scale residential development to take place through the conversion of agricultural buildings, without the need for planning permission.

The amendments to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) Order 2018 (SI 2018 no. 343) extended the permitted development rights in relation to agricultural buildings.

Permitted development rights allow for certain types of development and changes of use to be carried out without the need to submit a planning application.

Previous permitted development rights

Under the previous regulations (2015), agricultural buildings could be converted to residential dwellings, via permitted development rights, as long as the conversion did not create more than 3no. dwellings and no single dwelling could have a maximum floor space above 450 sq.m.

Permitted development rights now

The new regulations (2018) increase the number of houses that can be created from the conversion of agricultural buildings without the need for planning permission. Agricultural buildings can now be converted to provide:

  • 5no. small scale dwellings with a max floor space of 100 sq m; or
  • 3no. larger dwellings with a max floor space of 465 sq m; or
  • 5no. dwellings comprising 3no. large dwellings (a max floor space of 465 sq m) and 2no. small dwellings with a max floorspace of 100 sq m

What does this mean for land owners & developers?

The Government anticipates that the new regulations will result in an increase in the number of new homes created through the conversion of agricultural buildings. It is hoped that this will positively contribute to the supply of homes to meet local needs and result in the delivery of new houses which safeguard the character of local areas.

The changes to the regulations allow land owners and developers greater flexibility when considering the conversion of agricultural buildings both in terms of the number of new houses which can be created and the size of the dwellings. This in turn, should create more opportunities for small scale residential development within rural areas.

Whilst a planning application to convert an agricultural building to residential use is not required if the proposal meets the criteria set out above, along with some more detailed criteria, it will still be necessary to apply for prior approval from the Local Planning Authority to confirm that specified elements of the development are acceptable.

If you require further information or advice on how you might benefit from the new regulations, please contact Neil.

Rapleys Rights to Light specialist, Dan Tapscott, examines whether a recent ruling in favour of Chelsea Football Club scores big or is an own goal for the property and construction industry.

Chelsea Football Club were granted planning permission by the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham for a £1bn redevelopment of their Stamford Bridge stadium. This will increase crowd capacity from 41,000 to 60,000, some 17,000 of which shall be hospitality seating. The increase in total crowd capacity will bring things in line with comparable venues in London, although the level of hospitality seating will be higher than elsewhere.

Chelsea claim that the development will “further enhance the economic, cultural and social services they provide”, including £6m worth of educational programmes, a £7m improvement to local infrastructure and an additional £16.3m spent on local businesses as 2.4 million people visit the area annually.

Infringement of Rights to Light

Meanwhile, the owners of a neighbouring property (situated the other side of the railway line, within the neighbouring Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) sought an injunction for an infringement of their Rights to Light. The neighbours had been in residence for over 50 years and the development was deemed as having “an unacceptable and harmful impact” on the windows and rooms directly facing Stamford Bridge. The neighbour was therefore seeking a redesign of the scheme to ensure that the Rights to Light enjoyed by their property were not affected to an unreasonable degree.

Chelsea Football Club were resistant to altering their design and had offered £50,000 worth of legal advice and compensation reported to be in the region of a six-figure sum but could not reach an agreement with the neighbour.

David & Goliath?

Broadly speaking, the Courts have been relatively biased towards awarding injunctions where injuries occur in the case of residential properties compared with commercial properties, where it is generally perceived as being more amenable in reaching financial settlements, but there have been exceptions. Therefore, on the face of it, the neighbours appeared to have a very strong case given the degree of infringement, their early objection and the fact they had occupied the property for so long; suffering the injury or moving away did not appear to be a viable option. Certainly the situation had something of a ‘David and Goliath’ scenario about it.

“Appropriated for planning purposes”

Chelsea Football Club pitched to the Local Authority that they invoked Section 203 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016. This is a simple but powerful piece of legislation whereby, if the local authority have or take an interest in the property, then it can be “appropriated for planning purposes” to assist with enabling the development to proceed for the benefit of the wider community. This effectively means that the neighbour is no longer entitled to an injunction and the levels of compensation are capped. In recent years developers for several large high rise developments in central London have asked the local authority to step in to assist in this manner but we have experience of this approach being adopted across the UK.

In this instance, London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham appropriated the development site thereby giving the greenlight, subject to planning (and budget) for the development to proceed without the risk of injunctions arising from Rights to Light infringements. Developer 1 – Neighbour nil.

The outcome of this decision has caused some debate due to the emotive nature of the facts surrounding this matter. The neighbour having been in occupation for so long vs the clout of this development with a multitude of resources behind it seems unequitable to many.

Could the development have been designed in such a way to respect the Rights to Light of its neighbours? Was the area truly in need of an additional influx of people to bring further economic benefit and to ‘regenerate’ one of the most affluent areas of the country?

Need for consultancy advice

In our opinion this was quite a gamble and illustrates the benefit of early engagement with a Neighbourly Matters consultant early on to consider areas of risk and assist the design team to work around them if possible. Envelope studies using 3D models and specialist software are useful tools in the process. If working around the ‘at risk’ properties is not possible then other options can be reviewed rather than waiting to see what happens post planning. If the Local Authority had chosen not to assist then the re-design and knock on effect to the programme and project budget would have been significant.

The overall conclusion is that each case differs and we are not dealing with a level playing field.

Rapleys Neighbourly Matters team operate nationally and as well as delivering Rights to Light advice, also advise on Daylight & Sunlight Amenity, Party Walls and Access Arrangements such as for crane oversail and scaffolding licences. We act on behalf of developers and neighbours to development.

Daniel Cook shares his opinion with AM Online about how the decision Vauxhall has taken to ‘rationalise’ its network of dealerships may have come as a shock, but does this really indicate the death of the bricks-and-mortar dealership model?

Parallels could be drawn between various retailers, like Toys R’Us and Carpetright, who have felt the strain on being tied into properties but the dynamics of the automotive trade are very different.

Click here to read more from Daniel.

According to Daniel Cook, partner in the Automotive & Roadside team at Rapleys, the market may have topped out. “Looking at the UK market right now, there are signs that dealership values may have peaked. Fundamentally, there is an increasing quantity of dealership properties on the market, largely driven by the volume franchises who are looking to streamline their portfolios.”

The full article can be found in Motor Trader or by clicking here.

We are now 12 months into the 2017 Rating List with the completely new Check, Challenge, Appeal system in place and the requirement to register and claim properties on the VOA web site.

In March and June 2017, I issued newsletters on these new processes and they are still very relevant. They can be viewed here: March & June.

Claiming properties and lodging Checks and Challenges are not easy and are much more time consuming than the old system.

An interesting statistic is that by 31 December 2017 only 12,840 ‘Checks’ had been made in England, when in the first 8 months following the commencement of the 2010 Rating List, something like 112,000 appeals had been lodged.

Chancellors Statement—March 2018

The Chancellor recently made announcements that will impact on Business Rates going forward.

‘Stairway tax’

This concerns the ‘Mazars’ Supreme Court decision, from March 2016, that resulted in thousands of rating assessments being split into separate rateable values where access is by communal lobbies, lift or stairways.

This decision is to be overturned by the Government and provided properties are contiguous or adjacent, and in one occupation, they can revert back to a single assessment and this will be allowed to go back into the 2010 Rating List.

The Communities Secretary introduced the legislation on 28 March.

‘Annual increase in the Rate in the Pound’

This has always been calculated using the Retail Price Index (RPI) figure for the September preceding the new rate year coming into force.

Going forward, this will be calculated using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and will reduce the anticipated increase for 2018/19 and rate years going forward.

CPI—September 2017—2.8%

RPI—September 2017—3.9%

This has resulted in a downward revision in the rate in the pound as follows:

Small multiplierLarge multiplier
(RV over £51,000)
RPICPI (confirmed)RPICPI (confirmed)
England48.4p48.0p49.7p49.3p
Scotland48.4p48.0p51.0p50.6p
Wales51.8p51.4p51.8p51.4p

 

City of London — for properties within the City of London a supplement of 0.5p in the pound is payable.

Crossrail — for properties in London with RV over £70,000 an extra 2p in the pound is payable.

A 1.1% reduction in the increases may not be huge, but every little helps!

‘Next Revaluation’

The Chancellor also announced that the next Revaluation in England will not be 2022, five years after the commencement of the current 2017 Revaluation.

It will be brought forward a year to April 2021 and thereafter each Revaluation will be 3 yearly.

The Scottish Government has confirmed that their next Revaluation will remain in 2022 but going forward will adopt a three year cycle with Revaluations in 2025, 2028 and so on.

The hope is that it will help keep Rateable Values more in line with changes in rental values across the country as a whole, although there had been no announcement as to the Revaluation cycle in Wales as yet.

For any help with Business Rates please contact Alan Watson.

As an Investor in People (IIP) awarded company, Rapleys is committed to our staff and their development. We are pleased to announce that we have continued to grow our team in the last three months with 10 new professional appointments.

Our new team members will allow us to better service our clients and promote new service lines across our office network.

Please click through to the full newsletter to meet our new team members and those who have been awarded promo

Our Birmingham office has moved!

We are delighted to announce that as of Monday 12 March, we have taken the opportunity to move our Birmingham office to new premises located at:

126 Colmore Row
Birmingham
B3 3AP

0370 777 6292
info@rapleys.com

The larger, newly refurbished office will provide an excellent base for our expanding team in the heart of the thriving business district of Birmingham.

It’s business as usual and all of our phone numbers and email addresses remain as before.

Planning is back in the headlines as the government seeks views on England-wide changes to the planning system to solve the nation’s housing crisis. Specifically, the government has issued a re-draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), as well as suggestions about how to amend the developer contributions regime.

Readers with long memories will recall that the current version of the NPPF was published in 2012 as part of the “bonfire of regulations” brought in by the coalition government. It introduced the “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, a concept that has been the subject of much debate since.

The current NPPF emerged against a background of alarming stories in the press suggesting it marked the end of the Green Belt (which, obviously, it didn’t). So far, the headlines on its replacement have been somewhat negative and largely government generated, suggesting that the two main (seemingly slightly contradictory) problems with the planning system are:

  • Some local authorities (“NIMBY authorities”) are preventing development and
  • Housebuilders not building enough houses.

However, in any event there is not a great deal in terms of answers to either in the consultation documents. As to the latter point, the government has announced that Oliver Letwin will be carrying out an independent review before any measures are decided upon.

The draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

The document runs to 70 pages which is slightly longer than its predecessor and at first glance much is familiar, for example the various aspects (formerly “roles”) of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental). The presumption in favour of sustainable development is also intact, albeit with a small but potentially important change (see below).

However, there are many changes (some hidden in the footnotes), and some headlines are highlighted here:

  • In terms of the presumption in favour of sustainable development and the “tilted balance” to be applied, the draft refers to policies which are the “most important for determining the application” being out of date and a related footnote clarifies that other Local Plan policies cannot be applied under the aegis of the NPPF policies. If the NPPF is adopted as drafted, the implications of this seemingly minor change will be the subject of considerable debate at appeal and potentially in the High Court.
  • The draft reflects the nationwide method of calculating housing need currently being promoted by the government, albeit leaving other methods open in “exceptional circumstances”. Another important change is formalising the principle that, in preparing local plans, under certain circumstances local authorities do not have to meet all their housing need.
  • Joining the benchmark of the five year housing land supply in expressly triggering the presumption in favour of sustainable development is a “Housing Delivery Test”, a benchmark of actual housing delivery against need.
  • In terms of “encouraging” developers to bring forward consented schemes earlier, the draft makes allowance for local authorities to prescribe shorter time periods for implementing development than the current standard three years.
  • The draft allows for the redevelopment of brownfield sites in the Green Belt that has a greater impact than existing development, if it contributes to meeting local affordable housing need and the harm is not “substantial”. This marks, potentially, one of the largest changes to national Green Belt policies for many years.
  • In terms of planning obligations, the focus is on bringing viability forward as much as possible to the local policy process and for local plans to set percentages of affordable housing and define other obligations. However, there is still allowance for viability to be taken into account at planning application stage – more details below.

In summary, the draft looks more like an incremental change than a “root and branch” review, albeit some of the changes could have significant implications for development if adopted, as ever time will tell.

Consultation on planning obligations

The Government clearly has planning obligations in its sights and beyond the front-loading principle described in the draft NPPF, a number of potential changes to the current system have been proposed, not least:

  • Reintroducing “pooling” of s.106 contributions, under certain circumstances
  • Ensuring that the viability process is undertaken on an open book basis in all cases
  • The ability to link Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) rates to the existing use of land (at present it only relates to the proposed use of the land)
  • Bringing indexing closer to inflation
  • Introducing another acronym, a Strategic Infrastructure Tariff (SIT) is proposed, which would effectively be a CIL regime across local authority borders.

Some of these changes will be unpopular with developers, in particular the reintroduction of contribution pooling, an erstwhile feature of the town planning system that CIL was supposed to replace.

However, there may be potential benefits derived from the front-loading process when developers are bidding for sites (particularly those that have been allocated), as it might provide greater transparency relative to the local authority’s position on planning obligations at the outset.

Comments on the drafts can be made until 10 May 2018. If you would like to discuss the documents and their potential implications on your business, or would like us to help getting your views across to the Government, please contact one of our nationwide team.

The 2017 food retail market was characterised by the ever decreasing results and an allied lack of expansion amongst the traditional big grocers, possibly with the exception of Co-Op. Then on the other hand, there is the seemingly non-ending expansion for the budget chains Aldi and Lidl.

Market share

Early signs in the First Quarter indicate a steadying of market share:

05.11.17 03.12.1728.01.18
Tesco28.0%28.2%27.8%
Sainsbury’s16.2%16.3%16.2%
Asda15.3%15.0%15.4%
Morrisons10.4%10.6%10.7%
Aldi6.7%6.9%6.9%
Co-Op6.1%6.0%5.8%
Waitrose5.3%5.0%5.2%
Lidl5.1%5.1%5.0%

Christmas 2017 gave stores a welcome festive boost, with sales up according to Kantar’s statistics. This was possibly driven more by seasonal and ‘one off’ offers rather than on underlying improvements in core sales.

A convenient truth

The move to acquire wholesale businesses, the Co-op/Nisa deal along with Tesco merging with Booker, opens up new opportunities for the convenience market to provide wider product ranges and mitigate the threat posed by the discounters and reach new markets.

Tesco have made noises heralding a different strategy for dealing with this new dynamic, announcing their own ‘plan’ for a range of discount stores. The example of Sainsbury’s Netto venture provides a stark warning however. To ensure a discounter programme gets off the ground, there is a requirement for a critical mass of stores to build profile and brand loyalty. It is worth bearing in mind that Lidl opened its first UK store in 1994, with market penetration only really mushrooming in the last 10 years or so and possibly assisted by economic conditions.

Simultaneously, the top end of the market is also under pressure. Waitrose are re-evaluating their optimum store size to better align their bricks-and-mortar footprint with the reality of trading conditions. Booths being put up for sale also confirms that the premium end is under intense pressure and that a critical mass of stores is necessary to defend against it.

Right sizing

As so-called ‘right sizing’ continues across the board there is still a legacy of sites where retailers are seeking to extract themselves from commitments, with it becoming clear that there was a degree of overstretching in the hypermarket boom years. An obvious source of new sites has been connected sites where the ‘hypermarket’ model is no longer required. Alternative uses, such as residential or a discount food/discount store mix have been sought, yet these sites could easily and equably be occupied by the Big Four. At the same time, the challenging retail environment has seen several businesses fall into real financial distress, most recently Toys R’Us. These company’s portfolios are potential investment opportunities for food retailers.

eCommerce calling

Everyone in the market continues to wait for Amazon to make a move. Clearly, the eCommerce giant is watching developments too and sizing up the opportunities. There doesn’t appear to be an active requirement for supermarket sites as yet, but that may change as Amazon gets its ducks in a row. It is likely that when a move is made, it will be a wedge-type manoeuvre in a key market, perhaps using its logistical might and growing network of urban satellite delivery systems, to establish a ready-meals service for example. Or, alternatively, we may see an acquisitive move for a business such as Iceland, which, despite the growth of Ocado, probably has the most efficient delivery network.

For more details, comments or advice do not hesitate to get in touch with Richard Curry, Partner in the Retail & Leisure Group.

 

Rapleys’ Automotive and Roadside team are active throughout the UK but with the opening of our Birmingham office in May 2016, our presence and activity has further strengthened in the West Midlands. We highlight here some of our recent successful transactions showing the range of work we undertake in the sector. 

Experience includes site acquisitions, project management, lease renewal, planning services and much more. We pride ourselves on providing an unmatched continuity of service and high level of expertise and knowledge to all, from an independent car dealer to a nationally represented client.

 

This week, the Court of Appeal case Knight v Goulandris [2018] EWCA Civ 237 confirmed that service of a Party Wall Award via email immediately triggers the fourteen day appeal period, after which an Award is legally binding. The knock on effect of this not only means those who wish to appeal an Award in the County Court will have to get their skates on but construction work can start sooner than the traditional postal method of service.

This is the first major judgement since The Party Wall etc. Act (Electronic Communications) Order 2016 was published; the first amendment to the Act in 20 years. At the time this news was widely welcomed, although little or no guidance as to how things would work practically were available. The outcome for a large proportion of the industry has, frustratingly, been to just carry on as normal. By contrast, Rapleys’ Neighbourly Matters team are at the forefront of interpreting and utilising the positive attributes now at our surveyors’ disposal.

Our team deal with Party Walls and also deliver Access Arrangement services, such as crane oversail licences as well as Rights to Light and Daylight & Sunlight Amenity services. By using an advanced electronic signature system we are able to engross Awards and issue to our opposite numbers for signature, whilst an administrator issuing the document automatically acts as the witness. A simple move but it is proving very effective.

When acting on large scale and complex projects with multiple parties the feedback from our appointing owners has been universally positive. There is a reduction in paperwork and we are able to easily refer to and disseminate the information to the relevant members of the project team. Combined with other initiatives such as live project tracking updates, reviewing site progress via drone footage or using apps like FaceTime it has been easy to adapt and this working practice has become second nature. It would seem strange to revert back to traditional and slower work practices now.

Furthermore, whilst we have yet to encounter appointing owners wanting service of notices via the myriad of social media channels, we’d happily consider it. Provided all the relevant parties are in agreement to the method of service / receipt then it really should be a case of anything goes. A refreshing way of thinking and after all, collaboration and agreement is what we are all working towards in any Party Wall matter!

Dan Tapscott, partner in our Building Consultancy department and head of the Neighbourly Matters team, is also secretary of the Severnside branch of the Pyramus & Thisbe Club, an organisation who promote excellence in the field of Party Wall practice.

The Planner: 22/02/2018

“Given the costs involved in securing a planning permission, it is just not credible to imagine that developers would then sit twiddling their thumbs once permission is actually granted – however, that seems to be the starting assumption of the LGAs position.”

Noting that every council is different, Lowes said that the LGA’s plans would require a “quantum leap forward in terms of skills, funding and strategy”.

Read the full article on www.theplanner.co.uk

As we come to the end of the financial year 2017/2018 and look forward to the next, we reflect on the progress and strength of the industry. Requirements for petrol stations did not see a great decline and top dealers are still making significant deals.

The year did record a slight drop in petrol filling station numbers. This was however marginal, at just 52 fewer sites, down to 8,407 (source: Experian Catalist Market Summary Report Nov 2017). We expect a number of these are small local unbranded sites and we do continue to see a steady flow of closed down sites also re-opening. Rapleys has transactions in solicitor’s hands for a number of sites to reopen, including a site that has been closed for almost 15 years! We expect to see more new to industry sites developed and existing stock redeveloped.

Demand for sites across the board remains strong and the lack of available stock is continuing to keep both freehold and leasehold prices high. As margins remain strong this is likely to continue. If the backlash against diesel continues there could be some change in the nature of fuel demand but we have yet to see this have a significant effect.

Top 50 Dealers

In terms of the major news, we have continued to see the top dealer groups expand and at present MRH, Motor Fuels, Euro Garages, Rontec, Co-Op and Petrogas operate approximately 20% of all Petrol Stations in the country. Their numbers have been boosted by corporate takeovers of a number of the smaller groups within the Top 50. Examples include, MFG acquired Golden Cross in January, MRH acquisition of Chartman in September and Applegreen acquiring 7 sites from Carsley Group. At current rates there may not be enough groups to form a top 50!

However, in terms of numbers, Euro Garages have acquired the most by going global. Having started from a single site in Bury in 2001 they have now expanded into Europe to become the largest retail customer of Esso. They are looking further afield with the recently announced $2.15 bn deal to acquire 762 sites in the US from The Kroger Co. which suggests that the two questions are:

a) where are they going to acquire next?
b) if they are looking at the US will they have to change their name!

The last 12 months have also seen the supermarkets revisiting tying up with existing fuel operators, and again this has been met with mixed success. Recently we have seen MRH tie up with Co-op, Euro Garages with Sainsburys and Morrisons with Rontec, however of these only the latter is still on-going after a trial period. This would appear to be due to operational issues rather than a bad idea and we expect further tie ups are likely to be trialled in the future.

We have also seen the return of demand for Motorway Service Areas. There have been relatively few new developments in recent years with the new services on the M5 at Gloucester being the only notable exception. However, we are now seeing announcements and planning applications on a number of new locations throughout the UK. Applegreen are possibly the most active as they look to replicate their success in Ireland.

Ahead to 2018/19

Looking forward, the recently announced deal merging MFG and MRH could lead to a new level of super group with almost 1,000 sites. It’s too early to confirm the fallout of this deal but we could see its ripples felt for a long time.

We predict that the market will continue as the last 12 months with demand for sites to continue, corporate activity to be high and more sites to open. The last few years have seen changes and growth and we expect this to continue through 2018 and into 2019.

For further details on currently available sites please go to our properties page or speak to Mark Frostick or Stuart Lobb.

 

With Q1 2018 drawing in, Rapleys’ Investment team are pleased to be reporting a number of significant investment transactions. Whilst all sectors show growth and strength, it is the automotive investments that have risen to prominence for Rapleys.

Download the newsletter to view some of the deals secured and ongoing work in this area.

The Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) regulations come into force in two months’ time. From 1 April 2018, commercial properties must have a minimum Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of ‘E’ or above in order to be let. The MEES regulations will apply to the renewal of existing leases and may also have an impact upon future lease events, such as rent reviews and break options occurring after 1 April 2018.

The changes in MEES regulations are likely to affect property owners and existing tenants throughout the UK. So, to minimise the impact, forthcoming lease event dates for any sub-standard property should be identified quickly.

Firstly, landlords would be well advised to ensure that lease renewals for properties with an ‘F’ or ‘G’ rating are completed before the MEES regulations become mandatory on 1 April 2018.

Landlords should also ensure that new leases restrict a tenant from obtaining a new EPC, other than for when one is actually required i.e. in connection with an assignment or the grant of a subletting. This is because a new ‘F’ or ‘G’ rated EPC obtained by the tenant may place an obligation upon the landlord to carry out improvement works in order to bring a sub-standard property up to the minimum ‘E’ rating. Equally, landlords should ensure that sufficient rights are reserved in new leases to enable them to enter the premises in order to carry out any works that may be required.

Where existing leases contain breaks which may be effective after 1 April 2018, we would advise landlords to establish that the EPC rating of the property is ‘E’ or above. Again, if this was found to be sub-standard it would place an obligation on the landlord to carry out improvements to enable the property to be re-let. Tenants will no doubt appreciate that this situation could also assist them during negotiations with the landlord over whether or not to exercise a break.

For ‘F’ or ‘G’ rated properties that are subject to rent reviews occurring after 1 April 2018, whilst a letting might not be possible in the real world without energy efficiency improvements being carried out, a number of questions may arise in the hypothetical world of the rent review:

  • Where the lease provides an assumption that the tenant has complied with its covenants and/or statutory obligations, this would effectively result in an assumed increase in the EPC rating to ‘E’. In this case, the landlord of a sub-standard property may seek to achieve a higher rent than that which might ordinarily be possible.
  • A tenant may argue that the rental value should be reduced because the landlord will not, in reality, be able to let a sub-standard property.
  • Where the cost of energy efficiency improvements carried out by the landlord is recoverable through a service charge, the tenant may seek to adjust their rental bid to reflect this situation.

It is therefore essential for both property owners and tenants alike to consider the impact the MEES regulations will have on future lease events.

Rapleys can help with this and if you require any further information, please contact Tim Holt.

 

We are continuing our expansion in the Midlands with the latest appointment of a new partner, Tony Clements, to establish and lead the town planning team in our Birmingham office.

Tony Clements joins from GL Hearn where he spent the last three years leading the regional planning teams. Tony’s appointment means Rapleys now offers dedicated retail & leisure, development, building consultancy and planning services to the Midlands area. The Birmingham office was opened in 2016 and is quickly expanding to reach the ambition of covering the full range of services for developer, investor, landlord and occupier clients.

Tony has over twenty years’ experience as a professional planner and is an experienced expert witness. He has advised a wide range of private and public sector clients across a variety of sectors and has acted on a number of high-profile planning projects.

Tony has a strong track-record promoting large scale residential developments for many of the UK’s largest home builders.

Tony states: “I am excited to be joining the planning team at Rapleys at a time when there are significant opportunities to build on and expand our offer to clients in terms of technical capabilities, sector expertise and geographical coverage. I’m very much looking forward to carrying through the planning process a range of residential and mixed-use development projects that I have been working on across the midlands and nationally.

Delivering a client focused service has always been at the heart of my approach to planning consultancy and I am delighted to join a progressive and expanding team within a highly respected, independent property consultancy.”

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner at Rapleys, states: “I am pleased to welcome Tony to the partnership. He brings a wealth of experience in managing and promoting residential and commercial schemes through the planning system. He will, undoubtedly, foster and contribute to our ever expanding national planning business with a focus on the midlands market.”

 

As Rapleys’ Neighbourly Matters service enters its second year, Dan Tapscott reflects on progress and growth. Based on the variety and exciting work undertaken over the last year, along with the key appointment of specialist Natasha Bray, 2018 is already shaping up well.

This niche service was established to compliment Rapleys’ existing services and to provide a dedicated offering to clients throughout the office network. The breadth of instructions over the first year of trading has certainly achieved what we set out to do and the future is looking bright. Here are just a few notable commissions that spring to mind:

  • Party Wall advice on listed properties, new builds, subterranean basements and even an arena!
  • Numerous Rights to Light analyses including a city centre redevelopment scheme with over 30 neighbouring properties
  • Giving strategic Neighbourly Advice to student accommodation companies (notably a single scheme with 5,000 bedrooms planned)
  • Providing Expert Witness work on a Daylight & Sunlight Planning appeal for the redevelopment of a Victorian prison into residential accommodation
  • Investigating a boundary dispute project for one of our national roadside clients
  • Providing Neighbourly Relations services, liaising with neighbouring occupiers on residential and retail schemes
  • Entering into negotiations on a Rights to Light matter surrounding a Grade 1 Listed 18th Century retail property
  • Appraising proposals for multi-storey developments, university lecture theatres, even a fire station!
  • The negotiation of Access Licences for scaffolding and crane oversail to a busy, multi-occupied retail arcade
  • Represented various nationwide retail clients throughout the Party Wall process during neighbouring development work

Along with publishing various articles and providing circa 30 seminars to clients, colleagues, consultants and developers, we have also recruited Natasha Bray (a Rights to Light and Daylight & Sunlight specialist in our London office) – it has been a busy and productive year.

As 2018 gets underway, appointments have already been confirmed amongst others, for a Party Wall job involving the SS Great Britain dock and surrounding area and a Rights to Light analysis on a 25 storey tower block. The ability to liaise with in-house colleagues from planners to agents, valuers to other niche specialists, in my opinion, really gives a great added value service for our clients.

We have ambitious plans for expansion with our ultimate goal of having Neighbourly Matters specialists in every office, giving Rapleys the greatest national coverage for this service. I am very optimistic for achieving this sooner rather than later and from the feedback received, so are our clients.

For any further help on or advice on Neighbourly Matters do not hesitate to get in touch with Dan Tapscott or Natasha Bray.

 

A common project objective is completing construction work as quickly as possible, but it is key to choose an appropriate form of construction that optimises time on site without compromising the quality of the design or the end product. Modular construction is the quickest means of delivering a new building and, with the latest technical innovations, is also capable of delivering high quality.

Modular construction, which involves buildings being constructed off site with pre-fabricated components, became popular after the Second World War when there was huge demand for new buildings – particularly dwellings – to replace bomb damaged structures.

While modular and pre-fabricated construction successfully satisfied the requirement for buildings to be completed quickly, a common perception was that the quality of finish, aesthetic appearance and durability were not so readily achieved. This point of view continued during the following decades with people typically associating modular construction with poor quality buildings such as cold, damp and draughty temporary classrooms.

However, over recent years technical innovation and advancements in design and production techniques have meant that modular buildings can now be bigger, more flexible and achieve higher aesthetic and quality standards. This has resulted in a resurgence in both popularity and acceptance.

A high profile recent example of the speed with which modular buildings can be completed is the temporary school, known as KAA2, which was required to accommodate 960 pupils following the Grenfell Tower fire. The new school, constructed of 210 modular units, was completed by modular experts, Portakabin, just 13 weeks after project inception.

While speed of construction on site remains the main advantage of modular buildings over more traditional forms of construction, the other benefits typically include:

  • More programme certainty with construction being less susceptible to adverse weather conditions
  • Improved quality control achieved through standardisation, repetition and fabrication processes being undertaken in a factory controlled environment
  • Reduced cost through supply chain management, economies of scale and reduction of waste
  • Brand consistency – particularly appealing for occupiers with a corporate identity eg. restaurant and retail chains
  • Improved sustainability and environmental credentials resulting from reduced resource inputs and less waste material – the charity WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) has reported that off-site fabrication can reduce waste on site by up to 90% when compared to traditional construction
  • Provide suitable temporary accommodation on sites where major refurbishment or redevelopment is to take place on owner occupied buildings

While modular construction does provide clear benefits, there are also downsides that need to be fully considered and mitigated:

  • Rigorous pre-planning is required to ensure that a coordinated and integrated fabrication and construction sequence is agreed at the earliest opportunity.
  • Before fabrication commences, the design should be checked to ensure compliance with the brief. Design changes during fabrication, or worse still on-site, will be increasingly costly.
  • A lack of coordination during the design and installation stages will lead to delays and cost increases that will negate the benefits of implementing a modular approach.

There are also other ways this construction method can be utilised if full modularity is not appropriate or viable. Elements of prefabrication, such as bathroom and kitchen pods, can be incorporated into more traditional building designs to derive some of the pros without the cons.

We regularly help clients find the best form of construction for their projects and project manage the instruction through to completion. If you would like any help or advice on your next construction project, please contact Alastair Bliss.

 

If you are looking for a change and a new job in 2018, we have vacancies!

Take a look at our careers page to see the opportunities we have available. With current vacancies across a range of our sectors and services, now is a great time to join us.

You could be working with an Investors In People awarded company, one who cares about the growth and development of our staff and the high level of service we provide to our clients.

Jump start your career in 2018 and contact Sheila Coulman for more information.

Rapleys wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

We would like to thank you for working with us throughout 2017 and hope you and your colleagues have a wonderful festive break.

Our offices will be closed from 1pm on Friday 22nd December and will re-open on Tuesday 2nd January 2018.

Should you need any urgent help over this period, our property management team and Facilities Helpdesk (0800 988 7021) will be open as usual.

We look forward to working with you in 2018!

This year, the Mayor of London formalised the Homes for Londoners Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) which aims to make more homes affordable to Londoners on low and middle incomes with a long term strategic target for half of all new homes built to be genuinely affordable.

The SPG provides a key first step towards delivering more affordable homes through the planning system and provides guidance on delivering existing London plan policy.

The guidance sets out the mayor’s approach to “call ins”, where insufficient affordable housing has been provided or there has been insufficient scrutiny of viability information. The Mayor’s approach to transparency of affordable housing viability information is also detailed and it is explained how grant funding is going to be used to increase the level of affordable housing.

Threshold approach

The SPG details the ‘Threshold’ approach which will be employed by Local Authorities evaluating viability. The approach is divided into two pathways, the Fast Track Route and the Viability Tested Route.

The Fast Track Route applies to schemes proposing to deliver at least 35% affordable housing on-site which will not be required to provide a viability assessment and will be subject to early stage review only.

The more onerous Viability Tested Route applies to schemes proposing to provide less than 35% affordable housing on-site which will be required to submit a Full Viability Assessment and will be subject to both an early stage and late stage review. The SPG confirms that review mechanisms will be stronger and more consistent, and the guidance supports the use of Existing Use Value Plus as a benchmark land value.

Requirements for developers

The SPG clearly sets out the affordable housing requirements that developers should expect to deliver on potential development sites and it is hoped that developers will bid for land and development sites with these new policy considerations in mind. The Mayor has already demonstrated that the Greater London Authority will adopt a tough approach on new developments that do not adhere to the new planning policy as demonstrated by the rejection of the new development plans for the former Scotland Yard Site due to unacceptable levels of affordable housing.

Delivering affordable housing

Developers must, therefore, expect to deliver affordable housing on new build residential developments where it is viable and it is here that Rapleys can add value for developers. Rapleys provides guidance and advice throughout viability and 106 agreement negotiations, and assists with placing affordable tenure units with Registered Providers (RPs) or commuting off site payments.

With vast experience dealing with RPs across the UK, we can advise on their expectations, act as liaison, assist with contract negotiations and draft heads of terms, ensuring that developers secure the best possible deal on the best terms when delivering their units.

For further information and advice, please contact Nick Fell.

Our Bristol office has moved!

We are delighted to announce that as of Friday 01 December, we have taken the opportunity to move our Bristol office to new premises located at:

21 Prince Street
Bristol
BS1 4PH

0370 777 6292
info@rapleys.com

Our newly refurbished office will provide an excellent base for our team in the heart of the city centre.

It’s business as usual and all of our phone numbers and email addresses remain as before.

This week the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, caught the headlines by publishing his new London Plan in advance of a consultation period starting next week. The Plan has been publicised as a major change to the planning regime in London, and was brought forward in large part to encourage homebuilders to develop sites at higher densities to substantially increase supply across the city.

The replacement London Plan will (as advertised) rip up the planning rules in the capital in the sense that it will replace the current London Plan and its amendments, authored by Boris Johnson – the introduction of the draft is very clear on that. However, in general terms the policies in the document follow long standing planning concepts, such as making the best use of accessible land (through increasing densities), strong protection of the Green Belt, discouraging the use of the private car and so on.

The document is 574 pages long and there is much to note, but some of the broader themes are summarised below:

  • The concept of “good growth”, which reads very much like an updated version of “sustainable development”. It is contrasted with “growth at any price”, which the Plan suggests has been the priority in recent years.
  • The document includes some quite detailed guidance on residential development (in its broadest sense), but much attention has been attracted to the focus on removing restrictions to increase the density of residential development, particularly in areas with good public transport accessibility. However, in truth, much development in London in recent years was consented at densities higher (sometimes far higher) than the ranges set out in Mr Johnson’s London Plan.
  • Encouragement of the night-time economy including protection of pubs, and the formalising of the “Agents of Change” concept (which, put simply, is the idea that new development is responsible for ensuring that it is properly mitigated, in terms of noise and disturbance, relative to its prevailing context).
  • A presumption in favour of sustainable development for housing on most smaller sites, albeit with some notable exceptions.
  • In terms of affordable housing, the Plan formalises and continues the principles set out within Mr Khan’s previously published guidance on the matter. There is an overall target of 50% affordable housing across the city, and viability will continue to be a key issue in bringing forward residential development.
  • As flagged in the press before the document was published, the Plan seeks to prevent new takeaways within 400m walking distance of primary or secondary schools (including schools that are merely “proposed”), although it is open to boroughs to set their own distances. Boroughs should also consider whether to manage (ie restrict) over concentration of takeaways in their town centres.
  • Discouragement of the use of the Vacant Building Credit, and a policy against fracking.

In this context, in many respects beyond the policies themselves, much of Mr Khan’s message seems to be that he will be very much a “hands-on” Mayor when it comes to planning and, beyond being involved in larger development proposals, he will also seek to influence smaller development. This would explain policies relating to development on small sites, and the discouraging of new take-aways. These are matters which would not be passed to the Mayor for comment when planning permission is sought for individual proposals, albeit evidently they are proposals that are seen by Mr Khan as raising strategic issues cumulatively.

If – as advertised – the London Plan does act as a catalyst for bringing forward the housing the capital needs, it should be welcomed. In this context, we will be watching trends closely to see how much of an activist Mr Khan ends up being, and just as importantly, the attitude of the local authorities in implementing the more detailed elements of the new Plan (particularly Conservative outer boroughs).

In the interim, comments are sought on the document until 2 March 2018. If you would like to find out more about the draft Plan, and how becoming involved with the consultation might create value for your business, please get in touch with Jason Lowes.

The Chancellor presented the Autumn Budget earlier today with some announcements impacting the property and development markets. Rapleys wraps up the key points below.

 

Planning

In the run-up to the budget, increasing house building was extensively promoted by the Government, and it has set itself the very ambitious task of increasing housing delivery to levels not seen since the 1970s. In the event, much of the focus was on a promise of £15bn of support for house building across a number of measures including loans to SMEs, loans and grants to local authorities and financial guarantees to support private sector house building.

However, proposals for reform to the planning system were somewhat thin on the ground, and prefaced by a commitment to “strongly protect” the Green Belt, focusing on development in city centres and around transport hubs (fundamental planning principles for decades). The proposals themselves were restricted largely to the announcement of a number of consultations, including:

  • De-allocating land where “there is no prospect of a planning application being made”
  • Imposing minimum densities in city centres and around transport hubs
  • A consultation on reform to the developer contributions towards affordable housing and local infrastructure (ie CIL and s.106 agreements).

Also announced was an independent review, to be chaired by Oliver Letwin MP, into whether developers are holding back sites with planning permission for commercial purposes (a.k.a. land banking).

In fairness to the Chancellor, he started the part of his speech dedicated to housing echoing Sajid Javid’s comments earlier in the year that there was no “magic bullet” to solve the housing crisis. Even so, in terms of the planning system, as Mr Hammond closes his red box there seems to be little in the way of any new ammunition on offer. As ever though, time will tell, and we will be keeping a close eye on the Government’s initiatives as they develop to ascertain whether they evolve into anything more concrete.

Jason Lowes | 07899963524

 

Housing

According to the Chancellor, the biggest challenge  facing  the current housing market is the lack of supply. Simply, not enough homes have been built in recent times which has exacerbated affordability especially for first time buyers.

The Chancellor has pledged £44 billion to support the housing market and increase supply over the next five years, including a further £2.7bn for the Housing Infrastructure Fund and £8bn to support private house builders and the PRS sector. In order to alleviate the affordability issue, there will be an increase of £125m over the next two years for targeted affordability funding, which will aim to support those in rented homes. It was also confirmed that further details will be provided by the Communities Secretary in due course regarding plans to assist affordable renters in areas with high demand.

The Chancellor concluded with the headline announcement that stamp duty will be abolished for four out of five first time buyers. It had been expected that the tax would be targeted in the autumn statement and it is hoped that this change will remove a barrier for those aspiring to join the property ladder.

Nick Fell | 07964 558697

 

Business Rates

Business Rates will be impacted in four key ways following the Chancellor’s speech:

  • We will see the rate in the pound increase from 46.6p for 2017/2018 to 47.9p for 2018/2019, rather than the anticipated 48.4p. This is only a 1% reduction and so whilst not huge, it will prove beneficial to all rate payers.
  • The Chancellor will change the law to affect the Supreme Court decision that brought in the “staircase tax” which will provide some relief to affected ratepayers. This Court decision meant that thousands of rating single assessments were split into individual assessments for every separate floor a ratepayer occupies with every car parking space being separated out as well. It often resulted in increased rate bills but also a lot of administrative issues.
    Until the actual amendment to the legislation is published we don’t know exactly what is going to happen here but the implication from the speech is that ratepayers can chose to stay with separate assessments, which might happen in some cases, for instance where the split has brought the individual assessments below RV£51,000 and so they don’t have to pay the 1.3p in the pound Small Business Rate Supplement. This will no doubt take some time to sort as it requires a change in the law to overturn the Supreme Court Decision.
  • From 1st April 2017, Public Houses with an RV below £100,000 received a £1,000 reduction in their rate bills but this was only for a single year. This has now been extended to March 2019 which brings it in line, time wise, with the newspaper relief.
  • The Chancellor also announced that revaluations will run every three years after the current 2017 list expires in 2022. This means the next one after that will be in 2025 and the hope is that changes in levels of value will be dealt with quicker than in the current 5 year pattern.

Alan Watson | 07917 352428

 

Business Space

The continued focus of the Autumn Budget on the development of housing indicates that the trend of existing office and industrial floorspace and land supply being lost to residential use is set to continue. The consequence will be growth in office and industrial land prices and a strong growth in rents. Businesses looking to grow and expand will also find it more difficult to source new land and premises. This will be particularly evident in London and the South East where there is the greatest political will and push to provide more housing – almost inevitably on brown-field land that has mostly been in employment use.

Colin Steele | 07860 749034

 

Automotive & Roadside

The announced £400m charging infrastructure fund is likely to boost the number of electric vehicle charging points in the UK which will be welcomed as the electric vehicle market gathers pace towards the conversion of all new cars to electric in 2040.

A pledge for further research is also promising for the sector as it may help to reduce charging times, one of the main issues facing forecourts and the take-up of electric vehicles at this point.

Mark Frostick | 07785 522958

 

Retail

With wages falling in real terms, the average household will see little respite from the Budget despite the living wage hourly rate being increased. Inflation has risen from 0.5% in June 2016 to 3% in October. Wage growth has failed to keep pace despite current low unemployment. We believe there will be continued growth in the discount retail sector, both food & non food, for new outlets as a result with demand being fuelled by families looking to drive better value from their weekly income.

Given the rise in the closure of Public Houses, the smaller independent pubs will have some on-going relief in the rates benefit (as mentioned in our Business Rates summary), for those with a rateable value up to £100,000, the discount will be extended until March 2019.

Russell Smith | 07990 550460

Please contact a member of the team if you would like more information on the Autumn Budget and the impact it may have on your property or portfolio.

 

We will soon be 12 months from perhaps the most radical impact on real estate leases and property leasing strategy in over 60 years. January 1st 2019 finally sees the introduction of the International Accounting Standards Board’s (IASB) IFRS16, and preparation will be important.

IFRS16 will bring all leases (as Lessee – Lessor accounting is largely unchanged) on to corporate balance sheets and thereby radically change the reported financial shape of many corporates, whilst introducing ramifications that no company should ignore.

Now is the time to engage with your accountants/auditors to review preparations for this wholesale change in the reporting of lease liabilities – and liaise with your real estate advisers to ensure you are armed with the data and specialist property knowledge that you will inevitably need to have to hand.

What are the changes?

After years of consultation, the IASB have finally implemented their proposals to secure greater transparency for companies’ leasing commitments in company reports and accounts, which will become effective January 1st 2019.

All lease commitments, which include those for cars, photocopiers, even jumbo jets and power plants, will henceforth be treated as a form of financing (and therefore debt) and will come on to balance sheets. Previously, real estate leases have predominantly been treated as ‘operating leases’ and their impact has been expressed only ‘in year’ as a rent expense in the P&L.

Every lease held by a company (with minor exclusions) will need to be appraised and will enter the balance sheet during 2019:

  1. as a liability, effectively a sum equivalent to the capitalisation of the rent liabilities for the unexpired term (at a company’s marginal cost of borrowing) and,
  2. as a ‘right of use asset’, initially a similar value.

The changes will see a significant expansion of a company’s balance sheet, but most significantly a potentially dramatic increase in debt, with a knock on effect for gearing and other ratios.

For companies with multiple leases, such as retailers and pub operators, this could have a significant impact on performance measures, share valuation, loan covenants, executive reward schemes, etc. Further impact arises from the way that the two sides of the asset and liability are ‘unwound’ over time, which impacts operating profits in the early periods, but enhances EBITDA. (Your accountants should offer advice on this matter).

So what does this mean for your portfolio?

We expect that the impact for real estate decision-makers will be far reaching:

Firstly, it will be critical to ensure capture of essential data regarding leasing commitments, which will now be required by auditors. The rent component of a contract will need to be separated from any ‘service’ elements (relatively easy for a traditional lease with rent and a service charge, but more difficult for inclusive leases).

Secondly, sound decisions will need to be made to justify treatment of lease breaks, options, rent reviews, indexed and turnover rents, when the ‘value’ of each lease is initially assessed. Reassessment later, because for example a break option is not, as initially anticipated, then exercised, could be at a cost.

Thirdly, in our view, the unforeseen consequences will need to be considered carefully. Some of these will relate to wider (non-property) impacts, such as breach of loan covenants, re-pegging of executive reward schemes, etc, but there will be a knock-on for real estate.

Possible consequences which need to be considered:

  • Will it drive more shorter term leases, to keep balance sheets in check?
  • Will it see a reduction in companies’ leased footprint overall, as more radical steps are taken to manage the balance sheet impact? (The serviced office providers and co-working operators are certainly banking on this.)
  • Will it further the pain for physical retailers when compared with their ‘virtual’ online competitors?
  • Will it drive more freehold ownership? If a company is to inflate the balance sheet anyway then why not own a real capital asset?
  • Will it drive different decisions in relation to future growth and the exercise of renewals and breaks, because accounting implications will now be added to existing operational considerations? (Some argue that greater cross-functional input from businesses will drive better decision making).
  • For international operators, might it push global locational decisions towards countries with favourable environments, that for example allow deductions of interest payments against profits?
  • Will past sale and leaseback decisions need to be reassessed, and existing leases renegotiated to lessen their accounting impact?
  • Will negotiating strength at a break or expiry be impacted because a counter-party can identify your intentions from your company’s report and accounts?

This will be a voyage to a new world for all.

Just as the introduction of tenants’ security of tenure (England & Wales) changed the relationship between landlord and tenant in 1954, so these changes will transform the way that lessees view and manage their leases in the future.

Rapleys is supporting our clients in undertaking thorough reviews of leased portfolios, to capture all relevant data and to drive early decisions around their initial and longer term accounting treatment.

We are experts in the proposed changes, having been involved in consultations at each step of the emerging standards since 2010.

Please call us if there is any aspect of these changes where you believe our knowledge and expertise may be valuable to you and your business.

 

Congratulations to the following staff members who have all achieved promotions:

Lisa Stutely to Senior Associate

James Clark to Senior Associate

Rebecca James to Associate

Tom Dimmock to Senior Client Accountant

Katie Doke to Property Manager

“The promotions are all fully deserved and reflect the contributions to the business each person has made. I would like to thank them for all their hard work and support in the continuing growth and success of the practice.” Rapleys senior partner, Robert Clarke.

The fuel forecourt market has seen major changes in recent years. Roadside development has increased with more innovative and customer focused sites being built and there is now high demand for land adjoining main roads – from which landowners could capitalise.

The oil companies have generally been retreating from direct retailing, deciding instead to supply to independent (indie) operators trading under the traditional fuel banners. Some of the largest indie groups are backed by significant international private equity money and are driving up values. They are looking for new-to-industry sites in prominent locations of 0.25 acres upwards. Demand is for both freehold and leasehold options and values often outstrip existing use value significantly.

There is a strong demand for sites across the whole country, along both existing and newly planned main arterial roads.

Innovative market

To drive profit and value from the sites, innovation has been key. Partnering between fuel operators and well known retailers is now evident across the UK with the likes of Subway, Costa, Greggs, and Starbucks regularly appearing within the wider forecourt developments. Likewise, the indies are also tying up with supermarkets including Morrisons and the various Co-Op groups.

Demand for sites

With new road building and town expansions taking place nationally, there has never been a better time for land owners to take advantage of the insatiable demand from fuel operators. Where gaps in the national forecourt network exist, land values for roadside development have never been higher.

Future opportunities

Having been involved in the development of forecourt sites through planning, agency, project management and investment disposal, we have been able to take part in the market changes as they have progressed and recognise the exciting opportunities which lie ahead. With a sound knowledge of this market, we are best placed to help evaluate site suitability and its potential.

If you know of any suitable sites or would like more information, please contact Philip Blackford.

Rapleys is pleased to announce the appointment of Natasha Bray as senior associate to head up our London neighbourly matters team.

Earlier this year our dedicated national neighbourly matters service was launched, as overseen by specialist Dan Tapscott. Interest and demand for this service, which includes Rights to Light, Daylight & Sunlight, Party Walls and Access Arrangements, acting for both developers and neighbours to development, has been high leading to expansion.

“Commissions being worked on range across all property sectors and clients, both old and new to Rapleys, are providing excellent feedback. The neighbourly matters service is a great fit alongside existing multi-disciplinary property and planning consultancy teams, which really ensures clients get the best advice.

Natasha is an outgoing, highly experienced Rights to Light and Daylight & Sunlight practitioner who I am confident will play a key role as things develop.” says Dan.

Natasha states “I am ecstatic to be joining Rapleys and to play my part in further growing the expanding neighbourly matters team. Rapleys are very focussed and diligent in becoming a leading face in the neighbourly matters arena and I plan to continue driving this forward.

People are at the heart of everything we do as neighbourly matters consultants, therefore, the client has always been and will always remain our main focus.”

If you are or know someone who would be interested in discussing opportunities to work within our neighbourly matters team, please get in contact.

For more information on any neighbourly matters services or for advice in this area, please contact Dan Tapscott or Natasha Bray.

As an Investor in People (IIP) awarded company, Rapleys is committed to our staff and their development. We are pleased to announce that we have continued to grow our team in the last three months with 14 new appointments and have also awarded promotions across a range of our teams.

Our new team members will allow us to better service our clients and our promotions recognise those existing staff members who are already making a difference within our company.

Please click through to the full newsletter to meet our new team members and those who have been awarded promotions.

 

 

With the continued demand for dessert parlours and the increase in the number of both brands and franchisees, this food and beverage (F&B) offer looks set to replicate the spectacular rise of the coffee shop culture in the UK.

Like coffee shops, dessert parlours were relatively unknown on the UK high street and leisure scene as recently as 7 years ago, but we have witnessed them becoming more and more sought after and a regular in the F&B line up on retail and leisure schemes that we are bringing to the market, both in town and out-of-town.

Interestingly, apart from the US giants, Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme – both of whom have only relatively recently themselves re-entered the UK market – the current demand for sites is largely being driven by independent operators and shows little sign of being a mere fad.

Independent operators

Data released by The Local Data Company (LDC) and British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) shows that independents opened more shops in the first half 2017 than in the same period last year, whilst national chains continued to fall. Café style operations, such as dessert parlours, is one of the key growth areas and this looks set to continue as independent operators, such as Patisserie Valerie – the original cake and dessert retailer with over 100 outlets – continues its organic growth and franchised operators such as Creams – who lead the franchised sector with over 50 outlets – look to roll the concept out nationally from London and the South East.

Hot on their heels are brands such as Kaspas, Treatz and Heavenly Desserts, as well as a number of newer and smaller operations, all of whom already have double digit outlets in multiple locations with a variety of trading formats – operating on high streets, in shopping centres and on out-of-town retail and leisure schemes. These operators have all evolved to take advantage of the culture developing among young people, students and families of going out in the evenings for a dessert. Just like the quick service restaurant franchisees, the fortunes of these operators also look set to soar and accordingly add incremental value to the property assets they occupy.

If the coffee shop experience is anything to go by, watch out for the rise of dessert parlours!

We expect demand to continue to increase along with the profile of dessert parlours in retail and leisure schemes alongside the more established usual suspects – and there is a long list of operators they like to sit next to! Not only should the line up and marketing of schemes be geared to accommodating this use, but consideration should also be given to the design of centres to welcome these operators as part of the leisure mix.

Rapleys is able to advise on the development/redevelopment of schemes to appeal to this wider market, as well as identify the appropriate operators to create a vibrant retail & leisure destination. For more information, please contact Alfred Bartlett.

 

Forecourt Trader 25/10/2017

“Plans to force motorway services and large petrol retailers to install electric charge and hydrogen refuelling points under a new Bill being introduced in Parliament, could cost the industry millions, depending on the definition of ‘large’, according to Mark Frostick, senior associate in Rapleys’ automotive and roadside team.”

Frostick predicts that the costs could amount to £250m for the industry.

Read the full article on forecourttrader.co.uk

Demand for care homes throughout the UK remains very strong despite the fragmented nature of the market. The majority of development activity is in the ‘for profit’ sector and is aimed at private customers in the more affluent parts of the country.

Demand for additional care home beds is predicted to rise steadily over the next decade with some experts suggesting a requirement of close to 7000 new places per annum, reflecting the UK’s ageing population.

With this underlying and consistent demand it is unsurprising that care home investors and developers are actively seeking new sites in good regional locations across the country.

Operators typically offer a range of care options for customers. These include; nursing care, dementia care, residential care, day care and personal care. The main differences between these types of care home is the level and quality of care provided, although some of the larger homes will provide a range of care solutions under one roof. The basic principle being that the higher the level of care required the higher the annual cost.

Care home development

The majority of new care home developments have a capacity of between 60 and 100 beds with associated car parking. In planning terms it is a C2 use classification and in general terms it can be regarded as a ‘soft’ planning use owing to the low traffic generation and the general nature of the use itself. Care homes are also employment generating (unlike standard housing) and this can assist with change of use arguments on former employment sites. Typically, the more intensive the care provided the higher the employment generated.

The high consumer demand and current under-supply has resulted in an increasing number of developers seeking new opportunities for care home development, which in turn has led to an increase in prices being paid for new opportunities. The requirements are typically 1-3 acres in area and can be located on the edge of town centres or suburban locations in areas with strong financial demographics.

Prominence is not essential but sites with good frontage to main roads and close to local amenities are highly desirable. Some examples of suitable properties include former car dealerships, large pubs, and industrial premises.

Rapleys has been successful in identifying and acquiring a number of sites on behalf of care home developers and we urgently seek additional development opportunities. If you have any surplus land/sites that would be suitable for a care home please contact Alun Jones.

As some readers may be aware, the Government is midway through another consultation on proposed changes to the planning system, following the publication of the White Paper, “Fixing Our Broken Housing Market”, in March this year. In that White Paper, the Prime Minister said that Britain’s “broken” housing market is one of the greatest barriers to progress today.

The current consultation relates to England only and covers a range of issues, but most relevant to the reader is likely to be the Government’s proposals to introduce a standard method of measuring local housing need.

LOCAL HOUSING NEED

At present, the calculation of local housing need across England is carried out inconsistently, often resulting in protracted debate and delays to the local plan process. To streamline this, the Government is proposing a uniform approach that all local authorities should follow if they submit their local plans to the Secretary of State after 31 March 2018. This approach will also be the basis for the calculation of the five year housing land supply.

The new approach can be summarised thus:

  • The starting point remains projections of future household growth in each local authority area;
  • This is then “adjusted” to reflect average house prices in the local authority area, which essentially increases identified housing need in areas with higher house prices;
  • However, any increase is then capped to prevent need rising more than 40% above:
    – the annual housing need figure in an “up to date” local plan, or
    – where the most recent local plan is not “up to date”, projected household growth or the latest local plan housing requirement figure (whichever is higher).

Although any attempts to simplify the emerging policy process will be welcomed by many in the industry, the introduction of a cap seems to undermine the process to some degree. Further, the focus in adjusting need upwards in areas with high property values could see significant increases of identified need in parts of London, the South-East and affluent areas elsewhere in England, with decreases in areas that might be argued as needing housing growth and investment the most.

PREMATURITY OF PLANNING APPLICATIONS

Almost hidden away towards the back of the consultation, there is an indication that the Government also intends to strengthen the ability of local authorities to refuse planning permission during the local plan making process. At present, in areas where local authorities struggle to adopt local plans, planning applications that are promoted in parallel to the emerging local plan process are often the only significant contributors to housing supply – this could potentially close that off.

t is unclear what the Government seeks to achieve with such measures and indeed, what they would mean in the context of the presumption in favour of sustainable development and the ‘tilted balance’. If the Government’s attempts to streamline the planning policy process work, any measures of this type would be unnecessary. If they do not work, this would effectively hand local authorities an extra tool to refuse development, which would in all likelihood exacerbate housing shortages – the opposite of what the Government seems to want. Although this initiative is announced in the context of a consultation, interestingly no views are invited at this stage on this particular point.

The consultation expires on 9 November. If you would like to discuss the consultation further or have any views you would like us to put to Government on your behalf (even on points where views haven’t been invited) please do not hesitate to contact Jason Lowes.

TheBusinessDesk.com 04/10/2017

“The opening of a new foodstore at a Birmingham mixed-use development is expected to trigger interest in the site from would-be tenants.

The new 13,000 sq ft M&S Foodhall is acting as the anchor tenant of the scheme, which is situated on the corner of St Mary’s Row and Oxford Road in Moseley.”

Alfred Bartlett, Head of Rapleys’ Retail & Leisure Group, said: “This is a landmark scheme for Moseley and the surrounding local area that has significantly enhanced what was previously a dilapidated car dealership site.

“M&S’ occupation is a real boon for the development and we anticipate significant and continued interest in the remaining two commercial units.”

View the full article at TheBusinessDesk.com

The Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) regulations are due in six months time and are expected to have a significant impact for landlords and occupiers on private rented property in England and Wales.
From April 2018, the regulations will require all new lettings (including sub-lettings) to meet the minimum standard EPC rating of ‘E’.

The MEES regulations are likely to have the greatest impact on landlords of property, but occupiers will be affected too. These risks may impact lease event negotiations, investor/occupier demand, valuations and debt provision.

From 1st April 2018, the regulations will apply to the granting of a new lease and the renewal of existing leases. Landlords will be required to ensure compliance before the lease is granted.

From 1st April 2023, the regulations will apply to ALL privately rented property in scope of the regulations, including where a lease is already in place and a property is occupied.

Properties that do not require an EPC under current regulations will not be required to meet MEES (for example stand alone buildings less than 50m²). Moreover, MEES does not apply to short lettings (6 months or less) and lettings over 99 years or more.

MEES has a great potential to negatively impact property values as a consequence of:

  • Reduced ability to attract and retain occupiers
  • Reduced rental income
  • Increased voids
  • Additional capital required to bring the property up to standard.

Can you rely on your existing EPC?

A significant number of EPC’s were produced in 2008/9. Up until recently the requirements around the production of EPC’s was fairly loose, with a number of default values or assumptions being made. The quality of these early EPC’s is questionable. If you are reliant on an EPC produced between 2008 and 2015, then the risk of an inaccurate EPC is greater. The EPC could be poorly prepared which means the property falls foul of the MEES regulations unnecessarily.

Rapleys can help manage your MEES risk by:

  • Undertaking a risk assessment of your property or portfolio
  • Accurately assessing the current EPC rating of your property or portfolio
  • Providing strategic advice of how to meet the minimum required EPC rating
  • Aligning risk assessment with life cycle building data to enable informed strategy decisions
  • Providing advice on how MEES impact your dilapidations liability and claims.

For any further help on your EPC risk assessment, please contact us,

 

We are looking for talented people to join our team.

With current vacancies across a range of our sectors and services, now is a great time to join us.

Rapleys has achieved the Standard Award for Investors in People, meaning you could be working for a company who demonstrates a commitment to the development and progression of all staff members and who places high importance on excellent customer service.

IIP-Award-Brand-Mark-Standard-(Boxed)-Pantone-539-

View all our current vacancies here or contact Sheila Coulman for more information.

Whilst the past few years have been quite tumultuous in the country’s political and economic scenes, affecting many property sectors, the demand for church properties has strengthened in many locations.

In our charities consultancy team, we have noted increased demand when bringing new church properties to the market. The sale of a church in Queens Park, for example, saw over 125 different parties inspect the property before a strong bidding process resulted in a sale which almost doubled the client’s price expectations. This has even been the case with demand for some of the less obviously desirable properties in not so popular locations.

Interest has come from a complete spectrum of faith groups as well as other D1 users such as schools, nurseries, dance studios and exhibition halls. These parties are facing increased competition from developers looking to create residential developments or mixed-use redevelopments. Demand from faith groups in particular, who are looking to be owner occupiers, has been so strong that they have secured sufficient financial resources to out-bid these developers.

Repurposed sites

The distinctive history and characteristics of these properties are adding to the allure for many, and often the sites are repurposed from their original use whilst maintaining the D1 planning use. As our social climate evolves, so the community buildings are finding new use with a change of owner. Churches which have become redundant and would have been left to depreciate are receiving a new lease of life particularly in the education sector.

We have been equally busy with new lettings of D1 properties for use by a variety of pre-school activity providers as well as a mix of fitness and lifestyle service providers.

New appointment

Rapleys is very pleased to have been appointed by Manchester Diocesan Board of Finance as property consultants for both their glebe and investment properties.

This appointment reflects the high level service provision from each of our six national offices where amongst others, we already work with the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Thames North and North West Synods of United Reformed Church, and Church of England diocese including Southwark, London, Ely and Chelmsford.

For any more information on the charity property sector, please contact Graham Smith.

After many years of warehousing/distribution being a humdrum, low growth sector of the market, it has been experiencing a lot of change over the past 2 to 3 years.

Recently we have seen:

  • Bigger “mega” sheds commonly >500,000 sq ft and some 1m+ sq ft being developed
  • Buildings getting taller with commonly 15m+ eaves and often 20m+
  • Longer/thinner cross-docked buildings with low site density for delivery/parcel operations
  • Environmentally friendly sheds with green/living roofs, photovoltaic roofs/elevations, wind turbines, water harvesting and low carbon components
  • Quicker developed sheds in c35-40 weeks on enabled plots
  • Sheds with greater elements of automation/handling/delivery systems

These developments have been driven by occupiers seeking greater efficiency in their distribution networks to reduce their costs and carbon footprint to meet the demands of their customers.

At the forefront of this has been the prodigious growth of internet/direct sales activity which includes the pure on-line operators, such as Amazon, and also the e-tail arms of traditional food and non-food retailers as they compete with each other for market share and defend their market presence against the march of the new entrants.

Last mile delivery

The various delivery formats all have speed and efficiency at their core but also have distinct offers such as click and collect in-store or at a pick up point, next day home/office delivery and returns. All of these require an element of “last mile” and quick access to customer markets which dictates a need for smaller satellite sheds in urban fringes being fed by large national or regional hubs located on strategic motorway junctions.

One of the major issues facing the market has been a lack of land supply in these urban and metropolitan fringe locations. The supply of employment land has been squeezed by other competing uses and particularly by residential use which has the advantage of a strong political will for more housing development nationally.

Securing strategic sites

This has played into the hands of the key logistics developers such as SEGRO, Goodman, ProLogis, IDI Gazeley and others who had the foresight to secure strategic sites throughout the national trunk road network and take these through the planning and enabling process. They are now well placed to respond rapidly to the evolving demands of occupiers. In previous development cycles there was vastly more speculative development undertaken, but scarred by the large number of buildings remaining void for years after the financial crash, the market, particularly in the 100,000 sq ft + bracket, is more of a build to suit one nowadays.

This has led to minimum lease lengths pushing out to 10 or 15 years, tenant incentives such as rent free shortening significantly and rents showing the most sustained period of growth ever recorded.

What’s next on the horizon for the market?……..greater automation including autonomous vehicles and drone deliveries….and perhaps underground sheds?

For any further information on the warehouse/distribution market, please contact Colin Steele.

As with any development, although you may have been granted planning permission, this does not necessarily mean you can build your proposal. A Right to Light is an easement, similar to a Right of Way.

If Rights to Light are ignored and your development negatively affects your neighbour’s property, it could lead to an injunction (stopping the offending part of the development being constructed or removing it) or potentially sizeable compensation further down the line.

It is therefore in a developer’s best interest to tackle Rights to Light matters early on.

In each instance three questions need to be asked:

1) Have the affected windows of the property acquired a Right to Light?

2) If a Right to Light has been acquired, will unreasonable interference be caused by the proposed development?

3) If unreasonable interference is likely, what is the most likely remedy; an injunction or damages?

Dan Tapscott leads our Neighbourly Matters team and recently wrote an article published in Daylighting Magazine which discusses the key factors involved in undertaking a Rights to Light analysis and how to limit objections from the neighbours of your development.

Click here to read the full article.

Contact Dan for more information.

Read more articles from Dan in Daylighting Magazine (Issues 3 & 4)! Click here

There is a growing trend throughout the grocery store sector to build on top of existing stores to deliver new homes. Property Week recently reported on the concept stating that “numerous retailers have explored the potential of doing air rights developments”.

Richard Curry, partner in Rapleys’ retail & lesire group, was quoted in the article stating that is not just the grocery sector but also retail stores and retail parks which could benefit.

“There is an avenue to be looked at here,” he says. “And I don’t think the DIY retailers are going to be as affected by loss of trade as some of the grocers, who are potentially losing out on customers doing their weekly food shop [while building works take place].”

Read the full article in Property Week here.

Automotive businesses are swiftly realising that traditional retail models are no longer sufficient.

Technological convergence is rapidly accelerating change in the motor retail sector and is leading to a significant evolution in strategy.

Mark Frostick, senior associate in Rapleys’ Automotive & Roadside team, recently spoke to IMI Magazine (The Institute of Motor Industry) about how and why automotive businesses should alter their product offering to keep up with changing customer needs.

He states that “as the notion of the dealership and wider forecourt experience continues to evolve, diversification will play a central role and undoubtedly opens up a world of possibilities for additional income, new customers and less risk.

However, they must be planned for and implemented strategically, with a careful eye towards the long-term management of the business and its property assets.”

Click here to read the full article published in IMI Magazine and find out more about diversification in the automotive sector.

For more information, please contact Mark.

The UK’s food retail sector has seen a significant shake-up in recent years. Challenges caused by e-commerce, changing consumer habits and the rise of challengers such as Lidl and Aldi has seen many operators reassess their property portfolios and requirements.

Richard Curry, partner in Rapleys’ Retail & Leisure Group, recently spoke to Property Investor News about the food retail property investment market.

He states that there is now “an environment where food retailers are being far more selective in terms of their store requirements as they streamline product offering. Investors must therefore be similarly selective over their acquisition strategy.

Fundamentally investors should, like food and retail occupiers, prepare to take affirmative action to ensure efficient and profitable portfolio performance in what is an increasingly dynamic and changing market.”

Click the link to the right to read the full article published in Property Investor News and find out more about the factors influencing the market, the changes in optimum store size and the challenges and opportunities for the sector.

For more information, please contact Richard.

Rapleys is pleased to announce the following appointments who have joined our team in the last three months:

 

Balvinder Sagoo – BSc (Hons) MRICS
Partner
Building Consultancy
Balvinder joins Rapleys to establish and lead the building consultancy team in Birmingham. Balvinder brings 17 years experience in the commercial sector acting for investors, landlords and occupiers across all sectors.
07920 016838 | balvinder.sagoo@rapleys.com

 

Stuart Lobb –  BSc (Hons) MRICS
Associate
Automotive & Roadside
Joining Rapleys’ automotive & roadside team in our Manchester office, Stuart brings 15 years of experience across agency, development and valuation.
07831 099095 | stuart.lobb@rapleys.com

 

Maria Dychala – BA (Hons) MA
Planner
Town Planning
Maria has previously worked for a private planning and development consultancy and joins Rapleys with a wealth of experience in projects across England, Scotland and Wales.
07867 537091 | maria.dychala@rapleys.com

 

Clement Lam – MSc
Senior Surveyor
Corporate & Investor Management
Clement joins with almost 20 years experience in residential, commercial and asset management whilst in Hong Kong and New Zealand.
07917 536613 | clement.lam@rapleys.com

 

Tom Cherry – BSc (Hons) MRICS
Senior Surveyor
Building Consultancy
Joins our London team with 9 years experience.
073929 088129 | tom.cherry@rapleys.com

 

Taya Cotterill – MPLAN MRTPI
Senior Planner
Town Planning
Joins in Bristol after previously specialising in residential.
07917 567263 | taya.cotterill@rapleys.com

 

Will Primrose – BSc (Hons) MRICS
Senior Surveyor
Retail & Leisure
Joins the London team with extensive experience in the area.
07879 417824 | will.primrose@rapleys.com

 

William Seddon – BSc (Hons) MRICS
Surveyor
Automotive & Roadside
Transferring from Rapleys’ retail group to automotive & roadside.
07786 264490 | william.seddon@rapleys.com

 

Courtney Rodda
Credit Controller
Corporate & Investor Management
Joins as a credit controller based in our Huntingdon office.
01480 371428 | courtney.rodda@rapleys.com

 

Grant Allan – MA (Hons) MSc
Planner
Town Planning
Joins the Edinburgh planning team working across various sectors.
07920 061235 | grant.allan@rapleys.com

Vacant property (and vacant land) is once again on the increase due to the slow down in the economy and the uncertainty Brexit has brought to the UK property market.

Whilst statistics might still point to relatively low current vacancy rates, we have seen a recent notable increase in vacant properties across all sectors.

It is therefore timely to take stock and ensure you are prepared and that properties are in the best possible state of readiness for sale or letting, anticipating more turbulent times ahead.

Vacated properties can have significant financial and risk management implications. From a financial point of view, accounting provisions under the new UK GAAP (Section 21, FRS 102) make the treatment of contingent liabilities for leaseholds more onerous and the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 (As amended) and other legislation places various obligations on owners of property.

Running costs

Fixed costs – Planning ahead is key in mitigating losses and a strategy to reduce these costs is needed. This may include income from temporary lettings to contribute towards the upkeep.

Utilities – Maintaining services in a vacant property can be costly and an early assessment to identify which utilities can be terminated and those services that it is necessary to maintain is important in managing running costs.

Impact on asset value

If the asset is not secured immediately (and monitored regularly) there is a good chance that the building may be systematically damaged, affecting asset value. Theft of copper and lead, as well as squatting and general vandalism such as graffiti can significantly impact asset value and prejudice insurance policies.

Increased costs of managing vacant properties

Property managers and owners can often be distracted from their core duties when managing vacant property. Vacant property management often involves issues which need to be acted upon immediately, which invariably means prioritising vacant property management over core activities (or employing extra EM/ FM resource to manage vacant assets).

Risk Management

Health and safety is a major concern for organisations holding vacant property as they need to ensure that the property is not only secure but safe. It is imperative that a Health & Safety Assessment is undertaken on any vacant property and land as soon as possible and any works identified as necessary should be instigated promptly. We have the experience to ensure that a cost effective, fit-for-purpose strategy is implemented for each and every vacant asset.

Rapleys can assist by providing a one stop solution for managing all aspects of your vacant property. Our Account Managers co-ordinate various services, act as a single point of contact and carry out financial and risk assessments so your team can focus on their core jobs.

 

 

“An investigation into investment schemes has harmed [the self-storage sector], but more mature investors aren’t spooked” – Andrew Stone, Property Week.

Property Week’s self-storage supplement looks into the image problem the sector has as The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigates aggressively sold self-storage investment schemes.

Rapleys’ Colin Steele, partner in the Industrial and Logistics team, comments in the article:

“Larger companies and more sophisticated financial investors are seeing past [the bad reputation]. They operate on a different set of models and calculations and they are looking at excellent returns.

In the long term, this will be a storm in a teacup. The longer-term strength of the industry is there for all to see. Self-storage sites can get up to 80% to 90% occupancy, offer strong visible cash flows and good yields and are recession resilient.

The main challenge facing the industry now is finding suitable sites.”

Read the full Property Week article online here.

 

Matt Greenaway, senior associate in the Rapleys Retail & Leisure Group, comments on food-to-go brands and drive-thru’s in the latest Trade Counter supplement of Property Week magazine.

“As versatile as they are, food-to-go brands do have certain preferences – units of around 1,000 sq ft are usually the best option for food-to-go brands.

Ideally, they prefer units in visible and accessible locations within estates where they can capitalise on visitors to the trade parks and passing customers, but we won’t see freestanding drive-thru restaurants and coffee shops included in many schemes unless they occupy the most prominent main-road fronting locations”.

He believes that in-line units or, more likely, pod units, where landlords can generate attractive rents from small spaces, will become more common.

Read the full Property Week article online here.

Although the majority of the delayed Queen’s Speech, and the media coverage of it, was predictably focused on Brexit, some development related matters were squeezed in.

Housing

Readers may recall that the Housing White Paper, published in February, identified the nation’s “broken” housing market as one of the “greatest barriers to progress” in Britain today. Notwithstanding this, the need for more homes was restricted to one passing reference in the speech, as an add-on to non-development related property reforms.

There is a commitment to delivering the reforms proposed in the White Paper, but this is only outlined on two thirds of a page towards the end of the background notes of the speech. There is little detail about how this is to be achieved, except for an implication that any initiatives will be pursued through non-legislative means.

Roadside development

In contrast to fixing the housing market, encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles is considered by the Government to be worthy of new legislation. The thinking behind this is perhaps difficult to argue with, but a part of the proposal is a requirement for motorway service areas (MSAs) and “large fuel retailers” to provide electric vehicle charge points.

Most MSAs have already installed charging points, but the vagueness of, and the potential financial burden arising from, the second category of facilities has already caused some concern in the industry. If “large fuel retailers” refers to operators, rather than individual facilities themselves, this could have a significant and detrimental impact on smaller and tighter sites, as few amenities can be offered whilst charging takes place, and space is already at a premium.

HS2

Also benefiting from its own bill is the next stage of the HS2 link between Birmingham and Crewe. The bill will include details relative to compulsory purchase of the land required to deliver it, as well as granting deemed planning permission to deliver the scheme (with the details to be developed in coordination with the relevant local authorities).

Commentary

Although most recognise that Brexit will consume much of the Government’s time over the coming years, the Queen’s Speech suggests that development is now quite low on its list of priorities. This is particularly true of housing, which the Government itself has identified as one of the largest matters that Britain needs to address. If this is the case, at the very least one can anticipate a continued gap between development pressure and local appetite (in much of the country) for it.

As ever, time will tell – Rapleys will continue to keep a close eye on the situation, and keep you informed of developments as they emerge.

~ Jason Lowes

The new arrangements for questioning Rateable Values under the ‘Check, Challenge & Appeal’ system only apply to properties in England, but will require ratepayers to get involved in a considerable amount of administration where they have a large number of English properties.

For how to register, see below:

STAGE ONE

  • Firstly, a business will have to register through the Government Gateway website: www.gateway.gov.uk
  • The business may already be registered and have an account but will need to obtain an Assistant or Administrator User ID and password.
  • If not already on the system, then register the business and move on to obtaining the Assistant or Administrator User ID and password.

STAGE TWO

  • This involves using the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) website: www.gov.uk/correct-your-business-rates
  • On the VOA website, at the bottom of the first page where it says “Before you start”, click “SIGN IN”.
  • Enter your Government Gateway User ID and password from Stage One.
  • Complete the identity verification process for which you need to provide your NI Number, date of birth and details from one of the following:
    – A payslip
    – Your UK Passport number
    – A P60
  • Register your business
  • Manage Properties – This has to be done individually, property by property, and you will need to have a PDF of the current rate bill for every English property available, but then carry on as follows:
    – Click ‘Claim Property’
    – Search for the property using the Advanced Search – for our rating clients we are able to supply a spreadsheet which, once under ‘Claim Property’, you can click the link which will take you straight to the relevant hereditament
    – When you have identified it, click ‘Claim this property’ at the bottom of the page
    – Complete the details on the next screen detailing whether you are the owner or occupier and click ‘Add property’
    – Upload a copy of your rates bill – Under ‘Manage Properties’ click ‘Appoint agent’
    – Enter your agent’s code.
    Where Rapleys is instructed to act on your behalf, enter Rapleys’ Agent Code which is 39059
    – Click ‘Yes’ and ‘Yes’

• Until the registration process is complete, agents cannot get involved with their clients’ properties.

For any help on registering your business, please contact Stacey Jolly – stacey.jolly@rapleys.com | 07714 133953 – or Alan Watson.

 

Rapleys is delighted to announce that four of our graduate surveyors have passed their APC and are now registered members of RICS. This was a 100% success rate for Rapleys.

We pass on our congratulations to:

Well done all!

Rapleys continues its expansion in the Midlands with the appointment of a new partner to establish and lead the Building Consultancy team in the firm’s Birmingham office.

Balvinder Sagoo joins from GVA where he spent 11 years, the last 5 as a director. He has more than 17 years’ commercial building surveying experience in the Midlands with his key clients at GVA including Aviva, ABB, Canada Life and CBRE Global Investors.

Balvinder’s skills greatly complement Rapleys’ existing Building Consultancy and Project Management offer, and he also brings with him a wealth of experience in the office and retail sectors for occupiers and investors.

Balvinder said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to join a progressive partnership with an established national team but with the remit to develop our building surveying business in the midlands.

My focus will be to complement our existing transactional and professional functions, more specifically refurbishment, fit out, dilapidations and technical due diligence. We will also be offering project management and cost consultancy, alongside traditional building surveying services.”

Rapleys established its Birmingham office last year with a retail & leisure agency and development team, and is looking to further grow in this expanding market in the near future.

Head of office Alfred Bartlett said: “I am delighted to have someone of Balvinder’s standing in the market joining the office and partnership. Our ambition is to grow the Rapleys offer in Birmingham to cover the full range of services to developer, investor, landlord and occupier clients. Balvinder’s appointment is part of the ongoing strategy to fulfill this objective.”

Contact Alfred

The long awaited changes to the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations come into force today. Rapleys reviews the key revisions proposed and what they mean for the development industry.

Following the EU Council’s decision in 2014 to amend the 26 year old Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive, the Government undertook a consultation between December 2016 and February 2017 seeking views on the proposed changes to the Regulations.

The main purpose behind the changes is to improve the consistency and quality of the process and resultant Environmental Statements across the EU. Whilst the general process as we know it will not change, it will be more front loaded, potentially reducing the need for full EIA.

The key changes can be summarised as follows:

1. A new definition of the EIA process which could feed into project programmes for planning applications.

2. An enhancement of the screening process, which is now mandatory, with an emphasis on aspects of the environment to be significantly affected by development and the inclusion of mitigation measures at the screening stage. In reality, this has the potential to become a mini EIA, extending this particular obligation rather than streamlining it; however, it might also now improve the quality of the screening process which thus far, has been somewhat inconsistent within the UK planning system.

3. An opportunity for Local Planning Authorities to extend the 21 day mandatory deadline for Screening Opinions to 90 days, or an alternative period to be agreed in writing between both parties.

4. Inclusion of new or enhanced topic areas within Scoping Opinions including the replacement of flora/fauna with ‘biodiversity’, climate change, land, cultural heritage and consideration of major accidents and/or disasters (where necessary). Health impact assessments are also likely to be included within Scoping Opinions under ‘population and human health’.

5. The EIA must adhere to the received Scoping Opinion, where Scoping is undertaken. If the final EIA does not follow the Scoping Opinion it would not be compliant with the Directive. This could lead to applicants revising Scoping Opinions to ensure they take account of subsequent changes, plus an increased risk of legal challenge where Scoping Opinions are not revised to reflect the EIA proposal.

6. The introduction of monitoring measures for significant adverse effects – this may ultimately prove useful in determining the efficiency of the EIA process, however, this could also lead to more detailed conditions on decision notices and obligations within s106 Agreements. This could, in turn, add more risk and burden to developers with a need to ensure conditions comply with the tests in national policy and that monitoring is proportionate to the development proposed.

7. The use of competent experts to prepare the EIA submission for the developer and to examine it for the Local Planning Authority – although there is no actual definition or explanation as to what constitutes an ‘expert’. Responsibility will be placed on the developer to employ competent experts and justify this in documentation alongside the Environmental Statement, whilst the consenting authority must ensure that sufficient expertise is available to review the documentation.

For any help with EIA process, from inception to delivery, please contact Sarah Smith, sarah.r.smith@rapleys.com.

For the first time since its publication in 2012, the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) guidance has been subject to a ruling by the Supreme Court. The judgment provided much needed clarity on a long running debate concerning paragraph 49, which states that ‘relevant policies for the supply of housing should not be considered up to date if the local planning authority cannot demonstrate a five year supply of deliverable housing sites’.


The Background

The debate about paragraph 49 was crystalised in two conflicting decisions by planning inspectors in separate appeals, with one inspector favouring a wide interpretation of ‘relevant policies’ to include all policies that influence housing development, and the other taking the view that only policies specifically concerned with housing supply are deemed relevant. These decisions were subsequently challenged and the Court of Appeal ruled that the definition of ‘relevant policies’ could include all policies that create or constrain land (such as green belt and countryside protection policies) for housing development (i.e. the wider interpretation).

Supreme Court Ruling

However, the Court of Appeal’s ruling was itself challenged. As a result the much anticipated Supreme Court judgement last week ruled that the Court of Appeal was wrong and that ‘relevant policies for the supply of housing’ legally requires a narrow interpretation. As such, policies that are not specifically related to housing supply will not be deemed “out of date” where a local planning authority cannot demonstrate a five year housing land supply. However, the judgement goes further than this, emphasising that the absence of a five year housing land supply triggers NPPF paragraph 14 and the “presumption in favour of sustainable development”. This means that restrictive policies will remain a relevant consideration; however, these policies will have reduced weight if a five year supply cannot be demonstrated.

What does this mean?

Whilst it is early days, the Supreme Court ruling indicates that:

  • If a Local Authority cannot demonstrate a five year housing land supply, only a narrow range of policies are out of date. However, the decision maker still needs to give weight to the lack of five year housing land supply against a wider range of policies.
  • The weighting applied will be at the discretion of the decision maker, with differing approaches potentially being taken. Whilst the Supreme Court judgment is clear that restrictive non-housing supply related policies should carry reduced weight in the absence of a five year housing supply, local planning authorities could nonetheless seek to rely on such policies if they are minded to resist development, particularly in sensitive areas such as the Green Belt.
  • Given the subjectivity involved in the decision making process, planning by appeal is still likely to continue as decision makers grapple with applying the appropriate weight to policies which would otherwise limit housing development.

For more information on this please contact Andrea Herrick or any other member of our nationwide planning team.

 

 

We have much to report as the business enters its new financial year from May 1st. Here are just some of the headlines.

Birmingham and Building Consultancy

Balvinder Sagoo has been appointed as Partner to establish and lead our Building Consultancy team in Birmingham and the wider Midlands.

Balvinder joins from GVA where he acted for a range of private sector clients and brings with him extensive experience in all aspects of commercial business surveying.

Rapleys entered the Birmingham market in 2016 with the acquisition of Bartlett Property. Balvinder’s appointment enhances and expands our service offering from the Birmingham office (which already comprises professional and transactional business). Watch this space for further appointments in Birmingham over the coming months.

Corporate & Investor Management

Our property management business has been strategically renamed Corporate & Investor Management.

Under the leadership of Jeremy Day, who joined as Partner in January, this is an increased area of focus for Rapleys. The rebranding more accurately reflects the variety and scope of our work for corporate occupiers and property investors.

The team’s structure now allows us to deliver best practice and develop our distinct corporate and investor capabilities. We are adding to our technology platform to provide enhanced access for clients, as well as increasing our consulting services.

The team manages real estate in all sectors nationally from our hub in Huntingdon and our five other UK offices. Our professional staff are experts in the management of data, on-boarding portfolios and taking care of the important day to day duties, including service charges, insurance, rent collection and payment. The focus is always on quality, responsiveness and good customer service, with a careful eye on risk management and compliance to keep everyone safe.

Retail

We have restructured our retail business in the interests of providing a more dynamic and cohesive offer to the market.

Previously, the partnership’s retail business comprised distinct teams in agency, development and lease consultancy. Now, these service lines are combined into a single market sector team (operating from all our six offices), with national support from our investment, management and planning departments.

This new retail team will be led by Alfred Bartlett, with Russell Smith maintaining responsibility for agency and Tim Holt being the principal contact for lease consultancy. They are all partners.

Promotions

We are pleased to announce the following promotions:

Dan Cook – Partner

Mark Frostick – Senior Associate

Guy Owen – Senior Associate

Robert Frost – Associate

The promotions reflect the contributions made to our business and, more particularly, our client base.

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner, commented that “The business continues to grow and remains committed to the pursuit of high quality service lines, on a nationwide basis, for the benefit of our clients. These headlines demonstrate our drive to deliver.”

The cost of construction is often the largest single component of a property development expenditure budget and accurate cost planning is an essential aspect of assessing a project’s financial viability.

Construction schemes are often complex affairs that require rigorous project management and clarity of approach to control costs, design development, contractor procurement and execution on site.

Besides assessing the financial implications of a developing design, a key aspect of cost planning is forecasting the impact of inflation on construction prices. Forecasting market trends can be difficult at the best of times but the current political situation with an impending General Election and uncertainty over Brexit presents further challenges.

Imports

The majority of construction components and materials used in the UK are imported. According to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy 61.6% of building components imported into the UK come from the EU. Consequently, a weakened Pound will result in currency induced cost increases. The same data reported that the construction material price index increased by 5.8% in the year to January 2017. However for some commodities such as slate, timber and steel, the increases are much greater.

Labour

Similarly, the UK construction sector also relies heavily on labour imported from the EU. RICS has recently warned that a hard Brexit and potential restrictions on labour movement would result in the industry losing more than 175,000 EU workers. Any skills drought combined with industry wage agreements would result in significant labour cost increases and even jeopardise the delivery of future projects.

Going forward

These cost increase factors could be countered to an extent by shrinkage in investor confidence and a subsequent fall in demand. Furthermore, contractor supply and capacity would increase as current projects are completed.

A cooling of the market would lead to contractors becoming increasingly anxious to secure their orders for 2018 and beyond. This could force them to reduce their margins and result in the balance of power shifting in favour of clients.

So while there is continued concern that the full ramifications of Brexit will not be fully understood for sometime, more competitive pricing in the next few years could present clients with clear opportunities to reduce their capital expenditure and procure construction projects more cheaply.

For more information on this or any other project management issues please contact Alastair Bliss.

 

 

The Government has announced that all local authorities will need to produce up-to-date registers of brownfield sites available for housing, and that guidance to this effect will be issued around June this year. It has also confirmed that legislation about “Permissions in Principle” will follow later in the year to simplify the planning process for developers. While still understandably light on detail, the government’s proposals to streamline development of brownfield land is welcome progress. Both permission in principle and the launch of brownfield registers do bring the potential to more efficiently bring sites on stream although, as ever, the devil will be in the detail.

Taken together, the new mechanisms have the potential to lower the initial hurdle of bringing forward development through the planning system, and this has to be supported. Further, the owners particularly of small and medium sized sites would no doubt be pleased with a relatively simple method of getting on the planning ladder, and provide them with early confidence to further investigate the potential of their land.

Of course, the success of this venture very much depends on Local Authorities’ ability to keep the register up-to-date and implement the new permission in principle regulations. This has the potential to be a real administrative challenge and will require careful management to ensure the opportunity to increase the delivery of housing isn’t missed.

If you have or are aware of any previously developed land that might benefit from being on a brownfield register, or potentially from a “permission in principle”, Jason Lowes or one of our nationwide team would be happy to discuss this further.

The recent announcement that PSA Group, who own Peugeot and Citroen, will buy Vauxhall and Opel from their parent company General Motors for £1.9 bn will see the creation of the second largest car manufacturer in Europe (behind Volkswagen Group).

Vauxhall have 333 dealerships in the UK* along with major production plants at Ellsmere Port and Luton. The chairman of PSA, Carlos Tavares, has already suggested savings will be made of £1.47 billion per annum by 2026.

However going forward what could the effects be on the property market?

Dealerships

We are unlikely to see the wholesale closure of dealerships across the UK. In recent years there has been a trend for manufacturers to split their brands in terms of properties, whether this is separate sections of the same building or indeed totally separate buildings. There could be some scope for Vauxhall dealerships to incorporate the other brands into their sites, especially where they have previously had other GM brands such as Saab or Chevrolet. Given Vauxhall had just over 10% of the UK car market in 2015**, it’s unlikely that the brand will disappear and there is the potential for new investment and growth.

However it is unlikely we will see any major moves in the dealership market in the short to medium term.

Non-retail premises

Where we expect there could be change is in the non-retail properties. Citroen recently sold their HQ in Slough and relocated to Coventry to share premises with Peugeot. We could foresee a similar situation with Vauxhall relocating some functions from its spiritual home in Luton.

The topic of Luton is probably the biggest question mark. With the new owners looking at costs and the general consensus that the enlarged group now has too many manufacturing facilities, this could be where the major effect on property will be felt. If one of the UK plants was to close, it is not only the plant itself which would be affected but all of the supporting infrastructure, from the manufacturers of parts to the workers in the nearby sandwich shop.  However the effects of a hard or soft Brexit are likely to have an impact on the final decision on any plant’s future.

Property Investment

Property investment could benefit from the takeover as the growth in the size of the company could lead to further investments, possibly the redevelopment of old sites for new state of the art facilities or even a relocation of all brands in a town to a single larger bespoke site. If the new owners can return Vauxhall (Opel) to profit, making their existing properties a more attractive investment, we could see the hardening of yields.

From a landlords perspective, the vast majority of Vauxhall dealerships have been run by national franchise dealer groups on a leasehold basis. Any landlords who own one of these investments, with a short or medium term lease in place to a franchise group on a Vauxhall site, should consider the chance of the enlarged PSA group rationalising their portfolio. In this case, Rapleys’ Automotive & Roadside team are on hand to discuss a range of likely options for your asset.

For any further information, please contact Mark Frostick.

 

*Source: Vauxhall.co.uk
**Source: Car Magazine

 

Change has been the only constant in the planning system for many years, and obtaining up to date and commercially focused consultancy advice is key to making the most out of your property assets.

In 2016, Rapleys’ Town Planning team advised a wide range of clients, to this end, including:

  • Housebuilders
  • Strategic Land Companies
  • Investments Funds
  • Institutions
  • Landowners
  • Local Authorities
  • Commercial and Mixed Use Developers
  • Construction Contractors
  • Retailers
  • Roadside Operators
  • Leisure Providers

Our instructions from these clients involved cases throughout England, Scotland and Wales.

The services we provided included:

  • Preparation and submission of planning related applications and appeals
  • Planning feasibility and audits
  • Assessments of residential and employment land availability/supply
  • Retail and leisure capacity and impact assessments
  • Development Plan monitoring and representations
  • Expert evidence/witness
  • Masterplanning

A year of success

We have substantial expertise and ability in providing clients with robust advice to deliver positive outcomes across the UK wide planning system.

To use the example of permissions, our team pursued over 300 planning applications, to decision, for development proposals, advertisements and other matters. Of these submissions, 93% (285) were negotiated at application stage. In other words, they were granted consent without recourse to appeal. However, where appeals did prove necessary, the majority of the cases were allowed (won).

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner and Head of Town Planning, comments ‘These results underscore our proven track record in the delivery of results through the planning system. We pride ourselves on offering commercially driven and cost effective advice to the benefit of our clients’ balance sheets and development timelines’.

If you could benefit from such advice we would be pleased to hear from you, and bring our experience to the table in order to realise your aspirations and add value to your business.

For more information please contact one of our regional contacts.

London – Jason Lowes 07899 963524 jason.lowes@rapleys.com

Bristol Sarah Smith 07787 527109 sarah.r.smith@rapleys.com

Manchester – Neil Jones 07774 652426 neil.jones@rapleys.com

Edinburgh – Neil Gray 07467 955228 neil.gray@rapleys.com

 

 

 

Property Week 17/03/2017

Philip Hammond may not have the same propensity for rabbit-conjuring as his predecessor did, but his approach to business rates does have a whiff of March hare madness about it.

Rapleys’ Nik Moore take a closer look at Hammonds’ decision in this week’s Property Week.

To read the full article click here.

Rapleys is delighted to announce the appointment of Steve Sulston as Head of Strategic Land. Steve represents the ongoing commitment and investment which Rapleys are placing in the residential development sector. Working nationally, Steve will advise on strategic site identification and acquisition as well as the project management of sites from planning and through the development process.

Steve joins from Avant Homes where he was Head of Strategic Land for the Midlands and Yorkshire Region. He brings with him a wealth of knowledge from both the private and public sector, having previously worked for national house builders, housing associations and a regional Government Agency. Alongside this, he has also regularly worked with Neighbourhood Plan Teams and community groups to ensure land controlled by developers brings value and benefits to the local community.

Steve commented “I am excited to be joining Rapleys at a time when they are enhancing their development offering and am delighted to be playing a key role in this. The strategic land sector is becoming increasingly more attractive as the Government’s push for housing delivery sees older landholdings receiving planning permission and providers looking for future continuity of supply. Rapleys’ pro active approach to site identification and promotion offers a one stop shop to clients looking to invest in that pipeline.”

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner of Rapleys, commented “I am delighted to have Steve on board. He has a wealth of experience within the residential sector and will, undoubtedly, underpin the practice’s profile as a key player in strategic land with the support of our town planning team.”

The Revaluation comes into force on 1st April but the new rate bills for 2017/2018 will be coming out any time now, indeed some have already arrived.

There has been a huge amount of discussion in the press in the last few weeks because there are areas, particularly in London and the South East, where Rateable Values have increased considerably.

For certain areas there have been falls in Rateable Value, indeed government statistics suggest half of all ratepayers will see no increase or a fall in rate bills, 25% will see modest rises but the remaining 25% will see significant increases.

There is a “Transition System” that phases in the increases and decreases in liability. Unfortunately for those whose rate bills should be falling there will be very limited reductions because these are, effectively, funding the limitations on the increases.

Company Registration

The government will require business ratepayers and appointed agents to register on the government website. Agents will be given a special reference code once registered which the ratepayer must use to invite the agent to act on their behalf.

Property Registration

Although the system is not yet in place, the Valuation Office (VO) has stated that business ratepayers will also have to register their property portfolio on the government website.

At a recent meeting with the VO, Rapleys was told that properties have to be registered individually by the ratepayer and that they will not be able to drop them in from a spreadsheet for instance and furthermore, this cannot be undertaken by the ratepayers agent. Although various organisations, including Rapleys, have been pressing for a more sensible and practical way of doing this, the Government does not yet appear to have moved at all.

New Check, Challenge and Appeal system

The government and VO are determined to reduce the number of Business Rate appeals by introducing a more complex three stage system which also requires an appeal fee at the third stage.

Stage 1 – “Check”

This will involve checking all the facts on a property that the VO has within their records. For example, the floor area, whether the property has heating, air conditioning, raised floors, sprinklers or insulation etc.

If there is a disagreement with VO records then proof of the differences have to be submitted. If the VO agrees, or even partially agrees, then they will serve a notice to amend the assessment.

The VO has twelve months to respond to a “Check” and if nothing happens within twelve months the “Challenge” stage can commence.

If the VO does respond within 12 months and there is disagreement with the response, there is just four months available to lodge a “Challenge”.

It should also be mentioned that if someone “knowingly, needlessly or recklessly” supplies incorrect information there can be a £500 fine.

Stage 2 – “Challenge”

Here it will be necessary to submit in writing the reasons why one thinks the VO assessment is incorrect. This will involve providing rental evidence to support the case, such as evidence of other assessments of similar properties to the one in question.

The VO then has 18 months to respond and if they do not, the case can move onto Stage 3 – “Appeal”.

If the VO does reply and there is some disagreement with the response, again there is just four months to lodge an appeal.

Stage 3 – “Appeal”

This is an appeal to the Valuation Tribunal (VT) and involves a fee of either £150 for small businesses (less than 10 employees or a turnover of less than £2m per annum) and £300 for all other businesses.

If successful, the appeal fee will be refunded but it is not clear whether the appeal has to be wholly or partially successful.

Should the VO change their mind between the Challenge stage and the VT hearing and agreement is reached, then half the appeal fee will be refunded.

There was speculation of the government imposing an arbitrary minimum fixed percentage review of 15% which would have meant that if the VT did not believe the assessment was more than 15% out then the VT would not have been able to reduce the assessment at all.

However, common sense has prevailed with many agents and institutions insisting this was completely unfair. The VT will now be required to decide whether the existing assessment is a reasonable valuation. If the VT does not agree it is reasonable then they can provide a decision reducing the assessment. The decision is thankfully now back with the VT rather than limited by a grossly unfair government proposal.

Currently none of the legislation is yet in place but the general consensus is that most of what is detailed above will be coming into force shortly.

For any help with your business rates please contact Alan Watson.

 

SUPREME COURT DECISION: NEWBIGIN (VALUATION OFFICER)   – V –   S J & J MONK

Rapleys welcomes the recent Supreme Court Decision on a rating case which should beneficially affect anyone considering substantial construction or redevelopment works by drastically reducing their rate bill.

The property concerned in this case was the first floor of a three storey office building known as Avalon House, St Catherine’s Court, Sunderland Enterprise Park.

With effect from 6th January 2012, the first floor was stripped back to a shell with the removal of all internal elements except for the enclosure for the lift and staircase. The stripping out included the cooling system, internal and external plant, lighting and power installations, the fire alarm system, suspended ceiling, all sanitary fittings and drainage connections, timber joists and modular raised flooring, existing masonry walls and metal stud partitioning.

The Valuation Tribunal and the Court of Appeal made a judgement supporting the Valuation Officer’s view that the property should still be assessed as an office. However, the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) decision supported the ratepayer’s view that the property should be valued at nominal Rateable Value of £1 and this was agreed to be correct by a unanimous Supreme Court Decision.

The effect of the judgement should be that ratepayers do not need to pay Business Rates where the property is subject to significant building works.

The Supreme Court stated that the Valuation Officer must assess objectively whether a property is undergoing reconstruction and therefore incapable of beneficial occupation, rather than simply being in a state of disrepair.

The Court mentioned that a building under redevelopment, like a building under construction, is incapable of beneficial occupation and, therefore, should only have a nominal assessment of RV£1.

The Valuation Officer’s approach to this type of issue has stifled development, was grossly unfair and has restricted re-development works and investment in property redevelopment.

This significant decision should ensure developers do not have to pay Business Rates where a property is subject to extensive works, and will only help to encourage more investment in redevelopments.

The full judgment of the Court is the only authoritative document, and judgments are public documents available at: supremecourt.uk/decided-cases.

For any help with your business rates, please contact Alan Watson.

Proposed developments can cause uncertainty, even hostility, amongst neighbours, be it residents or businesses. If information is scarce, people often assume the worst. Dan Tapscott, who heads up Rapleys’ Neighbourly Matters service, has many years experience acting on behalf of both developers and neighbours, often dealing with complex and sensitive negotiations. This helps facilitate communication, avoid costly delays and even maximise development potential on sites.

Here are Dan Tapscott’s top ‘neighbourly’ tips when undertaking a construction project:

1. Know your neighbours

During planning, objectors will identify themselves; don’t ignore them and hope they’ll go away – the chances are they won’t. Understand why they are objecting and address their concerns. Using a neighbourly matters consultant can bring both expertise and impartiality when dealing with emotive situations.

2. Be neighbourly

First impressions matter. Take people’s concerns seriously and see if steps can be taken to alleviate them; painting a fence, trimming a hedge or adding some ‘business as usual’ signage can go a long way. A professional, such as a party wall surveyor, is well placed to listen and relay concerns back to a developer accordingly.

3. Know your legal obligations

Issues around access, proximity to boundaries and permissions to erect scaffolding, hoardings or oversailing cranes commonly crop up. Ignoring the law around these could lead to a costly injunction and time critical delays to a development. Employing an access arrangements adviser with knowledge of the relevant legislation can avoid these pitfalls.

4. Watch out for spurious claims of damage

There will always be those who will ‘have a go’ to see what they can get out of a developer. Keeping a photographic record of condition from the outset can allay fears on both sides and provide valuable information in the event of a dispute arising. Using an independent professional to undertake this work builds reassurance and trust

5. Avoid conflicts before putting a spade in the ground

A well thought out design can go a long way in tackling potential issues before they arise and therefore can greatly help in keeping neighbours ‘on side’. For example, using a 3D digital model of the development during the design phase can produce a ‘design envelope’ which takes into consideration aspects such as rights to light and daylight & sunlight, thereby reducing the risk of these issues occurring at a later stage.

In summary, think ahead and be considerate and proactive but, if you miss any of these steps, Rapleys are here to help.

For more information on Rights to Light, Daylight & Sunlight Amenity, Party Wall and Access Arrangements please contact neighbourly matters expert Dan Tapscott.

 

Commercial News Media 21/02/2017

Alan Watson, head of rating comments on the appeals process and the frustrations that many businesses are having with the new business rates.

To read the article in full click here.

According to Kantar, the figures for the period 09/10/2016 –29/01/2017 showed that the food sector held up well over the Christmas trading period. Fears that a repeat of previous years’ food shopping patterns proved unfounded for the majority.

Market Share

The market share figures from 9 October 2016 to 29 January 2017 has adjusted to:

09/10/201629/01/2016
Tesco28.20%28.10%
Sainsbury’s16.00%16.50%
Asda15.60%15.60%
Morrisons10.40%10.90%
Co-op 6.50%6.00%
Aldi6.20%6.20%
Waitrose5.40%5.30%
Lidl4.60%4.50%

 

The “Pre-Christmas large shop” returned and was followed by a slow down over the remaining period with customers using top up shops as the preferred pattern of food shopping.

Morrisons reported their best results in 7 years, like for like sales up 2.9%. J Sainsbury up 0.1%, reported that the integration of Argos has been boosting sales especially in toys and electrical goods. Aldi up 11.8% and Lidl up 7.5%, both outperformed everyone else in the sector. Waitrose was up 2.8% over the same period with Booths up 2.6% and M&S Food sales up 0.6%. The biggest loser was Asda, down 2.4% on like for like sales.

Convenience

In the convenience store sector, Co-op (sales up 3.5%) announced the increase in its portfolio of a further 100 stores for the last year, promising another 100 stores for this coming year. This may prove to be a difficult task as last year’s acquisition programme was made easier by the acquisition of some of the My Local and Budgens trading stores which gave them an immediate hit, accounting for 20 of the 100. They have a rollout programme through the New River Retail pub estate, which will account for some, however with the renewed interest in acquisitions by the regional Co-ops, Costcutter, Spar and Tesco which is back opening its Express format, this may prove to be an ambitious target.

Online

Online shopping still proved to be an increasing area of sales as a percentage of the whole, however the feeling remains that there needs to be a change in costs in order to establish the sustainability of this service as a viable sale point for the future.

Ocado recently announced an increase in pre tax profits of 21.8% for its November year end. This was tempered by concern over the effect of Amazon’s introduction in the market. Amazon recently announced they are to increase the amount of space they wish to take in and around the Greater London area in order to service their food delivery offer.

Tesco/Booker

Perhaps the biggest announcement so far in 2017 was the merger of Tesco with Booker which, despite being subject to CMA approval, is generally being welcomed by the respective retailers and individual traders in the Booker family of Londis, Budgens and Premier Food. Nevertheless, there will be major concerns amongst other operators such as Costcutter, Spar and Nisa which will no doubt be objecting to the added possible influences of Tesco in their traditional smaller store sector. Other mergers or alliances might be considered in this sector if this was to be given the go ahead. The other interesting point to note from this would be the access that Tesco will be getting to the catering market which has a higher margin, i.e Booker currently supplies to operations such as Wagamama. It is noticeable within the industry that foodstores and supermarkets, most notably Waitrose, are incorporating catering units within stores such as sushi bars and pizzeria counters in order to increase their margins and sales.

Key point to note

Aldi has overtaken the Co-operative as Britain’s fifth biggest supermarket

If you have any questions about the above, please contact Richard Curry – richard.curry@rapleys.com.

 

Property Week 17/02/2017

Nicholas King, director at Formal Investments, has a vision for a new warehouse in London that many have labelled “ambitious”. Reading between the lines, it is perhaps a polite way of saying the idea is complicated, daring, brave, foolish, crazy even.

Rapleys partner Colin Steele discusses whether sheds going underground is a viable option for companies and the potential value that may or may not be added.

Read the full Property Week article here.

Property Week 14/02/2017

These days even die-hard Luddites are shopping on their smartphones. Technology is transforming the way people buy goods and that is transforming the logistics sector.

Rapleys Partner Colin Steele looks comments on how the logistics sector is becoming increasingly affected by technology and how the industry is reacting to these changes.

To read the full article please click here

Drive-thrus started life in the USA in the 1940s, but they still feel like a relatively new concept in the UK.

However, the rising demand for and value of prime roadside sites suggests that the format is now well established here.

Most often associated with fast food chains – McDonalds opened its first drive-thru in 1975, the year after it opened its first “In-line” restaurant in the UK – it’s the coffee chains that have been leading the charge in recent years. Starbucks is understood to be close to having 200 drive-thrus in the UK. Costa currently has around 40, but has ambitions to triple that.

Established grab-and-go players such as McDonalds, KFC and Burger King now vie for sites – and customers – not just with coffee houses, but a wide range of new entrants to the quick service restaurant sector such as the Canadian coffee and doughnut chain, Tim Hortons, who provide an all day food and coffee offer that sits alongside both the coffee and fast food operations.

Global brands such as Taco Bell and Krispy Kreme have also bought in to the roadside/drive-thru concept.

New industries

There is even interest from outside the food and drink sector from the likes of financial services firm Metro Bank, which opened its first drive-thru in Slough in 2013, allowing customers to drive up to the bank and carry out transactions without leaving their vehicles.

Whether the idea will catch on with other banks – or even dry cleaners (Johnsons have dipped a toe in the market) and other businesses – remains to be seen, but what is clear is that the increasing number of businesses eyeing the drive-thru arena will affect the market as the supply of prime sites on busy road networks shrinks.

The change in demand

Historically, operators have favoured footprints of 1,800-2,500 sq. ft. All the drive-thru operators of course provide a sit-in option, which at the larger end of the requirement scale mean that site requirements can be as much as half an acre when you take into account drive-thru lanes and parking.

The lack of site options means operators are being forced to adapt their requirements – by squeezing on to smaller sites or buildings over two storeys.

Traditionally, coffee outlets have tended to prefer sites which are inbound to cities, so people can grab a drink and a snack on the way to work, while food outlets prefer an outbound site so that people can grab a ‘take out’ on their way home. Again, this model is already being compromised by space constraints.

The best sites provide a high volume of traffic flow, prominent positioning and good access points. There may also be additional sales drivers nearby – such as office and business parks, leisure centres, trade parks or hotels.

Generally, demand is such that the best sites may be attracting rental income in excess of £30 per square foot, which can make the market very attractive for landowners.

Drive-thrus will also look different in the future, as clever design is used to compensate for the pressure on space, but their continued success is assured: time pressures and the need for convenient solutions will continue to drive demand.

Rapleys provides comprehensive advice on drive-thrus and the wider retail and leisure market. For more information please contact Alfred Bartlett. 

 

Property Week 07/02/2017

Industry reaction to today’s Housing White Paper, which set out tougher rules for developers and councils in a bid to speed up delivery.

Read the key takeaways from the housing white paper in our summary.

Rapleys Partner Jason Lowes provides comments following the Housing White paper published this week, providing insight in to local councils and authorities and how it will affect them.

To read all the reaction in full from Property week please click here.

Heavily trailed in the media for almost a week, the government’s long-awaited Housing White Paper was published for consultation yesterday. The government hopes that it will fix a “broken” housing market, seen as one of the greatest barriers to progress in Britain today.

In advance of the Paper’s release, much commentary was made about the continued shift away from the Conservative’s long-standing focus on mass home ownership, and towards recognition of renting as a genuine alternative to buying a house. The mandatory requirement for Starter Homes is not mentioned, and instead there is a policy expectation that housing sites deliver a minimum of 10% affordable home ownership and rented tenures. As predicted, it is proposed that powers relating to Starter Homes have been devolved to local authorities. Given the opposition by many local authorities to the Starter Home initiative, it will be interesting to see how many are actually delivered into the market. There is also now a wage cap for those seeking Starter Homes.

However, many of the other themes are somewhat familiar, with the White Paper seemingly aimed at reforming the current system, rather than overturning it – not least:

  • High density development on brownfield locations in close proximity to transport hubs, and on surplus public sector land.
  • Despite much media coverage, the Green Belt is to be maintained and protected except in “exceptional circumstances”
  • Local plan making is to be tightened up but still used as a tool for enabling development. It should be based on meeting identified housing need, albeit potentially against a single, nationally recognised methodology.

Much of the news lies in the “sticks and carrots” that the White Paper contains in its detail, aimed at both developers and local authorities, including:

  • Consideration of the expansion of existing local authority powers to force developers to complete development, and the reduction of the time period to implement consent from 3 to 2 years.
  • Whether local authorities should be able to take into account a developer’s track record when considering proposals.
  • Raising planning application fees by 20% in June, with further rises possible and the potential for fees for planning appeals.
  • Government intervention where local authorities are unwilling or unable to adopt local plan policies in a timely manner and in circumstances where the NPPF presumption in favour of sustainable development would be automatic if housing delivery falls below prescribed levels.

As the Minister for Housing himself tweeted, there is no silver bullet within the paper but in general terms it seeks to encourage developers to build, and local authorities to let them (and seemingly, in some circumstances, make them!). However, some of the measures being suggested against developers seem a little unrealistic, not least those relating to the completion of development. All in all, the White Paper has set itself a huge task, and many will question whether the measures set out within it are sufficient to do the job.

The Government is welcoming comments until 2 May 2017. If you wish to discuss the contents of the White Paper more, or would like us to help you get your views across, please contact one of our nationwide team.

 

Rapleys is pleased to share some of our most recent agency transactions in our latest newsletter.

We are also happy to share some of our currently available properties. A full list of our properties can be found in the property section of our website. Please get in touch if you require more information on any of our available properties.

To view our latest newsletter in full, please click here.

 

Property Week 20/01/2017

Most of us contemplate any dealings with a car salesman with a sense of dread. Sure, you get a car at the end of it, but first you have to endure an over-enthusiastic dealer, hell-bent on expounding the merits of heated car seats whether your budget allows it or not.

Not any more. These days, more and more car manufacturers and dealerships are electing to trade from shopping centre malls and high streets where they can offer customers something more experiential and informal – and, crucially, using less space.

Daniel Cook, Rapleys Senior Associate from the Automotive & Roadside team provides comments on new shopping centre showrooms and what threats they have on traditional showrooms.

Read the full Property Week article click here

Forecourttrader.co.uk 09/01/2017

Decent sites are harder to come by so will we see more new-to-industry (NTI) developments?

After a year of big merger and acquisition stories – Euro Garages with EFR (European Forecourt Retail Group) and MFG’s purchase of Synergie Holdings and Roadside Group to name just two – the verdict on the forecourt property market is in. Last year was a good one, demand is still strong but it’s a lack of supply that’s the problem.

Mark Frostick, associate in Rapleys’ Automotive & Roadside team, discusses ground sites and their potential costs. He states “Yes, we’ll see more NTI, out-of-the-ground sites, but the problem is the cost of them, what with the price of the land and the building etc.”

To read the full Forecourttrader.com article please click here.

 

A planning committee will next week consider whether to grant permission for 48 new flats at Torvean Caravan Park.

Plans for new flats next to the Caledonian Canal on the outskirts of Inverness have been recommended for approval. A planning committee will next week consider whether to grant permission for 48 new
flats at Torvean Caravan Park.

The homes would be built in six blocks, with some overlooking the canal.

Council planners have recommended approval for the scheme saying it will help tackle housing need in the area.

However, Muirtown Community Council have objected claiming the development is over-development and surface water drainage into the canal.

The plans have been submitted by the present owners of the caravan park under the name Caledonian Highview Ltd.

The development would also spread onto a nearby petrol station which has lain disused for several years.

Planning agent Neil Gray of Edinburgh-based consultancy Rapleys has previously said the applicant had been in talks with the council for some time about the project.

He said that the aim is to create “something a bit different” for the area, which is set for substantial new development in the coming years due to the< West Link road, the new Torvean Golf Club and the relocated Highland rugby pitches.

Council planning officer Elaine Watt said: “The proposal will result in development of a ‘windfall’ site and the contribution towards providing additional housing, including 25% affordable, is to be welcomed.

“The former petrol filling station has lain vacant for a number of years and makes little positive contribution to the area, particularly when viewed from the A82. “The importance of this area in making a positive contribution at one of the main gateways to the city is noted and the design and layout has done much to achieve an acceptable and appropriate standard of development.”

Motortrader.com 12/12/2016

From Trump to Brexit, 2016 was a year full of shocks and surprises, with experts and commentators wrong footed.  Predicting 2017 is, therefore, difficult at best, if not foolhardy.

There are, though, some trends and flashpoints which we can be sure will impact on the motor trade next year.

Firstly, demand for property is likely to remain high with a large number of requirements for both franchised and used car sites remaining unfulfilled.

The biggest issue here looks set to be the continued lack of available sites, either existing or in development, and this challenge will likely set much of the agenda for 2017.

Meanwhile, with the changes in environmental certificate (EPC) requirements being introduced in early 2018 we might expect to see some landlords looking to let less energy efficient premises at a discount towards the end of 2017, before they have to comply with the new regulations.

Mark Frostick, Rapleys  Associate in the Automotive & Roadside team, provides the blog for Motortrader.com

Read the full blog from Motortrader.com click here

On the 10th January, the Scottish Government published a consultation paper in relation to the changes proposed to the Scottish planning system. This is the anticipated ‘White Paper’ often talked about. The findings of this consultation will help the Scottish Government in bringing forward their new Planning Bill in late 2017 or early 2018.

The aim of these proposals is to increase the effectiveness of the planning system by speeding up applications and lowering determination times. It takes the form of 20 proposals for improving the planning system. These in turn are divided into four areas of proposed change.

  • Making plans for the future
  • People make the system work
  • Building more homes and delivering infrastructure
  • Stronger leadership and smarter resourcing

What does this mean for Rapleys’ clients in Scotland?

With a fast growing Scottish population and a lack of desirable sites in cities such as Edinburgh or Glasgow, the focus of the Planning Review is heavily weighted towards delivering residential development. Proposals such as the introduction of regional housing targets set within the National Planning Framework and the introduction of ‘locality plans’ has been raised. The proposal to remove the production of the Main Issues Report stage from Development Planning and improved community planning linkage should lead to a shorter plan preparation stage. We have concerns that the ‘local place plans’ could be seen as duplicating Local Development Plans themselves which might actually have the opposite effect on intentions.

Of further interest to our residential clients is an increased responsibility on local authorities to increase the supply of development ready land and the introduction of a National Infrastructure Agency with statutory powers which could bring a new method by which stakeholders could be brought together. We would question how this is going to be resourced.

The ramifications for commercial and retail development are particularly interesting to Rapleys due to our wide ranging experience in this area across Scotland. Of particular interest is the proposed ‘simplified planning zones’ in town centres and regeneration areas which could speed up key commercial applications such as shops, restaurants or bars.

What happens next?

  • Consultation is open until 4th April 2017 – we will be listening to clients to put forward their views
  • Responses will be published by end of July – there are already initial reactions from the RTPI, RICS and Scottish Property Federation
  • The consultation will help production of a Planning Bill in late 2017/early 2018

Rapleys are experienced in all aspects of residential, commercial, retail and rural diversification and are available to advise our clients as to the implications of the proposals and can assist with making representations to the consultation.

 

The total number of parking spaces in the UK is estimated at between 8 million and 11.3 million and we consider that the car park sector is a property asset class worthy of close attention. According to the British Parking Association, the c.2,250 public parking facilities operated by local authorities throughout the country generate an estimated turnover of £1.5 billion.

Rapleys are experts within the car park sector and bring specialist knowledge to each opportunity. We have successfully completed a full range of instructions from rent reviews to acquisitions, compulsory purchase and investment brokerage for a large range of clients, a selection of which are shown below.

To read the full newsletter please click here.

 

Rapleys is delighted to announce the appointment of Jeremy Day as Partner.

Jeremy takes up a lead role in the Corporate & Investor Management business. He will advise and support represented clients and develop the corporate service lines offered by the practice on a nationwide basis.  He brings a new dimension to the team and will help drive forward Rapleys’ strategy to cement their position as one of the UK’s leading independent property and planning consultants.

Jeremy moved from JLL to Capita in 2014 and has now started his new role at Rapleys.

Jeremy, a well known figure in the field of corporate occupiers, was previously a partner at King Sturge where he led their corporate real estate team through its merger with JLL in 2011 and then focused on JLL’s UK corporate occupier clients. At Capita, he drove developments, particularly in the field of utility companies and large land-owning corporates. Jeremy is an active member of the RICS Corporate Occupier Group, past Chair of the Federation of Corporate Real Estate, and an associate lecturer at Oxford Brookes University. He has regularly lobbied on matters affecting occupiers, including lease accounting, service charges and energy/environmental regulations.

Jeremy commented: “I am excited to be joining Rapleys who are a leading UK private practice with an excellent reputation and numerous long-standing client relationships. This feels very much like coming full circle after 5 years in larger organisations and I am confident there is great demand for astute real estate advice delivered by experienced professionals within a partnership culture. I see clients benefiting enormously from our joined-up support in an ever-changing real estate world.”

Rapleys Senior Partner Robert Clarke confirmed: “We are delighted Jeremy is joining Rapleys. He brings a wealth of knowledge, contacts and experience in occupier and management services and will play a pivotal role in the expansion of our business. Jeremy joins at a time when Rapleys are actively developing our service offering and follows other recent high profile appointments. We continue to search out good people in pursuit of delivering excellent service to our clients”.

Property Week: 2/12/2016

The overwhelming consensus on chancellor Philip Hammond’s first – and apparently last – Autumn Statement was one of frustration.

While some individual measures, including additional infrastructure spending aimed at unlocking housebuilding, were welcomed, most commentators felt that the chancellor failed to go far enough to meet businesses’ concerns.

Alan Watson, Rapleys Head of Rating, provides his comments within the article stating that despite the chancellor’s promise that his first and last Autumn Statement would be pro-business and pro-growth, once again businesses have been short-changed over rates.

Read the full Property Week article here.

 

Rapleys will now offer Neighbourly Matters services after the appointment of leading specialist, Dan Tapscott. Dan, who joins as a partner, will establish and lead the national service offering from his base in Bristol and is looking to quickly establish a team across the UK.

The new department will help drive forward Rapleys’ long-term strategy to cement its position as one of the UK’s leading independent property and planning firms. 

Focusing on rights to light, party walls, daylight & sunlight amenity and access arrangements, Dan will support developers in maximising the development potential on their sites from inception to completion. He will also be representing neighbours to construction projects to protect and preserve their assets.

The team has already begun to be built with Jo Colebrook joining as a graduate surveyor in January.

Dan states “I am genuinely excited to be joining Rapleys. They are focused and ambitious and their multi-disciplinary services compliment my skillset in the field of Neighbourly Matters perfectly.

Having gained experience on notable schemes over the past 10 years in the South West, I am looking forward to replicating this throughout the Rapleys office network and establishing our team as the go to provider of Neighbourly Matters consultancy services UK wide.”

Robert Clarke, senior partner at Rapleys, commented:

“I am looking forward to working alongside Dan. He has an excellent reputation in the market. His appointment demonstrates our ability to attract specialist, and quality, professionals to the partnership. He will lead our new service line in neighbourly matters. His skill set will complement our existing Building Consultancy and Town Planning teams, to the benefit of our client base.”

Rapleys is pleased to announce our new service offering Neighbourly Matters after the appointment of leading specialist, Dan Tapscott.

Dan will lead a newly established national team focusing on all Neighbourly Matters issues including rights to light, party walls, daylight & sunlight amenity and access arrangements. Dan will support developers in maximising the development potential on their sites from inception to completion. He will also be representing neighbours to construction projects to protect and preserve their assets.

Increased development activity which can be seen in all regions and cities means that Neighbourly Matters issues are becoming more prevalent, both for those planning and developing their property portfolios and for those on the other side of the fence. Seeking the advice of a Neighbourly Matters expert early on can help to reduce the delays, costs and disputes further down the line.

Currently based in the Bristol office, Dan is looking to expand his team quickly to ensure full coverage across the UK. The team is already growing, with Jo Colebrook joining the Bristol Building Consultancy team in January.

With Dan’s appointment, Rapleys can now offer the full scope of Building Consultancy services to clients.

Dan states “I am genuinely excited to be joining Rapleys. Their multi-disciplinary services compliment my skillset in the field of Neighbourly Matters perfectly.

Having gained experience on notable schemes over the past 10 years in the South West, I am looking forward to replicating this throughout the Rapleys office network and establishing our team as the go to provider of Neighbourly Matters consultancy services UK wide.”

For more information on any Neighbourly Matters services or for advice in this area, please contact Dan Tapscott.

 

The new Mayor of London has issued his draft ‘Homes for Londoners: Affordable Housing & Viability SPG 2016’ for public consultation. It is the first formal guidance document issued by the new Mayor since his election earlier this year, and represents the first steps towards a new London Plan (which he hopes to have adopted by 2019).

It does not go as far as his manifesto pledges for all new schemes to provide 50% affordable housing, although this figure is retained as a city-wide target. Beyond this, the details of the SPG do not come as a surprise and follow on from the aspirations of the London Borough Development Viability Protocol published earlier this year.

The SPG focuses on affordable housing and viability and includes four distinct parts: background and approach; the threshold approach to viability appraisals; detailed guidance on viability assessments; and a specific approach to Build to Rent schemes. Whilst it is currently just in draft and, even if it is adopted, it cannot introduce new policy, it nevertheless provides relatively detailed guidance for Local Authorities in decision making.
Given that more than half of London boroughs are Labour controlled, one can expect many of them to start referring to it in pre- and post-application discussions in short order. Further, for schemes that are referable to the Mayor, it provides a clear indication of the Greater London Authority’s attitude to any affordable housing offer.

The overarching ambition is to boost the overall supply of new homes by making the planning system clearer, quicker and more consistent, and speed up the process for schemes that deliver higher levels of affordable housing. It outlines a carrot and stick approach in that it will aim to reward those developers who deliver 35% affordable housing or more but makes the viability process and subsequent review mechanisms more onerous for those schemes that propose less than 35%.

The Mayor’s view is that the national Vacant Building Credit (VBC) policy should not apply within London – not surprising, under the circumstances, but it will be interesting to see how this pans out given the Government’s ongoing commitment to VBC.

There is a clear drive for all Financial Viability Assessments (FVA) to be made available to the public. Applicants will have the opportunity to argue that limited elements should be kept undisclosed, but the clear onus is on the applicant to make this case.

The Mayor’s preference for using “Existing Use Value Plus” as the comparable Benchmark Land Value when assessing the viability of a proposed scheme is explicit in the SPG. The premium above Existing Use Value will be considered on a site-by-site basis.

The SPG provides specific guidance on Build to Rent developments, recognising that they differ to the traditional Build for Sale model. There is guidance on the requirements for covenant and clawback arrangements if units are sold out of the Build to Rent sector. It also sets out an alternative pathway which applicants can choose to follow that promotes London Living Rents (or similar discounted Market Rent).

Comments on the draft SPG need to be with the Mayor by 28 February. If you would like to discuss the impact of the draft SPG on your proposals, or would like our help in getting your views across in representations, please contact Nick Fell, Partner and Head of Affordable Housing & Viability, nick.fell@rapleys.com or Jason Lowes, Partner in the Planning Team, jason.lowes@rapleys.com.

The Chancellor presented the Autumn Statement on  Wednesday 23 November with some announcements impacting the property and development markets. Rapleys wraps up the key points below.

Planning
Despite including housing in one of the four key areas to be targeted by the £23bn of spending generated from the NPIF to 2021/22, the Statement failed to deliver a silver bullet for housing delivery. We will await the much anticipated Housing White Paper to deliver the detail.

The focus on investment in traditional and technological infrastructure is, however, welcomed. It is often these areas which act as ‘pinch points’ in themselves for both economic and residential development capacity. The commitment of £2.3bn investment in infrastructure to unlock potential for 100,00 new homes in areas of high demand, can only be welcomed as a fiscal aid to support viability. However, it’s questionable whether the proposed £23,000 per plot is an efficient approach.

Similarly, the support to increase affordable housing delivery is much needed but there was an absence of detail in how this will represent an effective approach in light of the 1m home target over the parliament, which is well short of its objective.

Of potential significance is the commitment to relax restrictions on government grants to allow providers to deliver a wider range of housing, which could translate into a stimulus in starter home delivery and Private Rented Sector accommodation.

However, it is the commitment to the balance of budget and investment, with focus on new infrastructure delivery to provide an environment to support economic and residential growth which will be the headline of the statement for the development industry, alongside the requirement for Local Councils to make tough decisions on the location of development.
Ben Read | 07747 757639

 

Housing
The Chancellor’s announcements in relation to the housing market appear to be shifting away from the previous Chancellor’s almost entire focus on home ownership, to a more balanced housing market. The RICS have reacted positively to the announcements on increased investment for affordable housing, particularly for affordable rent.

Alongside the £2.3bn to be spent on infrastructure, the government also committed to an additional £1.4bn to be spent on affordable housing, which is in addition to the £4.7bn that was previously announced. The money will help fund an additional 40,000affordable homes. The Government has also lifted the restrictions limiting the funding to homeownership products. This is a clear indication of a shift back towards a more balanced housing market to take into account the decline in home ownership and increasing importance of good quality rental stock.
Nick Fell | 07964 558697

 

Business Rates
For business rates, there were limited announcements from the Chancellor. The most revealing announcement was confirmation that rates bills will go up by a maximum of 43% year on year in 2017/18, and a further 32% the year after for those RVs over £100,000. These were pitched as a saving from 45% and 50% respectively, but these were figures out to consultation only and still represent increases more than 20 times the current rate of inflation—once again leaving businesses short changed.

He confirmed a previously announced scheme offering rate relief to the hard pressed Oil and Gas exploration sector, and a doubling of Rural Rate Relief to 100% from 50%. The announcement that new fibre optic broadband infrastructure will benefit from 100% relief for 5 years will benefit BT Openreach significantly, but very few others.
Alan Watson | 07917 352428

 

Business Space
The continued focus of the Autumn Statement on the development of housing indicates that the trend of existing office and industrial floorspace and land supply being lost to residential use is set to continue. The consequence will be growth in office and industrial land prices and a strong growth in rents.
Colin Steele | 07860 749034

 

Scotland
The key impact to the Scottish market will come via the City Deal funding announcement which will bring economic growth and development to infrastructure and strategic projects. A City Deal agreement for Edinburgh is confirmed, proposals from Perth and Dundee are being considered and talks will begin shortly on Stirling.

The Chancellor stating that every city in Scotland will be on course for a City Deal gives local areas greater powers and freedoms to help support economic growth, create jobs or invest in local projects.
Neil Gray | 07467 955228

 

Property Management
The Chancellor stated that insurance premium tax (standard rate) will increase from 10% to 12% which will see this type of tax doubling within 2 years. This will lead to additional expenditure on buildings insurance and we expect those with large property portfolios to be significantly hit.

The announced increase in the national living wage to £7.50 from April 2017 will also cause an impact to property management costs as it is highly likely that we will see contractors (receptionist, security, landscaping providers etc) passing this cost onto their customers meaning landlords and tenants should prepare themselves for increased service charge budgets and expenditure.

However, the Carbon Price Support will be capped to 2020 which should reduce the increase seen on energy bills for end consumers, helping reduce the expenditure seen on utilities.
Mark Coles | 07785 522956

Please contact a member of the team if you would like more information on the Autumn Statement and the impact it may have on your property or portfolio.

Brexit: an event that, at the time, felt a little as if the world was about to end. We are nearly 5 months on from 25 June 2016 and whilst turmoil in foreign exchange continues with the pound predicted by some to reach parity with the Euro over the next few months, the FTSE has reached a record high.

However, so far there appears to have been little effect in the automotive sector with both corporate and property deals continuing with some high profile (and costly) examples including:

  • Kia opening Europe’s largest dealership in Brentford
  • Dick Lovett opening a 25 car Aston Martin showroom in Bristol
  • Peter Vardy opening a new Jaguar Land Rover dealership in Aberdeen
  • Arnold Clark opening the UK’s largest Hyundai dealership in Glasgow

Of course these deals will have been planned and financed well in advance of the Brexit date but during the preceding period of uncertainty, the strength of the UK economy appears to have vindicated those approving these high profile deals. Indeed further significant developments are continuing to be announced post-Brexit including:

  • JCT obtaining planning consent for a new Mercedes-Benz dealership in Harrogate
  • Swansway announcing plans for a new Jaguar dealership in Crewe
  • Arnold Clark planning a new Motorstore in Nottingham
  • Inchcape announcing plans for a new Audi dealership in Bolton

Furthermore, since our last automotive update, the sector has seen the largest corporate acquisition for 10 years with Marshall Motor Holdings acquiring Ridgeway for £106.9m to become the 7th largest group in the UK; an acquisition where Rapleys was appointed to advise on the property elements of the acquisition.  There have also been a number of others, both pre and post Brexit, including:

  • Lookers acquire Drayton Group for £55.4m (July)
  • Lookers acquire Knights Group for £27.2m (August)
  • Jardine Motors acquire Colliers Motor Group (June)
  • Vertu acquires Gordon Lamb for £18.7m (June)

It remains to be seen what impact Brexit will have as Article 50 has yet to be exercised and, given recent court rulings, there is uncertainty as to whether the Government can make this decision without the support of Parliament. Many groups are yet to report their half year results although market sentiment has, so far, generally been positive. It seems as if most in the sector remain confident about the state of the UK economy and that confidence has translated into investment in the sector at a time when the temptation might have been to “sit tight”. It is, however, widely anticipated that Article 50 will be exercised in the first half of 2017 and, if this is the case, we will be in for another round of uncertainty next year.

 

 

Rapleys has arrived in Birmingham! In May, Rapleys opened its  sixth office, moving into Birmingham for the first time following the acquisition of Bartlett Property. Led by Alfred Bartlett, the team is growing and will become a significant player in the West Midlands property market over the coming years, offering the full range of Rapleys’ services.

It is a home coming as well as being business as usual for Alfred Bartlett. He first joined Rapleys 25 years ago and left to work in Birmingham. Now back together, Rapleys’ Birmingham office under the leadership of Bartlett, continues to advise on retail and leisure developments across the region. Bartlett’s team in Birmingham has been strengthened with the recent addition of Matt Greenaway as Senior Associate from Bilfinger GVA and Charlie Steele, Surveyor from Steeles Estate Agents.

Matt and Charlie, along with Alfred, will focus on sourcing and bringing both city centre and out of town retail, supermarket, restaurant and mixed use schemes forward and have hit the ground running with some notable instructions including:

  • Advising on two mixed retail student accommodation developments in Edgbaston
  • A retail development for Co-op, close to the city centre
  • A new mixed use development with Marks & Spencer and further retail in Moseley
  • Redevelopment and letting of an existing retail park in Brierley Hill

The team is actively on the lookout for development opportunities for occupiers and developer clients and is also instructed on a number of retail, leisure and development site disposals.

Rapleys is looking to expand its Birmingham office to provide a full service offering including planning, building surveying and project management, office and industrial agency, investment consultancy and rating.

For the time being the Rapleys team is focused on establishing the office as a hub of excellence for Birmingham’s flourishing city centre developments, to provide both developers and occupiers with expert advice to take advantage of the opportunities available during this renaissance that Birmingham is currently experiencing.

Please contact Alfred Bartlett alfred.bartlett@rapleys.com or Matt Greenaway matt.greenaway@rapleys.com for further information or details on how we may assist you with any retail, leisure or roadside opportunities.

 

 

 

The food store sector continues to be a difficult and highly competitive industry with fierce competition for the best locations and diminishing or no interest for lesser sites that previously would have been considered.

From the period April 2016 to October 2016, according to Kantar, the division of the spoils has swung significantly to the discounters Lidl and Aldi, from the big four, and continues to do so. We must now consider that there is the big six.

Market Share

According the Kantar World Panel for the six months ending the 9 October 2016, market share has adjusted to:

Tesco28.0%Down 0.2%
Sainsbury’s16.5%Down  0.5%
Asda16.0%Down 0.4%
Morrisons10.6%Down 0.2%
Co-op6.2%Up 0.3%
Aldi6.0%Up 0.2%
Waitrose5.2%Up 0.2%
Lidl4.4%Up 0.2%

 

Supermarkets

For large format food stores, priority has been to consolidate and reorganise existing estates and trading operations. Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and WM Morrison have all been looking to offload areas of surplus car parking, for example. Land bank sales, contraction of larger stores, straightforward disposals, or in the case of Sainsbury’s, the cessation of Netto, are being prioritised rather than taking on new trading space.

Discounters have not only contributed to this situation but have also benefited as a result,

being able to acquire the offloaded space or sites that have been made available.

Conversely, the premium brand large format operators have been active, although not immune to the price war and discounters.

Rapleys have recently advised Booker Retail on the disposal of two of its trading stores to Waitrose for its 7,000 sq.ft sales area ‘convenience’ format store. In addition, they have been committing to a pipeline of larger stores currently under construction. Recently however, it has been announced that 6/7 of these larger store commitments have either been shelved or withdrawn.

M&S has acquired a number of sites for future development in a variety of locations and developments for their Simply Food format and continue to expand their representation in PFS sites.

Convenience

Convenience store activity has also suffered, principally due to competitive pricing and tightening margins. The result has been the loss of My Local (following on from M Local) and Budgens being acquired by a wholesaler (Booker) to become its high end brand fascia.

Rapleys advised My Local Convenience Group, owned by Greybull Capital, in the sale of more than 40 stores prior to the retailer going into administration. Sizeable packages of stores were sold to Southern Co-Operative, The Co-Operative Group, Midco, Central England Co-Operative and AF Blakemore (Spar).

The Co-Operative Group also acquired 14 trading company owned Budgens stores following Bookers takeover of Musgrave Retail Partners.

Nevertheless, the convenience store market remains active albeit selective. All operators are having to reassess sites on almost a monthly basis due to the high level of competition and pressure on margins.

Similarly to the supermarkets, the convenience operators are refining optimum store size based on range, location and format. We have recently seen the Co-Operative Group not only disposing of their larger stores to Hilco and other traders, but also disposing of all their smaller sites (approximately 220) to McColl’s. The current policy being to operate from an estate of stores of approximately 4,500 sq ft GIA.

Acquisition policy appears to be heavily weighted towards the acquisition of existing trading stores as these not only offer an immediate contribution to EBITDA but also enables the store to ‘mature’ sooner.

‘Virgin’ sites are now heavily scrutinised due to higher thresholds needing to be reached—the result of tighter margins. Accordingly, currently Tesco and Sainsbury’s have almost no requirements at all.

Rapleys Comment:

It’s not all gloom though, there are signs of recovery at both Morrisons and Tesco’s larger formats, the discounters remain highly acquisitive and M&S is making positive approaches on a number of new developments. In the convenience sector, The Co-op, Blakemore, McColl’s and other independents remain particularly expansive. There are rumours that Tesco Express and Sainsbury’s Local are now looking to re-enter the market.

Despite Ocado having been in the online and home delivery market for some time and the announcement that Amazon is to join in, the jury is still out as to whether this sector will deliver!

If you have any questions about the above, please contact Richard Curry richard.curry@rapleys.com.

 

 

 

 

Central government recently published the Neighbourhood Planning Bill (The Bill) and a public consultation document entitled “Improving the use of planning conditions.”

A principal aim of the government is to speed up housing delivery. The imposition of a large number of pre-commencement conditions on planning permissions serves to slow delivery following the grant of permission. It is their view that the regime is “overly restrictive and unnecessary”.

An extensive list of pre-commencement conditions not only runs the risk of delay and additional costs to developers, but also creates resourcing issues for the Local Planning Authority (LPA) who are tasked with reviewing the information submitted to discharge the condition.

The latest proposal follows on from the deemed discharge of planning conditions which came into effect on 15 April 2015. This sought to address unnecessary delays in approving condition details and the new proposal goes a step further in avoiding their imposition in the first instance.

The government proposal

The government proposes to prohibit the use of pre-commencement conditions unless the applicant has agreed to them in writing beforehand. The aim is to ensure that pre-commencement conditions are only used when necessary, so that development can commence without delay, while retaining the ability of the LPA to impose conditions that are required to achieve sustainable development. This will provide the applicant with an earlier opportunity to challenge any pre-commencement conditions that may be unnecessary, such as conditions that could be discharged at a later stage of development.

The approach will not apply to outline permissions.

The Bill also gives the Secretary of State the power to prescribe the circumstances in which certain conditions may, or may not, be imposed.

The principal difference between this and the tests set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is that developers will have the opportunity to confront any pre-commencement conditions they feel are unjustified at an early stage.

Applicant/LPA agreement

Whilst in most cases, it is likely that the applicant and LPA will reach an agreement on what pre-commencement conditions should be imposed, if the applicant does not agree to a certain pre-commencement condition, the LPA would have the option to alter the condition in question, allow the developer to comply with the condition after the development is underway or remove the condition altogether. However, the LPA will still have the right to refuse the application if it considers a pre-commencement condition is necessary to make the development acceptable, as it does currently.

If this is the case, the developer would have the option to appeal the condition and the LPA would be expected to justify the condition and why it is needed at pre-commencement stage.

Agreement of conditions

Before giving their written agreement to conditions, developers should ask themselves a number of questions:

  • Is there scope for negotiation of the conditions?
  • Does the LPA want an appeal?
  • Will the conditions cause concern to funders or other third parties?
  • Is there an opportunity to amend the conditions at a later date by submitting a non-material or minor material amendment application?

Consultation

The Consultation seeks comments on the proposed process to prohibit pre-commencement conditions from being imposed where the LPA does not have the written agreement of the applicant. The paper also seeks views on whether it would be necessary to make provision for a default period, after which an applicant’s written agreement would be deemed to have been given, if no response has been received. This would allow the LPA to proceed to impose the pre-commencement condition if no response has been received from the applicant within a given period.

The Secretary of State will have the power to prohibit certain conditions in defined circumstances. The Bill provides that the Secretary of State may only make such regulations if he is satisfied that the conditions are necessary, relevant, sufficiently precise and reasonable, that is to say that the conditions satisfy the existing policy requirements on planning conditions.

Although the proposals are to be cautiously welcomed, there is some reservation about whether the examples given in the paper are being enforced by LPA’s, and therefore that new regulations would make any real difference in the challenge to boost housing delivery.

Whilst it is an admirable attempt by the government to speed up the planning process there is some uncertainty as to how effective these changes will be. When put into practice, previous attempts to speed up the planning process have shown that despite the best intentions, the process is not usually sped up in any significant way and delays are still apparent. There is also some caution that more complex planning applications may be refused where they should otherwise be granted, or negotiations over the imposition of conditions and details to satisfy the LPA are simply shifted to before determination.

Consultation ends at 12pm on Wednesday 2 November and it will be interesting to see the response.

If you have any questions about the above, wish to submit representations or would like to discuss any other planning matter, please contact a member of our nationwide team.

 

McDonald’s and Metro Bank are not obvious competitors, yet when it comes to securing sites for new drive-thru outlets the two may soon be going head to head.

Drive-thrus have traditionally been the preserve of fast-food chains whose customers appreciate their speed and convenience, but in recent years there has been a notable increase in new drive-thru concepts outside the food and beverage (F&B) sector.

Metro Bank opened its first drive-thru in Slough in 2013 allowing customers to drive up to the bank and carry out transactions without leaving their vehicles.

The pilot proved so successful that last October, the company opened its second drive-thru in a retail park in Southall, west London, which like its Slough branch is located close to a busy main road.

Metro Bank says it is actively on the lookout for more suitable drive-thru sites. But is Metro Bank the exception that proves the rule that drive-thrus are best left to the fast-food giants?

Intuitively, a drive-thru retail bank where customers can make physical transactions goes against the direction of travel in banking, which is towards online and mobile.

However, Calum Ewing, Metro Bank head of property, says the format has proved a hit with its customers.

“Our drive-thrus are popular with a wide range of people, from parents with a car full of children to disabled customers and those who want to shelter from the bad weather,” he says.

“Customers are able to use the drive-thru to carry out full cashier services from the comfort of their cars, including paying in cash and cheques, as well as withdrawing funds from their account.”

An old idea
Drive-thru banking is not a new concept in the UK. Barclays opened the UK’s first drive-thru bank in Hatton Cross in 1998, although it closed within six months. HSBC, meanwhile, has previously announced plans to trial drive-thrus although as yet no sites have come to fruition.

Retail banks are not alone among non-food businesses in experimenting with drive-thru formats. Indeed, the concept is even gaining traction in the property world.

Earlier this year, an estate agency in Cornwall – MPH Legal & Estate Agents – opened on the site of a former petrol station, allowing people to drive up, take a property brochure and go. From dry cleaners to off-licences, other operators have also taken the opportunity to open drive-thrus, with varying degrees of success.

Where they have failed, non-traditional drive-thru occupiers have tended to fall down on at least one of the three main criteria for a successful drive-thru format: convenience, practicality and standardisation of service.
Rapleys associate Mark Frostick believes drive-thru dry cleaners provide a case in point. “I don’t think drive-thru dry cleaners ever really worked,” he says. “If you’ve got a big suit and you’ve got to hand it out of the car window and someone else has got to get it through the window it’s a bit of a faff. It’s just as easy to park up and go into the store.”

Where the fast-food chains have thrived is in offering an easy, efficient service that can be replicated at every drive-thru outlet. “You’ve got to know what you’re getting before you turn up, so if you turn up to a McDonald’s, whether it’s in Aberdeen or Penzance, and you order a Big Mac, you’ll get exactly the same product,” says Frostick.

Another barrier facing new entrants to the drive-thru market is the lack of availability of suitable sites. “There is a general lack of opportunity because a lot of the right locations have been densely developed,” says David Chittenden, head of automotive and roadside at Colliers.

Metro Bank’s two drive-thrus are attached to a full-service bank, so the company is on the lookout for sites that are able to facilitate both formats.

“As with all our sites, we look for areas with high footfall – or traffic in the case of our drive-thrus – retail parks being a good example,” says Ewing. “Most importantly, we always ensure that our stores are prominent and highly visible to our customers.”

Competition for sites
The issue Metro Bank is likely to face as it tries to expand is that this list of requirements could just as easily apply to any of the fast-food giants, the majority of which are also planning to grow their drive-thru portfolios. “KFC, McDonald’s and Burger King are desperately looking for these sites and are out there with lists as long as your arms,” notes Frostick.

High demand for suitable locations means such sites come at a premium. “People are paying good money for strong transient sites with good passing trade and accessibility,” says Frostick. “If you’re a Metro Bank potentially competing for that site you’ve got to ask yourself: how much money do we make out of that lane and do we need to be there?”

The cost of securing new sites may also prove a barrier for new entrants looking to pilot drive-thru concepts, given that the return on the initial investment cannot be guaranteed.

“You have to pay a lot of money for these sites and so you have to think about your exit strategy,” says Chittenden. “If you’re creating something that isn’t fit for purpose in five or 10 years’ time, then what’s the point?”

If the reality is that non-food drive-thru concepts are likely to remain niche, it could be that the greatest threat to the future hegemony of the big three drive-thru operators – McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King – will come from fellow food sector players.

Taco Bell opened its first UK drive-thru in Cleethorpes earlier this summer, while Krispy Kreme is known to be on the lookout for more sites after opening a Hotlight format store including a drive-thru in Hampton, Peterborough, in July.
hen there are coffee chains Costa and Starbucks, which are aggressively expanding into the automotive sector. Starbucks is targeting 200 drive-thru sites by the end of 2016, while Costa told Property Week in January that a trebling of its drive-thru network to more than 100 sites was a realistic medium-term aim.

“The coffee boys have come in and done exactly what they’ve done to the high street,” says Frostick. “They are competing with McDonald’s and KFC for sites.”

Chittenden says that for brands looking to grow their network of drive-thrus, there are still good sites out there, but the majority are in secondary rather than prime locations, meaning operators have to be a little more flexible in their requirements.
Frostick echoes the point and adds that drive-thru formats are still popular with developers of new roadside service areas or retail parks so long as they can secure the right operator.

“If you can put a KFC or a McDonald’s on the front of your car park and only lose half an acre in car parking spaces, it’s a much better return than having those extra car parking spaces,” he says.

However, the risk of putting an unproven concept into a new development is one many developers are not willing to take. This, coupled with the numerous barriers to entry, means agents like Frostick are “not getting flyers through from hundreds of people saying I want a drive-thru site”.

So banks, estate agents and other non-traditional drive-thru occupiers are unlikely to become a firm fixture on Britain’s road network. Fast-food chains are another matter, though. They could well face increased competition for sites as consumers drive demand for the next generation of drive-thrus.

Few property investment sectors have motored along at as rapid a rate of knots as automotive over the past few years.

Investor appetite for car dealership lots is booming, with the sector offering the enticing combination of long leases, strong covenants, inflation-linked rents and regular tenant investment to ensure buildings match the aspirations of the car manufacturing giants.

The average lot size has also increased significantly in recent years, according to new research from Knight Frank. Its Automotive Capital Markets 2016-17 report shows that whereas a decade ago the typical investment lot size was approximately £2m to £5m, today the £7m to £10m bracket is well populated and assets and portfolios in excess of £10m are becoming increasingly commonplace.

Rise in registrations
These larger assets are expected to become more common in the future as car brands demand larger facilities off the back of four years of rising new-car registrations.

But has the market still got plenty of fuel left in the tank or are there threats on the horizon that will slam the brakes on automotive investments?

Since the millennium, there has been significant consolidation in the car dealership sector and the trend continued in the last year, with more than £500m of corporate acquisition activity registered making it one of the busiest 12 months for a decade, says Adam Chapman, partner and national head of automotive at Knight Frank.

“Merger and acquisition [M&A] activity has been prolific, which is a huge sign of the health of the sector not purely from the investor perspective but also from the occupational perspective,” he says. “We’ve seen more companies doing business-to-business transactions in the past 10 years and we’ve seen huge amounts of consolidation, with the bigger groups getting bigger and buying in brands. That’s resulting in a significant windfall for a lot of investors.”
n addition to car dealership businesses snapping up rival operators, the market has been buoyed by the arrival of more UK funds – propcos set up to specifically target automotive investment stock and foreign investors drawn by the cheap pound.

Their arrival has coincided with the perception of automotive as an investment class shifting from something considered alternative to something seen as more mainstream, and this reappraisal hasn’t been adversely affected by the outcome of the EU referendum, according to Chapman, who says deals have still gone through post vote.
“We’ve seen other sectors where prices have been reduced or purchasers have tried to take advantage [of the vote], but in our sector values have held up extremely well and I can’t think of too many examples where prices have been chipped,” he says.

It comes back to the scarcity of stock and strong fundamentals, he adds. “We’re selling a portfolio at the moment and a party tried to come and make an adjustment to the price to reflect the uncertainty and we said that nothing has changed – the product is solid and it’s a great sector. Ultimately they agreed.”

Investment opportunities
The scarcity of stock remains a major challenge, but Chapman believes there is an opportunity for occupiers to take advantage of the pent-up investor demand for automotive property.

Data – leasehold vs freehold ownership
“The fact that nearly 80% of the automotive market is freehold sounds like an enormous amount to me and that clearly provides a finite amount of leasehold and therefore investment opportunities,” he explains. “As investment appetite continues to gather pace, I think the dealer groups will start to question whether it is financially sensible to hold those very impressive, bespoke, retail-led dealerships or whether their business is about selling cars. If it is then sale and leaseback in some form could release a huge amount of money for them to invest in other [dealership] groups.”

While the opportunity to do sale-and-leaseback deals might appeal to some occupiers, others may be put off by past experience of the funding mechanism, believes David Chittenden, head of automotive and roadside at Colliers International.

“The dealership groups can do these types of deal at the moment, but the problem is that when they do the deal with the original landlord it’s happy days, but when the existing landlord sells on to a third party the relationship can break down, so a lot are saying they don’t want to do sale and leaseback anymore,” he says.

A handful of new dealership developments are taking place at the moment, which would help to bring much-needed new stock to the market, Alisdair James, partner in the automotive and roadside team at Rapleys. However, finding appropriate sites can be difficult because dealers are looking for spaces that bear the same characteristics that appeal to the likes of care home operators and residential developers.

“Jaguar Land Rover wants the same dealer partner to represent both brands in the same territory and that’s created a bit of musical chairs,” says James. “But in some towns it’s increasingly difficult to find a four-acre site that can satisfy both brands in one location, so it becomes quite a challenge.”

Other prestige car manufacturers are also putting pressure on their dealers to ensure their premises are kept up to scratch. If they aren’t, the manufacturer may choose to relocate to another location. But many dealership groups, especially the smaller ones, can’t afford the high cost associated with building bespoke dealership property, notes Chittenden.

A model for the big boys
“I do a lot of work with the retailers and it’s tough out there,” he says. “We’re seeing a lot of smaller groups exiting who can’t afford to survive because it’s become a model for the big boys. It’s a good time for them to sell because money is cheap and the investment market is still strong for this product.”

The big question is how much longer the appetite for investment opportunities will continue. Over the next few years the automotive sector could experience a seismic shift. We are already seeing showrooms get bigger because the model ranges of manufacturers are rapidly expanding and at the same time, many experts expect that in the future there will be fewer dealerships around. That is partly due to the further consolidation and M&A activity expected among the larger dealer groups, but it is also down to the growing importance of the internet and the next generation of car purchasers.

Chittenden thinks that for millennials and the generations that come after that car ownership will become less important as the sharing economy and short-term
car hire businesses such as Zipcar gain a greater foothold.

High-footfall locations
The industry is responding to the changing demands of modern consumers head-on by establishing a greater presence in high-footfall locations such as shopping centres.

“These sites have become more prevalent over the last few years and I can see more and more manufacturers opening sites in shopping centres,” says Chittenden.

However, these locations aren’t without their problems, as Rapleys’ James points out. “If you want to offer test-drives it’s a lot harder to do from shopping centre sites,” he explain
So investors need to be aware of the changing dynamics in the automotive sector to ensure the investments they buy today are future-proofed for the duration of the lease.

That said, while the automotive sector faces a number of challenges, with new-car sales showing little sign of slowing, Chapman is bullish about the prospects of this burgeoning asset class.

“Pricing is robust, certainly for the absolute prime assets, and we’re seeing a real surge in investor demand, with this flight to quality that you see in uncertain times,” he explains. “The prime automotive dealerships, which are typically 20-year plus terms to solid covenants with fixed RPI-linked rents, are about as attractive an investment product as it gets.”

In short, there is little sign that the brakes will be applied on investment in the automotive sector any time soon.

From previous newsletters you will be aware that the new Rateable Values are to be made available to the public at 8 am tomorrow morning, Friday 30th September.

However, until the Government announces the rate in the pound and details of the Transitional arrangements, which will phase in the increases or decreases in liability, rating agents will not be able to give clients accurate details of their rate liability.

This morning we were notified of a consultation on Transition which will last from 28th September to 26th October and means that the Actual Transitional Regulations will not be in place until November at the earliest and there is even a mention in the document that the Regulations have to be in force by the 1st January preceding the Revaluation, so it could be that late.

For your information we have included the link to the consultation document because there are some interesting statistics on the Valuation Office’s view on what is going to happen to the level of assessments in various parts of the country but also there is a major change proposed with regard to the Transition for properties with assessments above £100,000 RV.

Click here to view the consultation document.

A very interesting statistic is that the column that says “not in Transition” states that nearly a million properties are not in Transition in the first year and, that figure will go up every year as properties fall out of the Transitional arrangements.

Two options for Transition are mentioned but the Government’s preference is Option 2 and this potentially means that “large” properties, mainly in London and the South East where rental values have increased significantly, could see results in

rate liabilities increasing by 45% between this year and the new Rating year 2017/18. The following year it could go up by another 50% and so on, as you can see from Option 2 Transitional arrangements in the consultation document.

Option 2 has a similar effect on “Downward Cap” for the new list large properties, as the “phased” reductions from the 2010 List were slightly higher than those mentioned for the new list.

The Transition figures for what the Government is calling small and medium properties are exactly the same as for the current Rating List which only had two bands rather than the three now being proposed for the new list.

The numbers affected may not be huge but there will be significant changes in rate liability for the 49,800 properties mentioned in the large downward cap group and the 8,800 mentioned in the large upward cap group.

Until the Transitional arrangements are settled it is unlikely the Government will be able to announce the actual rate in the pound for next year which means providing the clients with accurate rate liabilities for 2017/18 is going to be very difficult, if not impossible.

One final point in the consultation document is in Point 1 which states “the Government will reduce the tax rate – known as the multiplier – to offset the overall change in rateable value” and yet when you look at the statistics immediately below, the vast majority of rate liabilities are expected to reduce as a result of the Revaluation, except in London. So is the rate in the pound really going to be reduced, or will it increase?

For more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

With the first revaluation of business rates since 2010 due to take effect in April 2017, it is wise for all businesses that are liable for this tax to be prepared.

Rateable Values are assessed by the Inland Revenue Valuation Office, and for the forthcoming revaluation, this represents the annual rent that the premises would have been expected to achieve at 1st April 2015. It is anticipated that many businesses will see significant increases in their business rates payments.

The relevant date in respect of the current rating list is April 2008, which pre dates the credit crisis that affected the country. This is one reason why the Government decided to defer the usual revaluation (once every five years) for a further two years in the hope the rental market had recovered and there were no adverse effects on tax income from business rates.

We will shortly get access to the draft rating list, due to be released at the end of September, which will give rating advisers an opportunity to forecast changes to rate bills and to consider the benefits of following the appeals process.

With the likely business rate increases many businesses will no doubt want to challenge their liability but there are to be many changes to the appeals process which will involve an onerous check, challenge and appeal process. This replaces the straightforward approach currently in operation.

The changes are set to cause many difficulties for experienced rating advisers, let alone businesses that are not represented, as there are a number of proposed regulation changes still being discussed. One proposal is that even if you manage to jump the hurdles to have your appeal heard at a Valuation Tribunal, the onus will be on the ratepayer to prove that the assessment is outside the bounds of “reasonable professional judgement” which is not defined and could mean businesses are forced to pay far more than they should.

It is clear that the revaluation will not be universally popular, but the route to making a stand against the revised rate bill without professional guidance will be even less so.

Rapleys, a property and planning consultancy, has significant experience providing specialist business rates advice. For over 30 years Rapleys has successfully reduced clients’ operational costs and over the life of the 2010 rating list has saved over £60 million to date for clients including Thomas Cook, Marshall Motor Group, Spicerhaart, Tesco, Dreams, Majestic Wines & Topps Tiles.

We work across a range of sectors including automotive & roadside, charities/non profit, healthcare, industrial & distribution, office, residential, retail & leisure, and transport & infrastructure.

If you would like advice on your business rates and the implications of the revaluation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Rapleys rating team.

When it comes to neighbourhood stores, convenience is all very good, but blanket saturation can be downright detrimental.

Has the UK convenience store sector reached saturation point? That’s what a new report published by the Local Data Company (LDC) in June appeared to show. The report, which studied the growth of convenience stores over a five-year period, found that although the total number of stores in the UK had grown from 13,617 in 2010 to 16,426 at the end of 2015, a number of convenience store formats experienced a decline in operational stores. Additionally, 228 UK towns saw a net loss in convenience stores in 2015.

So has the UK convenience store market run out of gas? LDC data shows that of the 14 convenience store fascias studied for the report, five endured a fall in store numbers last year, namely Londis, Tesco Metro, Mace, Budgens and M Local (which was later rebranded My Local). Some of these falls were a result of rebrandings rather than store closures, although the demise earlier this year of the My Local format – formerly owned by Morrisons – underlines how challenging this sector is at the moment, according to Matthew Hopkinson, director at LDC.

“It is not an easy market to enter, as Morrisons discovered to its cost when it opened 140 stores, many in old Blockbuster shops, only to close them all less than two years later,” says Hopkinson.

Fierce competition

The sector is extremely competitive, Hopkinson adds, and is now facing new threats from e-tailing. “Competition is fierce, costs are high and increasingly there is talk of a resurgence in online groceries that might be accelerated by Amazon’s entry into the UK market,” he adds. “There is much jockeying for position and consumer spend among large-format supermarkets, convenience stores and the discounters. Further change and casualties can be expected when everyone has to operate a healthy margin to survive and innovate.”

It is a view shared by Louise Etherden, associate partner at location specialist CACI. “The ‘c-store’ market has definitely become a lot more competitive and the rate of growth has slowed down quite a bit,” she says. “Retailers are putting more thought into the locations they’re opening, and they are spending quite a lot of time making sure they’re getting the right store in the right location and getting the ranging right.”

They are also making sure that they pay the right price for locations, according to Richard Curry, a partner in Rapleys’ retail and leisure team. “A lot of the recent slowing up is because developers have been paying more and more for sites and the only way they can make this work is to keep bumping up the rent on c-stores,” he says. “So I think the c-store operators have decided enough is enough because there is only so much trade to be had out of an area,” he says.

Another reason behind the recent fall in c-store sites in some locations is natural portfolio churn, with retailers closing weaker-performing stores when better locations in the area become available. “It is a normal part of the property ownership cycle to churn your estate,” says Steve Rodell, managing director at Christie & Co, which acts for McColl’s.

“When McColl’s put 100 sites on the market last year, everyone was on the phone to us saying: ‘What’s wrong with McColl’s – is there a problem?’ But what you’ve seen happen in the past few months is McColl’s has just bought 300 really good-quality Co-op stores and is selling out 100 of its bottom-end confectionery, tobacco and news outlets and some other bits and pieces in between. The grocery retailers are always churning sites.”

In demand

A number of retailers, such as Sainsbury’s, Spar, Costcutter and the Co-op, are also currently in the market for more c-store opportunities. As a result, Richard Petyt, partner at Knight Frank and formerly of Asda, does not see demand waning any time soon.

“I think the convenience format with the bigger retailers is here to stay,” says Petyt. “They’ve been doing it for a number of years and they are very good at it.” However, he says it will be a challenge for these retailers to turn a profit due to the competition from discounters and the fact that their cost base is set to rise as the new minimum wage comes into force.

Petyt expects further c-store openings in locations such as London, where retailer demand is still strong, with fewer openings in weaker locations in regional towns where the demographics are not so promising.

Etherden concurs, adding that CACI’s research shows while London is well saturated with c-stores, because there is a lack of superstores and less competition from discounters more money goes through convenience. “Many of the northern cities such as Halifax, Liverpool, Warrington, Wigan and Huddersfield are relatively underserved for convenience, but there is a strong presence from the discounters,” she adds.

Don’t believe the hype?

Not everyone is convinced that the c-store sector will keep on growing. One naysayer is Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at research and data consultancy Kantar. “In terms of the general pattern of convenience, we think the whole story about convenience being a boom area has been massively overstated,” he says. “Where we have seen growth, we’ve seen a lot of it supported by store openings and those store openings for the big guys are to some degree cannibalistic.”

He also says the “media narrative” around consumers shopping little and often and abandoning the traditional big shop in favour of the local c-store doesn’t hold water. “Our numbers don’t support that,” says McKevitt. “What we’ve found is that people are moving their money out of the big stores, but they are moving their money online, or they’re doing smaller shops in the big stores and in the discounters, leaving the convenience sector as a little bit of a sideshow.”

At the moment, the numbers don’t provide any real clarity as to whether or not the UK c-store market has already reached saturation point, or if we are merely in the middle of a temporary slowdown. But the continued rise of the discounter groups and the lack of strong c-store sites at affordable rents suggest that the future rate of expansion will not be as fast as it has been in recent years.

The Revaluation comes into force on 1st April 2017 BUT the draft list figures are to be made available on 30th September by the Valuation Office Agency  – just three weeks away. However, until the government announces both the rate in the pound for 2017/2018 and the transitional arrangements, it will not be possible to calculate rate liability for the next rate year.

Any obvious discrepancies in the “new” rating assessment can be brought to the Valuation Office’s attention between the publication of the draft list and 31st March 2017.

The new assessments are based on the levels of rental value as at 1st April 2015, so any worries about property values as a result of the “Brexit” vote will be completely ignored.
A completely new system of examining the Valuation Office’s new figures is due to come into place which is as follows

1. Check – This requires factual survey information to be checked against the information used by the Valuation Office to produce the 2017 valuation. If no agreement can be reached the process moves to the next stage.
2. Challenge – This requires further supporting information and detailed evidence from the ratepayer along with a valuation based on the information provided. If this cannot be agreed the process moves to the formal appeal stage.
3. Appeal – This stage gives access to the Valuation Tribunal where for the first time, a fee will be payable to lodge the appeal.

How we can help
For existing and new rating clients, our services include the following:

  • We can identify all 2017 draft rating list rateable values
  • Provide budget forecasts for changing rates liability from 1st April 2017
  • Examine “new” assessments in order to notify the Valuation Office of any obvious errors
  • Provide factual and rental information in the correct format to avoid the possibility of misinterpretation and potential for increased liability
  • Undertake a portfolio review with appeal recommendations
  •  
    Why Rapleys
    Rapleys has provided specialist business rates advice for over 30 years and has successfully reduced clients’ operational costs over successive revaluations.

    Our clients benefit from  full UK coverage through our network of six offices including Scotland.

    We have a loyal client base which is testament to our friendly, practical and cost effective service, providing strategic advice to our clients.

    Our successes
    We are specialists in the business rates sector, saving our clients over £60m so far over the life of the 2010 rating list.

    The UK commercial property market has seen a significant drop in confidence and investor demand following the Brexit vote. That was the conclusion of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors commercial property market survey carried out after the Referendum on 23 June.

    It said both the investment and occupier sides of the market had been impacted and rent and capital value expectations were now in negative territory.

    That’s the UK picture. But what does Brexit mean for dealer property values? For the past few years the market has been buoyant, particularly for large, in-demand roadside sites.

    Alisdair James, a partner at Rapleys, believes it is too early to say how much dealership property will be hit.

    “The first indicator will be consumer confidence and the car sales figures over the next few months and particularly the September plate-change.

    “If the uncertainty caused by Brexit impacts on consumer confidence and car sales decline significantly then we can expect a knock-on effect in the property market and for site values. For the time being however it seems to be business as usual.

    “Where dealer groups remain under pressure from their manufacturer partners to upgrade or relocate their facilities they are continuing with their plans as before. A softening in the market could even present new opportunities for cash-rich dealer groups, particularly if competition for prime sites from alternate uses declines.

    “In the short term, we have not seen a drop-off in enquiry levels for dealership property, and Brexit’s shadow has not deterred a number of recent corporate transactions, which have completed since the referendum vote. Others completed pre-June 23, despite the uncertainty. We expect this activity to continue,” he said.

    Paul Taylor, a senior director with Bilfinger GVAs also believes it is too close to call on the Brexit impact.

    “Logic points towards there ultimately being an adverse knock-on effect arising as a consequence of the worsening economic conditions that are likely to prevail.

    “If customers are more reticent to commit to new car purchases and particularly if list prices were to rise due in part to the exchange rate deterioration, then one could anticipate a slowdown in the market.

    “In reality, this may have been anticipated in any event regardless of the outcome of the referendum given the last four years of sustained headline growth.”

    He also pointed out that it is difficult to get valuation data on much dealer property.

    “In reality, relatively little prime dealership property is traded on the open market. The bulk of manufacturer-compliant property is transferred as part of business transactions, and the associated valuations are rarely published or totally reliable,” he said.

    We also asked some of the experts what impact Brexit has or will have on institutional investors and dealership property?

    At the wider level UK property funds managing billions of property assets have marked down their value of the building they own by 5%. These were mostly carried out by funds that are open to retail investors who can demand their money back at short notice.

    Martin Carey, head of Investment at Rapleys said: “Brexit has undoubtedly caused something of a shockwave. The motor trade sector is unlikely to see the full extent of the referendum result for some while yet.

    “While the automotive manufacturing industry has been vocal in its concerns, the mood amongst dealership operators is slightly more nuanced and this is being reflected in an investment market which hasn’t lost its appetite.

    “For prime assets we anticipate that the market will remain stable and we are seeing a degree of confidence in the sector with dealership investment opportunities coming to market with little movement on asking terms and anticipated realisation figures.”

    Carey argued that funds were still in the market for dealership opportunities which have strong covenants with long term rental growth prospects.

    “Dealerships which have long-term, index linked income streams are still at the top of the shopping list with early indications that for the right asset, transactions are at pre-Brexit levels,” he said.

    “Dealership property is still seen as a relatively safe investment, with Brexit not yet, altering the market fundamentals for occupiers and consumers.

    “Dealership networks are continuing to expand fueling a steady stream of investment opportunities coming to market. While the Brexit tremors will continue to cause uncertainty, the automotive property market might just be better placed than most to weather the storm.”

    Taylor at Bilfinger GVA said it was early days. “Logically demand will be thinner, at least in the short term, as many of the recent buyers of prime real estate in the sector have been the retail funds.

    “In theory, with fewer buyers for prime stock, values could cool, although there is an argument that the very best investments will hold their value or even improve marginally given demand in the wider market is predominantly for long dated secure income,” he said.

    APC property market review

    In June Automotive Property Consultancy (APC) identified just over 1.5 million square feet of motor retail property which was available on the market. Over 70% of this was in the Midlands and the North with the West Midlands alone providing a quarter of the total. But demand for property is lagging behind.

    “Requirements, by comparison are well down on the levels seen over the past two years. Geographically, half the current requirements have been targeting Greater London or the South East, the area that only represents 12% of the vacancy,” said Bill Bexson, managing director of APC.

    “Typically, the requirements are for between one and four acres of land with between 10,000 and 20,000 square feet of premises. Physical presence on main roads remains the primary conduit to market,” he said.

    Bexson said there was demand for bigger and fewer outlets with extensive parking.

    “This has created a more clearly segmented market than before, exacerbated by continuing market consolidation, establishing distinctive value brands. “This places those controlling the best properties at the apex of the opportunity curve to secure the best franchises and generate the best returns.”

     

    Our Manchester office has moved!

    We are delighted to announce that as of Monday 08 August, we have taken the opportunity to move our Manchester office to new premises located at:

    55 Spring Gardens
    Manchester
    M2 2BY

    0370 777 6292
    info@rapleys.com

    Our new office, with its modern, open plan space gives us an ideal base from which to build on relationships with clients in Manchester and the wider area.

    It’s business as usual and all of our phone numbers and email addresses remain as before.

    Rapleys is delighted to announce that it has appointed Ben Read as a Partner based in its Bristol office.

    Ben joins the practice’s nationwide planning department and will be promoting a range of planning applications for developers, land owners and occupiers. Prior to joining Rapleys Ben was with Hunter Page.

    Senior partner Robert Clarke at Rapleys commented: “I am pleased to welcome Ben to the partnership. He brings a wealth of experience in managing, and promoting, residential and commercial schemes through the planning system. He will, undoubtedly, foster and contribute to our ever growing planning business (both nationally and in the south west market).”

    Ben Read commented: “I am delighted to have joined Rapleys and am looking forward to contributing to a nationally recognised planning team in what is an exciting period of growth for the business.”

     

    We are also pleased to welcome the following new starters to Rapleys:

    Pankaj Vara as an associate in the viability/affordable housing team based in the London office.

    Andrew Priestley as a surveyor in our development consultancy team based in the London office

    Alexandra Weatherilt as a surveyor in the automotive and roadside team based in the Manchester office.

    Simon Burrage as a surveyor in the building consultancy team based in the London office.

    Matthew Nicoll as an associate in the property management team based in Huntingdon.

    The prospect of moving house is fairly daunting and the concerns and considerations concomitant with private property moves are presented in a magnified fashion when one is considering moving premises for commercial purposes: is it affordable, what is the right location to maximise custom, how best to use space when space is increasingly at a premium etc.? IMI Magazine’s ‘moving’ special seeks to answer these questions and provide you with a plan of action if you are considering a relocation.

    Businesses looking to upgrade or relocate premises may, like Phil and Kirsty, be focused on ‘location, location, location’, but those who ignore other key factors when deciding upon a new site could end up with a property headache that even the dynamic duo can’t cure. Whilst a property may be suitable in physical terms there are many issues that a site inspection won’t necessarily reveal.

    Planning

    For example, planning consent may be required for building work but also for a change of use which, with traditional stock in short supply, is an obstacle many are having to traverse. Current legislation requires that changing a property into a car showroom or workshop will almost always need planning consent. ‑is will need a planning application and whilst a decision should be available within three months this can, in some cases, take longer. A relocation plan should always include an appraisal of whether planning consent is required at any stage and, if so, a timeline introduced which factors in delays and mitigates any potential risk to business.

    The lie of the land

    It has also been known for some businesses to take properties without taking a survey which, whilst less of an issue for a new property, can add a significant cost if repairs are required on older facilities. For example, if a roof needs replacing five years into occupation it is not just the cost to consider but the disruption to the business as well. Meanwhile, rights of way and title restrictions continue to be factors, but these can be navigated with the help of a good solicitor. Businesses should, though, also be prepared to look beyond the confines of a proposed new site and keep in mind issues and developments in the local area. A proprietor, for instance, may have just relocated to the perfect site, and invested heavily to fit out the unit, only for the site to be bypassed, or a nice quiet neighbouring unit turned into a waste centre.

    Relocation can be taxing

    Upgrading facilities is a significant investment and tax liabilities can impact on expansion plans.

    However, George Osborne’s 2016 Budget did contain some good news for business owners on the tax front. A new stamp duty slice system provides smaller operators a cut in their tax bill, with 0% owed on the first £150,000 and 2% on the proportion between £150,000 and £250,000 (though the largest investors and developers are hit with an increase, around 90% overall have had the bills cut or kept the same). Business rates, too, were addressed by the Chancellor and, while the root-and-branch reform many operators are hoping for hasn’t materialised yet, the threshold for rates relief has doubled – giving permanent exemption to many. The business rates system must still be navigated with care, though, when considering new premises and values. Rates charges can be appealed, but the current rates are still payable until an appeal is successful, at which point a refund will be provided.

    To view the full article, please click on the adjacent link.

    In May 2016, Rapleys acquired Birmingham based surveying firm, Bartlett Property.

    To celebrate the opening of the Birmingham office, Rapleys held a drinks reception at Hotel du Vin on Wednesday 15 June to welcome new partner Alfred Bartlett to the practice.

    The event was attended by a range of key faces from Birmingham’s commercial property community, including key contacts and clients from both Bartlett Property and Rapleys.

    Despite the wet weather, a fun night was had by all and it proved to be a successful launch for Rapleys new presence in the city.

    The new Birmingham office, located on Newhall Street, adds to Rapleys existing office network around the UK, including Bristol, Edinburgh, Huntingdon, London and Manchester.

    Please click here to listen to a podcast by Rapleys’ senior partner, Robert Clarke, discussing Rapleys growth strategy and the new Birmingham office:

    http://www.egi.co.uk/news/rapleys-launches-birmingham-office/?cmpid=NLC|EGIx|EGDPM-2016|glob&sfid=701w0000000wsc7

    Rapleys’ Scottish town planning experts give their views on the outcome of the Scottish Planning Review.

    In September 2015, an independent panel was appointed by Scottish ministers to review the Scottish planning system. The panel was asked to look at ways to achieve a quicker, more accessible and efficient planning process. The review focused on six key themes – development planning; housing delivery; planning for infrastructure; development management; leadership, resourcing and skills; and community engagement.

    The review panel provided 48 ‘recommendations’ which they feel might achieve a quicker, more accessible and efficient planning process. In summary, the key recommendations identified in the report propose:

    • Giving more focus to the National Planning Framework (NPF), including regional housing targets;
    • Simplifying the development plan review process;
    • Empowering communities with the introduction of “Locality Plans”;
    • Encouraging Simplified Planning Zones (SPZ) within town and regeneration areas;
    • Establishing a national infrastructure agency;
    • Streamlining complex planning controls.

    By recommending a simpler approach in preparing development plans, the onus will shift onto making sure the NPF is more focussed. Removing the main issues report stage and making improved links with community planning will result in a shorter two year plan preparation process. Not a bad outcome. With strategic development plan authorities re-purposed to focus on co-ordination and delivery, this might redress the balance. Another big change would be the proposed 10 year development plan cycle, which, the report states, could have flexibility in parts; to be updated to react to circumstances, such as economic change. We think this is a fairly mixed bag of proposals.

    We think the biggest eyebrow raiser is the idea for regional housing targets, set within the NPF. The possibility of empowering communities to bring forward their own “locality plans” might result in over-consultation locally. Resources will need to be in place to referee the new procedure.

    A key “game changer” within the report includes the expansion of simplified planning zones to allow use on a wider scale, such as in town centre or regeneration areas. A fillip for our town centres. We also like the proposal suggesting allocated sites be afforded planning permission in principle and/or benefit from exemptions from pre-application consultation requirements and fast-tracked appeals. That might speed things up.

    Proposals to streamline and minimise the use of planning obligations could help speed up delivery of development; as from Rapleys’ practical experience, we are aware how this can result in significant delays and affect commercial decisions for clients. We think a very interesting recommendation within the report is the proposal for a national infrastructure agency which would have statutory powers and potentially could be a positive way to bring key stakeholders together.

    The Scottish Government is now considering the recommendations put forward by the panel and will publish its response “in due course.”

    Rapleys can help by examining what the review proposals means for you. For our retail and town centre clients we can advise on the implications of simplified planning zones; for our residential clients we can comment on the effect of moving to a 10 year planning horizon and for all other clients we can suggest ways of challenging some of these ideas as they proceed to scrutiny during 2016-17.

    Please contact the above for further information or advice regarding this update.

    To view this as a PDF please click the link adjacent.

    Leading property and planning consultancy Rapleys has today unveiled a significantly refreshed brand and visual identity as it continues an unprecedented period of growth and expansion. The firm’s new look, including a new website, will help drive forward Rapleys’ long-term strategy to cement its position as one of the UK’s leading independent property and planning firms. 

    For more than 60 years, Rapleys has provided market-leading advice and services to a broad range of clients across a diverse range of sectors, including automotive & roadside, retail & leisure, business space, healthcare and residential. The new Rapleys brand will build on this heritage, but also look to the future and the firm’s ambitions.

    The launch of the new brand comes at a major juncture in the firm’s evolution. Since the election of Robert Clarke as senior partner in April 2015, the firm has significantly accelerated its growth and expansion. This has included, for the first time in its history, the pursuit of strategic acquisitions, beginning with chartered surveyors Biscoe Craig Hall in September 2015. The firm also recently announced the acquisition of commercial property advisers and surveyors Bartlett Property, adding Birmingham to its existing network of five offices across the UK.

    Rapleys’ new brand will assist this growth profile, nurture the firm’s highly-valued and longstanding client relationships and establish a platform for success in a new era by putting the firm’s client-focussed, highly personal and commercially driven approach centre stage on a national basis.

    Robert Clarke, senior partner at Rapleys, commented:

    “This is an incredibly exciting time for Rapleys, with a number of recent acquisitions contributing to our continued expansion. Refreshing our brand was a natural next step in this journey, and positions us well to further accelerate our growth and realise our ambitions.

    “The property industry is rapidly evolving, with new demands from clients creating both challenges and opportunities. With the right mix of organic growth and targeted acquisitions, we are better placed than ever to provide market-leading advice on a personal and nationwide basis to clients as they look to succeed and thrive in this dynamic property landscape.”

    Rapleys has advised Marshall Motor Holdings plc (MMH) regarding their acquisition of Ridgeway Garages for £106.9m.

    The Rapleys team, led by partner Phil Blackford, provided strategic valuation and property advice to MMH, one of the UK’s leading automotive retail and leasing groups, as part of the due diligence process. Ridgeway is a multi-franchise dealer group operating across the affluent southern home counties of England, Wiltshire and Dorset, representing 12 brands via 30 franchised dealerships.

    Described by the company as a ‘truly transformational’ transaction, the strategic acquisition means that MMH will move from 10th to the 7th largest motor dealer group in the UK. The deal was completed on 26 May.

    Phil Blackford, partner and head of Rapleys automotive and roadside team, said:

    “We are delighted to be asked to assist the MMH acquisition team in providing strategic valuation and property advice as part of the due diligence process. This proved to be an important part of the process, given that the aggregate property value accounted for approximately 50% of the acquisition price.”

    Daksh Gupta, chief executive of Marshall Motor Holdings plc, added:

    “We chose Rapleys to advise us on the transformational acquisition of Ridgeway due to their track record in the space. We needed confidentiality, expediency, expertise and professionalism, and Rapleys delivered. Thank you Phil Blackford and team Rapleys.”

    As part of Rapleys’ continued investment in the development of employees we are pleased to announce the latest promotions:

    • Alun Jones (Development, London) to Equity Partner
    • Graham Smith (Charities Consultancy, London) to Non-Equity Partner
    • Jennifer Lemen-Hogarth (Lease Consultancy, Bristol) to Senior Associate
    • Jemma Cam (Town Planning, Bristol) to Associate
    • Gary Collins (Town Planning, London) to Associate
    • Jessica Lockwood (A&R/Development, Huntingdon/London) to Senior Surveyor

    “The promotions reflect their contributions to the business and are thoroughly deserved. I would like to thank them for all their hard work and support in the continuing growth and success of the practice.” Rapleys Senior partner, Robert Clarke.

    Property and planning consultancy, Rapleys, is delighted to announce that it has achieved the Standard Award for Investors in People following a recent assessment.

    This success reflects its commitment to its staff and acknowledges the efforts of everyone who works within the organisation.  Excellent service to clients can only be achieved by staff that are motivated, properly trained and given opportunities for development. Rapleys has an excellent rate of repeat business and this fact is testament to the quality of the staff it employs.

    Investors in People (IIP) provides a framework for organisations to improve their business performance through the development of staff, in order to help them and their company reach their personal and collective potential.
    The IIP assessor’s report noted “…. Rapleys culture is an extremely positive one and feedback from the staff confirmed this.”

    Robert Clarke, senior partner of Rapleys, commented:

    “We are extremely pleased to have been awarded IIP accreditation. It provides us with a framework for planning future strategy and action. The firm would not be what it is today without our dedicated staff and it is only right that we invest in them and their future.”

    Rapleys is pleased to announce the acquisition of commercial property advisory and surveying firm Bartlett Property. The addition of the Birmingham-based firm further expands Rapleys’ existing office network to six locations across the UK, alongside London, Bristol, Edinburgh, Huntingdon and Manchester.

    Bartlett Property has been operating for over 10 years and has developed a market leading position in the retail, leisure, roadside, and trade park arenas. The company is recognised as providing in-depth and comprehensive advice in relation to the acquisition, disposal, development, investment, and asset management within its specialist sectors.

    Bartlett director Alfred Bartlett, who is well known to Rapleys, having worked at the firm in the 90’s joins as partner and will lead the Birmingham-based team from its offices at Cornwall Buildings, 45 – 51 Newhall Street, B3 3QR.

    This deal represents the second such acquisition by Rapleys in less than a year. In September 2015, the firm announced the acquisition of London-based chartered surveying firm Biscoe Craig Hall, the first acquisition in its 60-year history.

    Robert Clarke, senior partner of Rapleys, commented:

    “I am delighted to welcome Bartlett Property to Rapleys. The firm’s sector capability clearly complements Rapleys’ core areas of expertise, and will further enhance and develop our offering to clients. We are very much looking forward to working closely with Alfred again, and we welcome both his regional and sector knowledge to the team.”

    “This acquisition is part of our on-going strategy to expand the business and continue our trajectory of growth. This move into Birmingham and the Midlands is another piece in the geographical jigsaw, enabling us to provide a nationwide service to our clients through our office network.”

    Alfred Bartlett added:

    “I have always had an affinity with Rapleys and am very pleased to be re-joining the fold. I am looking forward to contributing to the firm’s continued growth which couldn’t come at a better time given the thriving Birmingham and Midlands market. The opportunity to expand our client base and demonstrate not only the specific retail agency and development skills that Bartlett Property brings but also the wider and comprehensive services that Rapleys offers is very exciting. The combination of services will also better serve the combined client base nationally.”

    Two main issues dominated the news headlines in 2015, one positive and one negative.

    The first was the VW emissions scandal which first reared its head in September, the full effects of which are yet to be felt. It is likely that the impact of this in practical terms will not be felt for some time as the true cost to the company emerges. However, the first negative effects were realised in November as used car sales for VW brands fell by 20% whereas the overall used car market improved by 3.8%. Headlines continue to be negative with the US President of VW resigning earlier this month.

    The second, was that the used car market and new car registrations reached a record breaking 2.63m, beating the previous record of 2.58m in 2003, after 43 months of consecutive growth. Many in the sector believe 2016 could see a new high for registrations and we believe this will positivity fuel demand for new sites and premises. However, a slowdown in the housing market is what many in the sector want as numerous requirements cannot be satisfied owing to higher alternative use values, particularly for residential.

    There have been a few high profile business acquisitions in the last few months of 2015/start of 2016 which has consolidated the sector even further. Those of particular note are as follows:

    • Vertu acquired Greenoaks Mercedes-Benz who have dealerships in Reading, Ascot and Slough.
    • Group 1 acquired Spire Automotive, a 12 dealership group.
    • Marshall Motor Group acquired SG Smith in November for £24.4m. They represent a number of VWG brands in South London.
    • Lookers acquired Benfield in September for £87.5m. They trade 30 dealerships across Northern England.
    • Vantage acquired Toyota/Lexus in Leeds/Wakefield for £12.7m
    • Eden Motor Group acquired Wokingham Motors who represent Vauxhall, Mazda, Fiat and Hyundai in the town.

    It is common knowledge in the market that Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is seeking to redefine their market areas at the same time as enhancing their retail network. This has led to many business and property transactions involving the two brands and we highlight a few below:

    • Rybrook buy Jaguar/Land Rover businesses in Huddersfield from Perrys.
    • Cambria acquires Land Rover in Welwyn Garden City from Jardine for £10.8m.
    • Ridgeway announce plans for a new Jaguar/Land Rover facility in Oxford at Milton Gate.
    • Charles Hurst opens a new Jaguar/Land Rover facility in Belfast.
    • Inchcape acquire Land Rover in York from Armstrong Massey.
    • Lookers buy Amersham Jaguar from Jardine.

    It certainly seems as if JLR are the major brand leading the quest for new and improved premises although many other, particularly premium, brands continue to dictate their requirements to dealers. We see no signs of this activity diminishing through 2016 as car sales figures continue to improve.

    To view this as a PDF please click the link adjacent.

    More permitted development on the way

    Further changes to permitted development will come into force on 6 April, the most important being:

    Office to residential
    As previously announced, the right to change the use of most office space to residential without planning permission is to become permanent. It will continue to be subject to a prior approval procedure, albeit this will be extended to consider the impact of noise on new residents.

    Current non-geographic exceptions will remain in perpetuity, but geographic exceptions (including Central London and Manchester city centre) will expire in May 2019, although one can expect many of the local authorities affected to promote Article 4 directions to retail the restrictions beyond this.

    Interestingly, there is no mention at present about the idea mooted last autumn of extending permitted development to include demolition and redevelopment of office buildings for housing. This was quite a radical proposal, raising many questions about how it might be implemented – the government may feel that it needs more time to consider this.

    Light industrial to residential
    A new three-year temporary permitted development right for changes of use from light industrial to residential will come into force on 1 October 2017. Beyond its temporary nature, there are a number of other restrictions imposed, including:

    • A floorspace limit of buildings less than 500sqm;
    • Evidence will be required that the building was used solely for light industrial purposes on 19 March 2014 (or, if the light industrial use was established but the building was vacant in March 2014, the date the building was last in that use would be relevant), and
    • Whether the site is identified as being particularly sensitive (for example, listed buildings, scheduled monuments or in a site of special scientific interest).
    • Prior approval will be required relative to flood risk, contamination and transportation considerations. In addition, the prior approval process will include consideration of the impact of the change of use on surrounding light industrial operations, where these are deemed to be “important”. Prior approval must be granted before 1 October 2020, and development must be completed within three years of the prior approval date

    Commentary
    Office to residential conversions have proved popular with developers – according to government figures, almost 4,000 conversions were approved between April 2014 and June last year and no doubt the extension of this right in perpetuity will also be welcomed. However, the change of use from light industrial floorspace may not prove as popular, given the restrictions improved (not least on floorspace), and the level of additional work that might be required to render sites fit for habitation. Further, it will also be interesting to see how local authorities will define areas that are considered “important” for light industrial use – from past experience, some local authorities may take a very broad view.

    To view this newsletter as a PDF please click the adjacent link.

    Business rates were mentioned nine times in the Budget when the Chancellor kept saying “help for small businesses”.

    The fact is that none of the help comes into force until 1st April 2017 at the earliest.

    Small Business Rates Relief

    • The doubling of Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) is already in force but currently has to be announced annually, however, from 1st April 2017 it will be a permanent relief.
    • A business with only one property with a rateable value below £12,000 or one with additional properties whose rateable values are all below £2,600 don’t pay any rates at all currently.
    • From 1st April 2017 that figure will rise to rateable value £15,000.

    Larger Businesses

    • Larger businesses currently pay for SBRR through the small business supplement which is a 1.3 pence addition to the rate in the pound for 2016/2017. In London this applies to businesses whose rateable value is
    • £25,000 and above and outside London £18,000 and above.
    • From 1st April 2017 these thresholds will be considerably increased to rateable value £51,000 and above so, for example, this will save those with a rateable value of £50,999 some £661.70 per annum – proportionally
    • less for those with a lower rateable value.

    Uniform Business Rates

    • Currently the Uniform Business Rate increases each year by Retail Price Index figure from the preceding October.
      This will change to the lower Consumer Price Index but not until 1st April 2020.

    Help for local newspapers

    • There will be a £1,500 business rates discount for office space occupied by local newspapers in England (a maximum of one discount per local newspaper and per hereditament) for two years from 1st April 2017.
    • However, it would seem the retail relief offered over the last two rate years has disappeared, which will greatly affect many small businesses.

    Public Lavatories

    • Good news if you own a public lavatory local authorities will be able to offer discretionary relief – I thought you all needed to know that.

    Retail Relief

    • The help for small businesses for 2016/2017 is, therefore, less than it was previously with there being no retail relief.

    2017 Revaluation

    • How these reliefs will affect a business’s rates bills is largely unknown because of the 2017 revaluation.
    • Until the draft rating list is published in October this year, a business has no idea what its rateable value is going to be from 1st April 2017.
    • No one knows what the rate in the pound on the small business supplement will be for 2017/2018.
    • There has been no mention yet of whether large increases or decreases in rate liability following the revaluation will be “phased” through a transitional relief scheme as they have over the last five revaluations. There was no such scheme in either Wales or Scotland following the 2010 Revaluation.

    The Autumn Statement Update 

    • In the Autumn Statement, it was announced that going forward cities with elected Mayors would be able to levy an infrastructure tax from 2020 and all billing authorities would be able to set their own rate in the pound.
    • However, yesterday the Chancellor announced that the Greater London Authority will move towards full retention of the business rates from 1st April 2017 – three years early and this could well impact on businesses with property in London

    It sounded good as the speech was made but in reality it is all 12 months away at a minimum and there are so many imponderables that it is impossible to calculate the effect

    Rate Bills
    A comment on the note from the Valuation Office Agency that is arriving with your rates bills.
    It asks businesses to register to receive details of your draft rateable values in October.
    If you have instructed Rapleys to look after your rates from 2017 onwards you do not need to bother with this. Rapleys will provide clients with a list of draft assessments and as soon as there is an announcement about the rate in the pound for 2017/2018 and whether there is to be any “phasing” in England, will also provide estimates of rate liability for 1st April 2017 onwards for rating clients.

    To view this as a PDF please click on the adjacent link.

    The Scottish Government has issued Draft Planning Delivery Advice on “Housing and Infrastructure”. This has come as a result of the “root and branch” review of Scottish planning. The Government has commissioned a separate study on housing and infrastructure to tackle one of the practical issues of the current shortage of housing.

    The draft advice is concerned with improving housing and infrastructure delivery primarily through the development plan process, but it will also be a material consideration in the determination of planning applications and appeals. Once finalised, it will replace Planning Advice Note (PAN) 2/2010.

    Developers have found delivery of housebuilding in Scotland has become increasingly challenging in recent years. There has been a reduction in completion rates and shortage of deliverable sites coming forward. This guidance seeks to improve the way in which this is handled.

    Effectiveness
    The document sets out that there should be a lesser focus on numbers of houses planned. Instead a stronger emphasis be given to delivery of houses, providing levels of what is required to meet current demand, but also to prepare for the future in places which can successfully evolve and grow over time. The advice addresses the issue of effectiveness (i.e. how a planned site performs) and in doing so identifies a number of criteria against which the effectiveness of a proposed housing site will be assessed. The most notable change is the removal of marketability as one of the effectiveness criteria. Is this an admission that previously identified sites were not attractive for housebuilders and buyers?
    Infrastructure
    In terms of Infrastructure, emphasis is given to partnership working, with a focus on working with stakeholders and agencies in “Delivery Groups”. The advice states that the costing of infrastructure developments should be explored as early as possible to ensure that the correct funding is in place to achieve delivery. The advice suggests this can be done, in a number of traditional methods, for example, Planning Agreement, Developer Contribution, Scale or Kind, but also new approaches such as Cumulative Contributions, thought to be particularly useful for strategic projects.

    We consider this a welcome approach given that the most attractive sites currently appear to be smaller but more deliverable.

    Rapleys is working with a number of landowners, housebuilders, and housing providers in Scotland and we look forward to putting our practical experience to use on these projects when the new guidance is adopted.

    To view this as a PDF please click on the adjacent link.

    Hot on the heels of the consultation on changes to the NPPF, the Government reforms of the planning system continue. Specifically, two further consultations were launched late last week on initiatives to speed up the planning system and bring forward new housing. Comments are being accepted on both consultations until the 15 April 2016.

    Nationwide changes to simplify and speed up the system
    Under the seemingly innocuous title of “Technical Consultation on Implementation of Planning Changes” the Government is seeking views on some potentially radical proposals, not least “fast-tracking” and introducing competition to the processing of planning applications (although decision-making will stay with local councils). Other matters include:

    • Further proposed details for the procedures for “permission in principle” (PiP) and subsequent “technical details consent” (TDC). This includes an indication of the matters to be addressed by each process – location, use and amount of residential development will be addressed at PiP stage, with matters such as design and infrastructure at TDC stage. Additional detail includes proposals relative to timescales and the scope of information required to make applications.
    • Additional detail relative to “brownfield registers”, which local authorities will need to prepare and should include all brownfield land except land that has no realistic prospect of being used for housing.
    • Options to raise planning application fees, but linked to performance.
    • More detailed proposals on the circumstances under which the Government would intervene in the local plan process.

    The consultation document is wide-ranging and begins to add much-needed detail to the operation of the Housing and Planning Bill. Nevertheless, gaps remain on how the Government’s flagship planning legislation will be implemented and everyone involved in the planning system (and particularly local authorities) will be looking at future detail with a magnifying glass.

    Building upwards in London
    In the interests of reducing the take up of green belt land for housing, the Government and Greater London Authority want to make it easier to add height to existing buildings in London, suggesting the following options:

    1. Permitted development, under a prior approval procedure, for additional storeys up to the height of an adjoining roofline but there will be limits and exceptions, and neighbours will still need to be consulted;
    2. Local development orders, in specific areas to be defined;
    3. A new policy in the London Plan to support additional storeys, where a site specific planning permission application is still required.

    Although the proposals are to be welcomed, it is arguable how much of a change this measure represents, given the levels of identified housing need in the capital.

    To view this as a PDF please click on the adjacent link.

    “This is the future.” Four fateful words wielded by ex-Tesco CEO Philip Clarke as he unveiled a radical reinvention of his Watford Extra in August 2013. The most high profile launch of a supermarket in years, the £12m refit boasted a brand new layout with low-slung fresh produce aisles and a sleek F+F concession sprawled across 80,000 sq ft.

    It also featured Clarke’s latest acquisitions displayed under one roof: the modern-rustic Euphorium bakery, the charming Harris + Hoole coffee shop and the bright and colourful Giraffe restaurant. Ten months after posting Tesco’s first profit drop in 20 years, Clarke had hedged all his bets – wagering a reported £12m – on this Watford vision.

    But it didn’t deliver. After an initial spike, sales “slipped back into negative like for like” says Bryan Roberts, global insights director at TCC. And within a year of the Watford launch, Clarke had been booted out, setting off a chain of events that ultimately saw new CEO Dave Lewis slash capital expenditure, call a halt to the space race, cancel several projects and close a number of existing stores.
    With Tesco’s big four rivals also in retrenchment mode the property sector is the quietest it’s been for years. But that doesn’t mean developers have had to shut up shop. So who’s building what, where and why? And how have Tesco and its rivals evolved their stores in Watford’s wake?

    Tellingly, many features Clarke pushed through at Watford have been adopted elsewhere by Tesco. Low level fresh produce counters now appear in revamped Tesco Extras nationwide and non-food has followed Watford’s lead by adopting a more “John Lewis” approach, says Roberts, with a slicker, less commoditised look. Bigger health and beauty departments have also popped up offering in-store treatments.

    Stripped back electrical ranges are now more commonplace thanks to the trial store, adds David Gray, senior analyst at Planet Retail, with a greater focus on higher margin categories like homeware and clothing. Click & collect kiosks equipped with digital touchscreens have also been rolled out.

    Lewis has also pushed forward with Clarke’s plan for more concessions. With 248 hypermarkets in its portfolio (three times more than Sainsbury’s and nearly eight times as many as Asda) Tesco has more reason than its rivals to reinvigorate out-of-town stores as destinations and Clarke’s approach was a “good proposition” adds Gray. Concessions “increase dwell time, customers stay in store longer, and in theory you increase sales”.
    Rollout has been limited but steady. Fourteen Tesco stores now have Giraffe restaurants, 29 have Harris + Hoole coffee shops and 63 have Euphorium bakeries. In October 2015 Lewis signed a deal with Arcadia to open Dorothy Perkins, Burtons and Evans concessions in Tesco, and earlier this month took control of Harris + Hoole in a move that put paid to rumours he would ditch the coffee business.

    To view the full article, please click on the adjacent link.

    Rapleys undertakes traditional valuation work including for transactional and secured borrowing as well as portfolio valuations for investment and occupier clients. We provide a full range of valuation services including specialist planning enquiry support, compulsory purchase advice and dilapidations negotiations.

    In addition we deliver a spectrum of specialist valuation services including expert witness valuation support.  We are very active in residential development consultancy allied with our development and planning teams. Notably, we recently expanded our affordable housing services to include project viability reporting.  Below are a few examples of the diversity of relevant instructions.

    Commercial Property & Residential Investment
    Rapleys is undertaking valuations of commercial property and residential investments for a number of national lenders and banks as well as specialist development funders. Two recent portfolios have included office, retail and industrial buildings; both of which in aggregate exceeded £15m. A further recent challenging commission was for the valuation of circa 170 parish houses for a Church of England Diocese.

    Affordable Housing
    The expansion of our affordable housing and viability team has enabled us to service growing demand for specialist S106 and viability expertise from developers, landowners and house builders. Current instructions range from a luxury 20 apartment scheme in Bush Hill London to 1,100 and 1,200 unit brownfield developments in York and Manchester respectively.

    CPO Advice
    We have provided CPO advice on a number of schemes including the Brentford FC redevelopment and HS2 as well as submitting expert evidence to the Westfield/Hammerson Croydon Inquiry. We have also provided valuation evidence as part of dispute resolution proceedings as well as advising in respect of potential damages arising from breach of covenants and the statutory grant of electricity wayleaves.

    S18 Valuations
    In association with our building surveyors we have provided S18 valuations in connection with terminal dilapidations disputes, such as those carried out recently for The Co-operative relating to sites in Worthing and Clacton on Sea. Our assessments of diminution helped to achieve an approximate 80% saving on one claim and superseded a significant portion of the contractual claim in the other.

    To view this as a PDF please click on the adjacent link.

    Ministers’ plans to boost high streets by extending Sunday trading hours will not be “game-changing” and are unlikely to be a boon for supermarkets, according to retail experts.

    On Tuesday, the government announced that Sunday trading laws are to be scrapped by the autumn, meaning councils will have the power to allow large shops and supermarkets to open for more than six hours on Sundays.
    John Witherell, senior director in CBRE’s retail team, said he believes that the proposals are “not going be the game-changer the government thinks they will be”.

    Independent convenience stores had campaigned most strongly against Sunday trading reform out of fear that trade would shift to larger stores.

    However, Witherell said that supermarkets, which themselves have built large estates of smaller stores in recent years, were unlikely to see any significant benefit either. “All that will happen is that sales will be spread over a longer trading time, but they will also have higher operating costs,” he said.

    Ministers are hoping the new approach will give Britain’s retail sector a boost. However, Ed Cooke, head of policy at the British Council for Shopping Centres, said the policy was misguided. “If the government was going to do anything to save the high street, it should be to reduce business rates,” he said.

    An amendment will be added to the Enterprise Bill, which is currently passing through parliament, to enable the changes. Under the legislation, councils will be able to set ‘zones’ where the new hours will apply, meaning that they can exclude some areas. So far, few have made clear what their policy would be, but Cooke added that the legislation may enable them to “set arbitrary red lines around shopping centres”.

    Witherell said council boundaries would also be an issue, particularly in large cities with multiple high streets, which could see a “bizarre situation where large shops on one side of the street will be able to open longer hours, while those on the other side cannot”.

    Russell Smith, head of retail at planning consultancy Rapleys, added that a “tug of war” could ensue between local authorities, with less affluent ones being keener to embrace longer hours, and neighbouring councils feeling pressured to increase theirs to “keep up with the Joneses”.

    To view this as a PDF please click on the adjacent link.

    2015 was a strong year in the Automotive and Roadside sectors and was generally characterised by more occupiers chasing fewer opportunities and trying to compete with residential demand and values. We see the strong residential market continue to frustrate expansion plans in 2016. Our predictions are set out below.

    Dealerships

    • We see further consolidation likely, albeit probably outside of the top 10-20 dealer groups.
    • Demand for sites is expected to be stronger, particularly in the south-east as dealers and manufacturers seek to improve/upgrade/relocate.
    • More manufacturers are likely to require premises to be upgraded. Jaguar Land Rover and Nissan rolled out substantial upgrade programmes in 2015 and we believe this is likely to be particularly prevalent at the prestige end of the market.
    • Capital and rental values are likely to climb, at least until interest rates start to increase, as investors chase fewer opportunities.
    • There will be more representation from dealers in major shopping centres; eg. the “pop up” shops in Westfield and The Bullring and possibly even the opening of stores on the high street.
    • Demand from investors will remain very strong for dealership property and it is possible we will see a record yield in 2016 as investors chase prestige opportunities.

    Fuel

    • 2015 saw supermarkets curtailing their acquisition programmes, oil companies exiting direct retailing and the significant injection of capital into the larger independent dealer groups by private equity companies.
    • 2016 will see the dealer groups expanding further and more new to industry developments with complementary food offers. “Churn” will still occur as lower margin sites are closed and converted to other uses.
    • Yields will harden in the investment sector.
    • Specialist developers will start to build up a pipeline of schemes to satisfy an ever growing demand from existing and new entrants to the roadside market.

    Roadside retail/trade counter

    • Values are likely to increase as occupiers have far fewer opportunities to pursue.
    • Further expansion is likely, for example from Topps Tiles, Vets4Pets, Formula One Autocentres and Halfords Autocentres.
    • It is also possible that stronger demand could lead to increasing confidence from developers to build speculative schemes.
    • In order to satisfy shareholder demand for further expansion, occupiers may need to be more innovative in changing their store formats such as Topps Tiles recent “Boutique” format, located in generally affluent areas, particularly inside London.

    To read this as a PDF please click on the adjacent link.

    The market in 2015 for office and warehouse/industrial property was a strong one and we see things continuing in a similar manner in 2016, subject of course, to the possibility of any major global changes dampening the UK economy.

    Barring such change, we believe the parallel trends in each sector will continue:

    • Sustained rental growth coming through from new lettings and driving the case for uplifts at rent review.
    • Lengthening lease terms with landlords resisting three/five year lease breaks that would have been commonly available two years ago.
    • Tenant rent free incentives shortening to commonly one month or less per year of lease term – certain, from what might have been two months as recently as 2014.
      In the face of limited options, occupiers will show willingness to be more flexible in their requirements and, in particular, to consider new locations that would previously have been regarded as too off-pitch.

    Specifically in the office sector:

    • Developers’ commitment to new schemes two plus years back will bolster a supply side that was lacking new stock, but competition for the best buildings will be strong and lettings significantly in advance of practical completion will be more common.
    • Secondary office buildings will continue to be eroded from the available pool by conversion to residential thereby reducing options and pushing up rents on the remaining stock.

    In the warehouse/industrial sector:

    • Retailers and e-tailers will continue to be active drivers of the distribution market throughout the UK, particularly as a consequence of sustained internet sales growth.
    • Home delivery and click and collect will press the need for facilities closer to market in larger metropolitan areas with the scarcity of stock bringing secondary/older buildings back into frontline use, particularly if they have good yardage.
    • In larger urban conurbations, the demand for and political focus on providing more housing will bring further erosion of previously “protected” employment land.
    • In extra-urban locations throughout the UK, there has been significant speculative warehouse development but not on the large scale of the previous cycle. We regard the market to have greater balance going forward in that developers holding enabled land are more commonly agreeing design and build deals with occupiers who are keen to secure buildings more closely suited to their operational requirements.

    In summary, more of the same in 2016 as we had in 2015.

    To view this as a PDF please click on the adjacent link.

    Following David Cameron’s recent announcement that businesses affected by flooding will get 100% business rates relief, Rapleys is offering to help anyone in need of assistance in England to get the appropriate relief, completely free of charge.

    The government’s plans, while short on detail, appear largely to be a re-announcement of the existing guidance that any business premises affected by flood damage which renders the premises incapable of occupation will qualify for 100% relief from business rates for a period up to three months from the date of the flood.

    In the event of flood damage being experienced, an application must be made immediately to the relevant local council.

    Rapleys is offering assistance free of charge to anyone in England who needs help in securing the relief on offer, and we would urge anybody who feels they might be entitled to a reduction to contact one of our team:

    Nik Moore
    07831 099095
    nrm@rapleys.co.uk

    Alan Watson
    07917 352428
    acw@rapleys.co.uk

    Mike Rose
    07599 285201
    jmr@rapleys.co.uk

    Stacey Jolly
    07714 133953
    scj@rapleys.co.uk