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

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

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

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

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

Jonathan Jones, part of our Retail and Leisure team, shares his thoughts on the UK drive-thru market.

The drive-thru model is not a new concept to the UK market but, unlike the USA market, it has historically been dominated by a few operators. The early retailers were KFC, McDonald’s and Burger King who all opened their first UK drive-thru restaurants in the mid-1980s and developed their network exponentially throughout the 90s and 00s.

It wasn’t until 2008 that Starbucks opened their first drive-thru store and their success was recognised by the brand leader in the UK market, Costa Coffee, who went on to open their first ever drive-thru in 2011.

In more recent years the likes of Taco Bell and Tim Hortons have entered the UK market with high street and drive-thru locations adopting the same successful model as in their home market.  A further entrant in recent years is Greggs, who have tentatively tested their model with franchisee forecourt retailing partners, and are now in process of rolling out corporate drive thru locations – certainly one to watch in 2021!

Popeye’s, the American fried chicken chain, have announced their ambition to enter the UK market with drive-thru’s high on the agenda. Similarly another American chain, Wendy’s, have also announced their re-entry into the UK market and along with a high street presence they will be targeting drive-thru locations.

The competition is certainly heating up for prime roadside locations that benefit from strong traffic counts and are surrounded by a mix of employment and out of town food retail. The rental levels of these prime sites are steadily increasing above the historical cap of £35 psf, driven primarily by competition for sites and further underpinned by operator confidence.

Drive-thru sites have two well documented points of sale: walk in and drive-thru, but also two new markets driven by the digital revolution in click & collect and delivery which essentially increases store productivity and thus profitability. Unlike the High Street stores, a well-positioned drive-thru excels in the delivery market as the site is easily accessible for delivery and collection and are often located closer to the customer.

A trend we expect to see continue is the re-purposing of car parks for drive-thru units on out-of-town retail parks, along with new developments that are effectively destinations consisting of two or three drive-thru units. Added to this we anticipate drive operators introducing smaller drive-thru formats with limited seating to tap into underserved markets or to secure sites where land is at premium.

Finally, there is already market anticipation of the likes of Dunkin Donut’s, German Doner Kebab and Subway (who already have four drive-thru’s in the UK) exploring the drive thru concept in 2021/2022, along with a select few smaller independents who are well funded and have established strong product offering.

Rapleys are active agents in the UK drive-thru market having transacted on a number of new lettings in the last 18 months, and are currently involved with the promotion of a number of new roadside developments across the UK.

Please get in touch with our drive-thru team Will Tait, Jonathan Jones & head of department Alfred Bartlett for further information on your requirements or on the sector itself.

Alfred is also delivering the keynote address on the drive-thru market in association with the Leisure Property Forum tomorrow (19/05/2021) morning. Tickets are still available and can be booked here: https://leisurepropertyforum.co.uk/event/webinar-the-uk-drive-thru-market-in-association-with-ar/ 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fuel retail in lockdown

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

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

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

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

The wider landscape

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

One stop shop

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

Bringing retail home

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

Transient shopping

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

Discounters will continue their march

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

Convenience sector

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


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

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

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

How will Covid shape food and drink trends in 2021?

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

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

National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

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

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

National Model Design Code

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

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

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

The London Plan

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this context, the key points to note are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Planning Use classes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

‘Automatic’ time-limit extensions

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

Fast-track for changes to construction hours

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

Greater flexibility for Planning Appeal procedures

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

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

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

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

Restarting the Housing Market

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

New Central Government Guidance

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

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

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

Other news

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

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

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

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

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

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

He joins, the business, as a Partner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Coronavirus Act

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

Temporary relaxation of planning regulations

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

Activity at local authorities

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

Keeping the system moving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As flagged in the Chancellor’s Budget on 11 March, proposals to reform the planning system were set out the following day by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick in the 11 page ‘Planning for the Future’ publication. The paper acts as a prelude to a series of major publications due later this year, beginning in spring with what is hailed as an ‘ambitious’ Planning White Paper offering ‘creative solutions’ to modernise the planning system. However, some of the proposals sound quite familiar.

Last week’s publication proposes several initiatives for planning reform, which aim to support communities to deliver more homes, help first time buyers, create ‘beautiful, sustainable places’, ensure a commitment to affordable housing and work towards the Government’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.

Promoting well-planned development

Measures to promote development include:

  • Investment in brownfield land and the launch of a national brownfield map;
  • Calls to build above stations in urban areas;
  • The introduction of new permitted development rights this summer to build upwards on existing buildings;
  • Permitted development rights to allow the demolition of vacant commercial, industrial and residential buildings, to be replaced with ‘well-designed’ new residential units;

Many of the proposals feel far from new, particularly some of the other initiatives announced, including reviewing the formula for calculating Local Housing Need and setting a deadline for all local authorities to have an up-to-date local plan (December 2023).

Spatial initiatives

The initiatives also include a spatial element in the form of a new Spatial Framework for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, which will involve up to four new Development Corporations. This proposed commitment will be well received by those who have been calling for support from central Government for a strategic approach for the ‘Ox-Cam Arc’. However, this appears to be harnessing growth that is already happening, rather than an attempt at kickstarting regeneration in deprived areas.

Speeding up the system

The White Paper will also include specific measures aimed at speeding up the processing of planning applications, which will include a new planning fee structure, measures to ensure planning permissions are built out more quickly, as well as automatic rebates for planning application fees when refusals are successfully appealed.

However, perhaps the most notable measure to accelerate the planning system is the proposed expansion of zonal tools such as Local Development Orders (LDOs). Whilst LDOs have been available for a number of years, their use has been limited in practice and it will be interesting to see if the initiatives go as far as the Policy Exchange’s recommendations earlier this year, in their ‘Rethinking the Planning System for the 21st Century’ report.

Good design and placemaking

As well as seeking to accelerate the system and encouraging delivery, the publication places significant emphasis on design. It announces that the NPPF will be revised (yet again) to further embed the principles of good design and placemaking, alongside taking forward the recommendations of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’s report.

In related news

Jenrick also illustrated his commitment to housing delivery elsewhere last week in his deeply critical letter to Sadiq Khan to express his disappointment at the Mayor’s London Plan falling significantly short of meeting London’s identified housing need, and its ‘layers of complexity.’ Jenrick has directed that the Plan cannot be published until certain Directions have been incorporated and requests a commitment to maximising delivery in London, inviting the Mayor to regular meetings to ensure his requests are met.

Concluding comments

The proposed planning reforms are evidently at a very early stage, and we will be looking very closely on how the initiatives are developed. However, any proposals that render the planning system more predictable and straightforward to navigate will no doubt be welcomed by the industry. That said, from the announcements it would appear that a lot of the thinking is far from revolutionary.

For any further detail or clarification do not hesitate to contact Olivia or one of the Town Planning team at Rapleys.

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.

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.

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.

Sadiq Khan’s London Plan is closer to adoption after the Planning Inspectorate gave it the broad go-ahead in its report earlier this week. However, some substantial concerns were raised, and a number of potentially far reaching recommendations were made. When adopted, the new London Plan will replace the current, much consolidated version issued by London’s previous Mayor (now the Prime Minister).

A series of examination hearings were held on the draft new London Plan earlier in the year, and now the much anticipated Inspectors’ Report has been published. The report confirms that the Plan provides an appropriate basis for the strategic planning of Greater London, provided it is amended in line with the Mayor’s suggested changes and, more crucially, the recommendations put forward by the Inspectors.

In this vein, some of the Inspectors’ recommendations would seem to fundamentally change the Mayor’s approach, including the removal of the proposed presumption in favour of small housing developments and, perhaps most contentiously, a recommended commitment to a “strategic and comprehensive review of the Green Belt in London” (albeit to be undertaken as part of the next review of the London Plan).

Key Recommendations 

Evidently there is a lot to digest in the 125 page report, but the principal recommendations can be drawn into three interlocking themes:

  • The Inspectors’ recommendation to remove the presumption in favour of small housing developments, and cut the small sites housing target in half, after finding the Mayor’s aspirational policy approach to be “highly unlikely to occur, based on the available evidence”, placing an unreasonable expectation on the contribution that such sites can make in meeting housing targets.
  • The draft Plan seeks to apply a blanket approach to prevent the de-designation of Green Belt sites, which the Inspectors consider is not consistent with the NPPF. As a remedy, they suggest that the Plan commits to a review of the Green Belt in future policy work. In addition, alterations addressing the rather stringent original wording of Green Belt policies are suggested, effectively putting them in line with the NPPF.
  • The report finds that the need for industrial land is likely to be greater than assumed in the Plan, and that this demand could be “many hundreds of hectares”. In response, the Inspectors recommend that allowance is made for boroughs to review their Green Belt boundaries in emerging Local Plans, to make allowance for additional industrial capacity.


The Mayor has already voiced his opposition to some of the report; not least the principle of a London-wide Green Belt review and it will be interesting to see what his next move is. Further, any suggestion of releasing land from the Green Belt always proves politically contentious – to say the least.

However, in reading the report it is evident that the Inspectors have not come to their recommendations lightly, and from their perspective the recommendations relative to Green Belt policies are intended to bring the London Plan in line with national policy.

The Inspectors also insist that the matter of a Green Belt review must be considered in the light of their findings that “capacity within London is insufficient to meet the identified annual need for housing and the potential shortfall of industrial land in the medium to longer term”, emphasising the issue of competing land uses, and balancing the needs of a growing population against the protecting the fundamental aims of the Green Belt.

The Inspectors also raise difficult questions in respect of the considerable reliance on small sites, an approach which was not considered realistic, leading to recommendations to significantly reduce Borough targets for such sites. This stance, whilst appearing somewhat severe at first glance, is not unsurprising, given the difficulties that are often faced when bringing forward small sites for redevelopment, particularly in London, against the quantum of new dwellings that the new London Plan expected to be brought forward in this manner.

The shortfall in industrial land highlighted by the Inspectors will be familiar to anybody trying to find, for example, sites for logistics development in London, particularly in the inner boroughs, and therefore the attention given to this matter will be welcomed by those in the industry.

In summary, the matters raised by the Inspectors are quite significant and their view is clear that “it would be wrong to unilaterally rule out changes to the Green Belt”. However the report is equally candid in saying that the consequences of not adopting a London Plan would be worse than adopting one that does not meet the capital’s development needs. The ball is now in the Mayor’s court, and we await his response.

For further guidance, please get in touch with Olivia St-Amour or Jason Lowes.

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.


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.


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).



The Motorway Service Area (MSA) has been synonymous with the long car journeys of Britain since they opened with the M1 in 1959. Since then, the humble MSA has seen vast improvements and now delivers an evolved, efficient service for road users up and down the network. Operators and the retailers within, can clearly see the benefits of adapting to the climate in this steady sector, but how did we get here?

Following the first MSA opening in 1959 there have been a further 92 opened across the UK. Starting life as a Government owned establishment they became denationalised in 1992 and are now, in the majority, privately owned and managed. The three main operators of sites are the household names we are all familiar with seeing along our journey’s; Moto (38 sites), Welcome Break (24 site) and Roadchef (20 sites). These are not the only players however, with Extra operating in 8 sites and a further one under construction in Leeds.

Generally, the requirements for MSAs are based on the Department of Transport regulations. They include several stipulations;

• 24 hour access, 365 days a year
• Free parking
• Free facilities
• Fuel provision
• Disabled access
• At least hot drinks and cold food available at all times
• A picnic area of at least 0.5 acre

There are other points to consider dependent on location and the operator will work in conjunction with the local Police, Regional Tourist Board and Highways Agency to ensure services are provided. This list of requirements is likely to continue to evolve over time. For example, the introduction of electric charging points may become more of a necessity than a luxury.

The modern MSA
The trend of eating at restaurant type venues within MSA’s has declined and today’s customers prefer a shorter stop with an emphasis on food-to-go. Road users trust the brand they know and in order to facilitate their needs, MSA operators have forged links with various high street names such as M&S Simply Food, McDonalds, Burger King and Subway, to name a few.
With the relaxation of regulations, traffic signage can incorporate the logos of these retailers, which in turn drives visits to the MSA, thus higher revenues.

The days of a standard square ‘shed’ type building with basic facilities are numbered as road users demand a better experience from the service areas. This has come hand in hand with the rise of the ‘coffee culture’ and it is fair to say that virtually all retail offers within MSA’s are now franchised. Indeed, there is more customer choice than ever. For example, the coffee retailers, such as Costa and Starbucks, have numerous outlets within the MSA, enabling customers to stop at a restaurant, take away or simply drive-thru.

MSA’s are ideally positioned to take advantage of emerging retail trends and the adoption of operators to embrace the ‘Grab-and-Go’ concept proves their ability to adapt to a changing retail landscape. Even Wetherspoons trialled a licensed premises at the Beaconsfield service area on the M40, although this has yet to be repeated elsewhere.

The independent MSA

The game changed again in 2014/15 with the opening of Gloucester Services on the M5 between Junctions 11a and 12, which is operated by Westmorland. The concept is unique to them in that national retailers have been rejected in favour of local farm produce and independent cafes and restaurants.

However, it is the design of the facility that is to revolutionise MSA’s moving forward. The built accommodation blends seamlessly with its surroundings to include the sustainable grass roof. But more than that, the main amenity building did away with brash branding and instead incorporated wood effect styling and sweeping curves within the design of the building, rather than simply a big square box.

An example of a new facility following the Gloucester principles is the Leeds Skelton Lake Services, currently under construction by Extra and due to open in summer 2019. This facility has a grass clad undulating timber frame roof on the main food court building, as well as an additional 100 bedroom room hotel and petrol forecourt facility.

What does the future hold for MSA’s
With regard to new build activity in the MSA market, the development of new sites is naturally constrained due to the national coverage of existing sites. Furthermore, the need to commit high levels of capital expenditure on start-up costs, in conjunction with tight regulatory conditions, restricts new developments.

Whilst the regulations have relaxed slightly, for example, the strict spacing between motorway services by way of distance/drive-time can be overcome if there is a genuine ‘need’ for a facility in a certain location, the costs and time make it difficult for new operators to enter into the market. So whilst there are only six MSA operators within the sector being Welcome Break, Roadchef, Moto, Extra, Westmorland and EuroGarages, there is plenty activity and potential for further changes in the outlook of the MSA.

For further discussions or detail on Motorway Service Area’s do not hesitate to get in touch with the Automotive & Roadside specialists at Rapleys.

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.

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’ 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!



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.


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. 


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.

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.

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.


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.

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.


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.

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.


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

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.

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.



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.



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.

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.

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.

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)


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

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

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.


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.

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.


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.


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.

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



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



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



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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.

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,


Rapleys is pleased to announce the following appointments who have joined our team in the last three months:


Balvinder Sagoo – BSc (Hons) MRICS
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
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
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
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
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.



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:


  • 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.


  • 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.


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.

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.


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.


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 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?


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





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.


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:

Co-op 6.50%6.00%


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.


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 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.


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.


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. 


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.


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 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.

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


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


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%



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 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?


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.


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.


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.

    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.

    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

    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.

    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?
    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.

    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.

    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.


    • 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.


    • 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.