Courts and Inquiries
- HMCTS continues to list its weekly operational summary, although at the time of writing last week’s update has not yet appeared.
- The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020/500 come into force today, easing lockdown restrictions. The Explanatory Note says:
These Regulations amend the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020/350). Regulation 5 is amended to clarify the circumstances in which hotels may provide accommodation to “key workers”. Regulation 6 is amended to extend the list of reasonable excuses for which express provision is made, including permitting people to leave their homes to visit public open spaces for open-air recreation with members of their households, and to permit people to exercise or engage in open-air recreation with one member of another household. Regulation 10 is amended to increase the fines which may be imposed by fixed penalty notice. Garden centres and outdoor sports courts are added to the list of businesses which may remain open by an amendment to Schedule 2.
- The government have removed average timescales for planning appeals.
- The government has announced new guidance “to get the country building homes for the future”. This includes allowing builders to agree more flexible working hours, enabling local councils and developers to publicise planning applications through social media rather than posters and leaflets, and allowing smaller developers to defer payments to local government. It comes at the same time as the government seeks to re-start the housing market by allowing house moves.
Public Law, Health & Social Care Update
- On 4 May 2020, the Court of Appeal heard an appeal in respect of the rates of pay to immigration detainees, which are fixed at £1 for most work and £1.25 for special projects. The appeal is of wider public law importance since one of this issues raised is whether, in challenging a policy or practice, an individual claimant is in time if a claim is brought within three months of the policy or practice applying to him; or whether time runs from the adoption of the policy or practice in question.
- On 7 May 2020, the Court of Appeal allowed a challenge to the rules regarding the imposition on leave of conditions allowing No Recourse to Public Funds on grounds that the scheme infringes the article 3 rights of those affected. The Court determined that the regime comprising the relevant Immigration Rules, in particular GEN 1.11A of Appendix FM, and the instructions to caseworkers, was required to be amended to make clear to caseworkers the circumstances in which they are obliged not to impose a condition of “no recourse to public funds”, or to lift such a condition if it has already been imposed, in the case of a person who is not currently destitute but will imminently become so without access to public funds.
- In a first for the UK, the Independent Inquiry Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) resumed on 11th May by hearing evidence virtually. The inquiry is proceeding with the religious organisations hearings, which will examine the response of various religious groups to child sexual abuse including non-conformist Christian denominations, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists, Methodists, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Buddhism.
- The Home Office has been ordered to disclose sensitive commercial data concerning whether its private contractors have met their contractual targets for housing destitute failed asylum seekers. The disclosure application was part of a wider systemic challenge to the Home Office’s accommodation support scheme under s.4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
- On 11 May 2020, the Government published its COVID-19 recovery strategy. In it, the Government stated that its intention was that non-essential retail would re-open in phases, with the earliest date for that to begin being 1 June. The re-opening of hospitality, leisure and personal care businesses is intended to occur no earlier than 4 July. Notably, despite recent furore regarding landlords presenting winding up petitions against tenants and promises that legislation would be passed to deal with that situation, there is no mention of whether that legislation will emerge or whether the moratorium on forfeiture will be extended beyond 30 June.
- Judgment was handed down on 11 May 2020 in Arkin v Marshall  EWCA Civ 620. The Court of Appeal held that PD51Z is vires, not inconsistent with the Coronavirus Act 2020, and is compatible with Article 6 of the ECHR. The Court of Appeal also held that the court retains the power to lift the stay imposed by PD51Z but that it would only be appropriate in the most exceptional circumstances. Stephen Knafler QC acted for the successful Respondents.
- HMLR has published a list of the work it is prioritising, which is cases where there is a prescribed period under the Land Registration Rules 2003 or Land Registration Act 2002.
- Despite the announcement that the government “has temporarily banned commercial property landlords from issuing statutory demands and winding up petitions”, the draft Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill has still not appeared before parliament. As such, the detail of the Governments proposals are not yet available for scrutiny.
- The issues reported with the HM Land Registry on line services (including MapSearch and Property Alert) have now been fully resolved according to HMLR’s web site.
- Away from Covid-19, the Supreme Court have given a definitive ruling in Duval v 11-13 Randolph Crescent Ltd  UKSC 18 as to how landlords must approach applications for consent where enforcement covenants are also in the Lease. The decision is considered by Brooke Lyne and Simon Allison here.
- The Government (Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick MP) has announced that the 2021 Rates Revaluation has been postponed. Legislation had been introduced to bring the next revaluation forward by one year from 2022 to 2021, but following the recent economic impacts of the pandemic (and significant lobbying by ratepayers’ representatives) a postponement has been announced to provide more certainty for businesses. This will mean that the 2017 rating list will be in place for a further year and the next rating list compilation date will now be 1 April 2022. However, the antecedent valuation date (AVD) currently remains set in legislation as 1 April 2019 (by the Rating Lists (Valuation Date) (England) Order 2018/553). Therefore, unless subject to further change, this means that, unusually, the antecedent valuation date will be three years, rather than two years, before the compilation date. It also means that so far there is no change to the fact that the new rating list will be set according to the rental values and economic circumstances as at 1 April 2019 and will still be blind to the economic effects of COVID 19.
- There have also been recent Government announcements providing additional grant funding to small businesses with fixed property costs who do not benefit from the expansion of rates reliefs. For further information see here and here.
Landmark Chambers has the following upcoming webinars:
14-May 11:00 Developing in the Green Belt
18-May 11:00 Current Issues in Environmental Law Part 3
20-May 11:00 Viability in Planning: Coping with COVID-19
21-May 11:00 Injunctions etc against protesters and travellers
21-May 16:00 How and why the No Recourse to Public Funds policy has been held to be unlawful (R (W) v SSHD)