Courts and Inquiries
- The Court of Appeal has set out some ‘cardinal points’ on remote hearings in public cases where children are involved: RE A (Children) (Remote Hearing: Care and Placement Orders)  EWCA Civ 583.
- Some housebuilders have been reported as moving towards reopening building sites. Planning Resource has referred to newspaper reports that Redrow has joined Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey and Vistry in announcing plans to reopen sites.
- The Times has reported that research by property firm Knight Frank has found that there will be about 104,000 private homes built across the UK this year, “35 per cent less than expected”. The company “has estimated that 56,000 fewer homes will be delivered than forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility before the lockdown”, the paper says.
- Meanwhile, consultancy Barton Willmore has found that the coronavirus pandemic may see annual housing completions plummet by one third this year and stay around that level for the remainder of the current Parliament. Consistent with that are reports in Planning Resource regarding the impact of the coronavirus outbreak is likely to become a key issue in terms of Councils being able to demonstrate a five-year housing land supply
- At least one s. 78 appeal (decided on the basis of written reps) has now been decided without a site visit due to coronavirus (App/P5870/W/19/3242911).
- Inspectors on the enforcement side are also starting to take notice of COVID-19. In one appeal (App/N5090/C/19/3235545), Inspector Russell took account of COVID-19 and the PD51Z stay on possession proceedings in deciding to extend the period of compliance with an enforcement notice, so that tenants in the offending HMO property were not evicted at a time when it would have been extremely difficult for them to find a new property.
- A new piece on Planning Resource considers the flexibility over requiring CIL payments. CIL payments are an important issue for the industry in the current circumstances.
- In a guest post for Carbon Brief, an electricity analyst, explains why his analysis shows that electricity demand in Europe has fallen by 14% – and CO2 emissions by 39% –as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. He also shows how solar and wind power have reached record highs over the past month, but cautions that this “postcard from the future” also highlights a lack of flexibility, with many power plants unable to switch off in response to low or negative market prices.
Public Law, Health & Social Care Update
- Dr Fred Cowell at Birkbeck has published an article on the human rights issues surrounding lifting the lockdown on the UK Constitutional Law Blog.
- On Thursday 23 April, two doctors launched a legal challenge against the government’s guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE). According to their solicitors’ website, they are challenging on the grounds of
- “It is not in line with the international standards set by the World Health Organisation or domestic legislation regarding health and safety at work;
- It exposes healthcare workers to a greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and fails to address the greater risks faced by BAME healthcare workers;
- It is unclear and has resulted in inconsistent practices across NHS Trusts;
- It fails to make clear the level of risk faced by healthcare workers depending on the level of PPE they can access or that healthcare workers have a right to refuse to work without adequate PPE;
- The guidance falls short of recommendations previously published by PHE.”
- The chief coroner for England and Wales, Mark Lucraft QC, has issued guidance that “an inquest would not be a satisfactory means of deciding whether adequate general policies and arrangements were in place for provision of PPE to healthcare workers”. The chief coroner emphasised that an inquest is not the right forum for addressing concerns about high level government or public policy. This guidance has been controversial in some parts of the media.
- The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has published guidance for social landlords in England regarding allocations and transfers during Covid-19. The guidance advises all social landlords to pause non-essential allocation and transfer activity.
- The International Accounting Standards Board has sought comments on the “Exposure Draft“, a proposal to amend IRFS 16 to permit lessees not to assess whether COVID-19 related rent concessions are lease modifications for the purposes of accounting for changes in lease payments.
- The Housing Law Practitioners Association was granted permission to intervene in Arkin v Marshall, the challenge to the legality of Practice Direction 51ZA which was heard yesterday by the Court of Appeal. The Government also reportedly applied to intervene. Stephen Knafler QC acted for the Respondents. The Chancellor of the High Court said it was understood by the Court that the matter was urgent.
- On 27 April 2020, Mr Justice Snowden gave the court’s first reported consideration of the proposal by the Government to ban landlords from petitioning to wind up tenants based on rent arrears in Re Saint Benedict’s Land Trust Limited and re Shorts Gardens LLP  EWHC 1001 (Ch). While decided on other grounds, Mr Justice Snowden indicated he would refuse to restrain the presentation of a winding up petition based on the prospective legislation where the creditor was a local authority petitioning for unpaid rates given it was “overwhelmingly likely that the proposed legislation will be limited to companies in certain identified sectors of economic activity, and to relate to […] claims by landlords for arrears of rent” (see para. 83).
- Chambers is proud to be launching its Webinar series Property in Quarantine. This will comprise two sets of webinars intended as an introduction (or re-introduction) for practitioners to two areas of property law which will become increasingly relevant over the next few months and years: The regulation of the private rented sector in England, and the basics of property insolvency. Full details can be found here.