What are the current planning restrictions on supermarkets, food retailers and distribution centres concerning deliveries?
On 13 March 2020 the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government issued a Written Statement in respect of delivery restrictions.
In this respect, many supermarkets, food retailers and distribution centres in England operate under planning restrictions (conditions and/or obligations) which limit the time and number of deliveries from lorries and other delivery vehicles which can take place particularly at night primarily to protect the residential amenity of nearby residential property.
Key points in the Statement include;
- Given the exceptional challenges facing the UK from the coronavirus, it is vital that deliveries of food, sanitary and other essential products over the coming weeks can be made as quickly and safely as possible, minimising disruption to the supply chains. The likely pressures on driver capacity mean additional flexibility is needed so that retailers can accept deliveries throughout the day and night where necessary.
- That planning enforcement is discretionary and that local planning authorities should act proportionately in responding to suspected breaches of planning control.
- That local planning authorities should not seek to undertake planning enforcement action which would result in unnecessarily restricting deliveries of food and other essential deliveries during this period having regard to their legal obligations.
The Statement acknowledges that the increased frequency of deliveries particularly at night could have a temporary impact on residents. It therefore concludes that the Government will review the need for the flexibility outlined in the Statement after the pressure from the coronavirus has reduced and that it is the intention to withdraw it once the immediate urgency has subsided.
A link to the Written Statement is below.
On 30th April 2020, the CMA issued a guidance note setting out its views about how the law operates in relation to refunds.
Where a contract is not performed as agreed, the CMA considers that in most cases, consumer protection law will generally allow consumers to obtain a refund.
This includes the following situations:
- Where a business has cancelled a contract without providing any of the promised goods or services
- Where no service is provided by a business, for example because this is prevented by Government public health measures
- A consumer cancels, or is prevented from receiving any services, because Government public health measures mean they are not allowed to use the services.
In the CMA’s view, this will usually apply even where the consumer has paid what the business says is a non-refundable deposit or advance payment.
This positon reflects the CMA’s previous guidance which they had issued in relation to the requirement of fairness in consumer contracts under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which was that a clause in a contract that gives a blanket entitlement to a trader to cancel a contract and retain deposits paid is likely to be unfair, and therefore unenforceable – it would be unfair to a consumer to lose their deposit if the contract is terminated without any fault on their part, and if they had received no benefit for the payments made.
The CMA’s latest guidance therefore confirms their view that the Covid-19 outbreak does not change the basic rights of the consumer, and that they should not have to pay for goods or services that they do not receive.
Directors of a company that is in, or potentially facing, financial difficulty have a duty to act in the best interests of creditors as a whole. Failure to comply with that duty can have consequences for directors (including personal liability and disqualification if directors get it wrong).
The duty to act in the best interests of creditors as a whole begins when the company is (or in some cases is potentially or at risk of becoming) insolvent i.e. its assets are worth less than its liabilities and/or the business is unable to pay its liabilities as and when they fall due. However, just because a company is insolvent doesn’t always necessarily mean than an insolvency process is inevitable. Sometimes, the insolvency might just be caused by a temporary cashflow problem or perhaps wider problems in the business that can be overcome by making changes to the business itself.
In addition to that, the potential liability of directors ramps up even further when the company reaches the stage that the directors have concluded (or ought to have concluded) that there was no reasonable prospect of the business avoiding liquidation or administration. If the business reaches that stage, in addition to having to act in the best interests of creditors as a whole, directors can find themselves personally liable unless, from the time the directors ought to have reached that conclusion, they took every step that they ought to have done to minimise the loss to creditors. This is known as wrongful trading.
On the 25th June 2020, the government introduced new legislation – the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 – which includes measures to temporarily relax the rules around wrongful trading with the proposed changes to take effect retrospectively from the 1st March 2020. Essentially, the changes say that any court looking at a potential wrongful trading claim against a director is to assume that the director is not responsible for worsening the company’s financial position between 1st March 2020 and the 30th September 2020. Whilst the wrongful trading rules have relaxed, directors still need to proceed with caution if the business is potentially insolvent as the new Act does alter other potential pitfalls for directors, like the risk of breaching their duties or allowing the company to enter into transactions that can potentially be challenged.
The support being offered by the government is potentially a lifeline for businesses under pressure through no fault of their own, but notwithstanding the recent changes to the wrongful trading rules it is still likely to be important for the board to carefully consider whether it is appropriate to make use of the loans, grants and tax forbearance that are on offer.
Exactly what the board should consider will vary from business to business and getting it right can sometimes involve balancing several different (and at times conflicting) priorities, challenges and concerns.
Residents will be obliged to:
- Not act in a way that creates a significant risk of a building safety risk materialising
- Not interfere with building safety equipment in the common parts
- Comply with an Accountable Person’s request for information in relation to the assessment and management of building safety risks.
The Accountable Person then has powers in relation to these duties, including:
- Issuing a contravention notice, requiring a resident to pay for replacement or repair of safety equipment which they have interfered with
- Applying for court orders in certain situations
- Requesting access at a reasonable time (in writing with at least 48 hours’ notice) to a resident’s property for the purposes of assessing or managing building safety risks, or checking compliance with the resident’s duties as above.
Secondary legislation is still awaited to bring these provisions into force, so the timing is unknown, but it will likely be within the next 12 months in line with the anticipated timetable for the remainder of the Act.
- The Pensions Regulator has published regularly-updated guidance for employers.
- It will take “a proportionate and risk-based approach towards enforcement decisions … with the aim of supporting both employers and savers”. In other words, the law remains the same, but the Regulator will show restraint in enforcement against breaches.
As with a Will, your solicitor can take instructions by telephone, Skype or a similar tool. Your solicitor can then post or email the documentation to you. As with Wills, your signature and those of your proposed Attorneys will need to be witnessed, but in this case only by one other person. However, there are specific requirements as to who can witness your signature. The witness must be aged 18 or older and cannot be your Attorney but they can be your Certificate Provider.
Your Certificate Provider must either be someone you have known personally for at least two years or an appropriate professional. However, they must not be your Attorney and they must not be a member of your family or the partner, boyfriend or girlfriend of a member of your family or a business partner or employee of yours.
Also, if you are living in a care home, the Certificate Provider cannot be the owner, manager, director or employee of the home you live in.
Given the current restrictions on movement, if you have regular medical checks you could ask your GP or another medical professional to witness your signature and act as your Certificate Provider when you go to see them or they come to you. Alternatively, if someone you have known for two years or more is dropping off essentials, they could act as a witness and Certificate Provider remembering to retain the necessary distance and protective measures.
Concerning your Attorney(s) you cannot act as their witness. Otherwise, anyone aged 18 or older can act as their witness, including the other Attorney. Ideally, a witness to your or your Attorney’s signatures should not be a family member for the sake of impartiality and to avoid disputes. If necessary they can be.