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Local Authority round-up 03/03/23

Our Local Authority round up provides brief summaries of topical information on a weekly basis, to keep you aware of the changes and updates relevant to you.


Councils raise concern for infrastructure funding under plans to replace section 106

The County Councils Network (CNN) has cautioned that Government plans to replace section 106 contributions with a new infrastructure levy risks reducing the amount of funding available for roads, schools and medical centres. The warning comes in a new report published by CCN and Pragmatic Advisory that sets out a number of concerns about the developer contributions system, including a fear that the proposed reform will be a “jack of all trades” that will leave little money for infrastructure. Under the current system, Section 106 contributions from developers provide funding for affordable housing as well as site-specific infrastructure, while the Community Infrastructure Levy also raises funds for large-scale infrastructure. Plans to replace the current approach have been set out in the Levelling Up and Regeneration White Paper and will involve the introduction of a new infrastructure levy, which will be spent on a wider array of things, including affordable housing and local council services but the report warned that this may see spending on infrastructure improvements reduce. The CCN warned that the Government must ensure that there is sufficient funding left over in the new system to build infrastructure to support new homes and that the proposed reforms risk “simply replacing one broken system with another”. The report recommended the new system has a greater focus on capturing funds for infrastructure such as roads and public services.

For more information please click here.

International trade

Government announces new deal on Northern Ireland Protocol

The government has issued an announcement that it has renegotiated the Northern Ireland Protocol to the UK-EU withdrawal agreement. The new arrangement, which replaces the old Northern Ireland Protocol, is called the Windsor Framework and was agreed by the Prime Minister and European Commission President. Some main aspects of the new agreement are as follows.

  • Goods destined for Northern Ireland will travel through a new Green Lane, with a separate Red Lane for goods at risk of moving on to the EU. The intention is to reduce the documentation required for imports of food from the UK and ensure that food can be sold in Northern Ireland provided it complies with UK regulations.
  • People sending parcels to friends and family or doing their shopping online, will not have to complete customs paperwork.
  • The UK government will be able to make critical VAT and excise changes for the whole of the UK, including on alcohol duty.
  • Changes will ensure that British products such as trees, plants, and seed potatoes can be sold in Northern Ireland and the Protocol’s restrictions on pet travel will be relaxed.
  • Drugs approved for use by the UK’s medicines regulator will be automatically available in Northern Ireland.
  • EU law will only apply in Northern Ireland to the minimum extent necessary to avoid a hard border with Ireland and allow Northern Irish businesses to continue accessing the EU market. The Northern Ireland Assembly will have a new right to call on the UK to veto the application of EU goods rules that would have significant and lasting effects on everyday lives.

To give businesses and individuals time to prepare, the implementation of the agreement will be phased in, with some of the new arrangements for goods, agrifood, pets and plant movements introduced later this year and the remainder in 2024. In the meantime, the current temporary standstill arrangements will continue to apply.

For more information please click here.

Planning and housing

Maidstone Borough Council found to have misinterpreted its own planning policy

Maidstone Borough Council will have to reconsider a planning application after the Court of Appeal found that it misinterpreted its own planning policy on brownfield developments. In the recent case, Lord Justices Lewis, Moylan and Bean found that the council should have considered the environmental value of the applicant’s site as a whole, which included surrounding gardens, despite the council’s argument that the definition of “site” did not extend beyond the specific buildings that the application concerned. The case involved Maidstone’s interpretation of policy DM5 in its local plan, which was adopted in 2017, which provides that the residential development of brownfield sites in the countryside which are not residential gardens will be permitted if it meets certain criteria, including a criterion that the “site is not of high environmental value”. In January 2021, Maidstone granted permission to convert two barns that sit on a 0.2-hectare plot from studios to dwellings. The application also requested permission to demolish and rebuild at a lower height a section of wall which forms part of a historic walled garden. However, a resident who owns a neighbouring Grade II listed building named Hollingbourne House challenged the permission, arguing that the council wrongly applied its brownfield site policy in making the decision. The claim was originally dismissed by the High Court in July 2022 before being heard by the Court of Appeal who quashed the planning permission and the listed building consent and remitted the matter to the respondent. The council will now have to reconsider the application, deciding whether or not the application site has high environmental value and whether the other criteria in DM5 are satisfied.

For more information please click here.

Social housing managers must gain professional qualifications under new rules

Housing Secretary Michael Gove has announced that social housing managers must gain professional qualifications under new rules to “protect residents and raise standards in the sector.” The move comes as part of the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill which will give the Regulator of Social Housing new powers to hold landlords to account, including the ability to enter properties with only 48 hours’ notice and make emergency repairs. Under the measures, around 25,000 managers across the sector will be required to have an appropriate level housing management qualification regulated by Ofqual, equivalent to a Level 4 or 5 Certificate or Diploma in Housing, or a foundation degree from the Chartered Institute of Housing. Mr Gove said “The changes we are delivering today will make sure social housing managers across the country have the right skills and experience to deliver an excellent service and drive up standards across the board.”

For more information please click here.

Court rules rent repayment orders cannot be made against superior landlords

The Supreme Court has upheld a Court of Appeal ruling that a rent repayment order cannot be made against a superior landlord. Rent Repayment Orders are orders that can be made against landlords that have committed certain housing-related offences. They require a landlord to repay an amount of rent paid by a tenant (or pay to a local housing authority an amount of universal credit paid in respect of rent). The question which recently arose was whether they can only be made against a tenant’s immediate landlord, or whether they can be made against a landlord higher up in a chain of tenancies (e.g. the landlord of the tenant’s immediate landlord) – referred to as a “superior landlord”. The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal and held that a Rent Repayment Order cannot be made against a superior landlord.

For more information please click here.

Upcoming webinars

Webinar series: Data Protection

Register your interest for our on-going webinar series on ‘Data Protection’ for in-house lawyers, DPOs and senior management in private and public sector organisations. The series will run throughout 2023 providing attendees with up to date information on key Data Protection topics. The short one hour sessions will be delivered by our experts with allocated time for you to ask any questions you may have. The second in our series ‘Data Security’ will take place on Tuesday 14th March.

For more information or to book your place please click here.

Immigration update for businesses holding sponsor licenses

We’re hosting a free webinar on 16 March 2023 aimed at businesses that hold sponsor licences. Our very own Immigration experts Flora Mewies & Roisin Patton will be giving specific guidance on how to meet compliance obligations to keep their existing visa holders and recruit more in the future if required.

For more information or to book your place please click here.

If you have any questions about the issues raised in this update, please do not hesitate to get in touch.


Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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