Editor: The government giveth with one hand and taketh with the other in its planning system reforms (‘Industry reacts to Boris Johnson’s Covid-19 recovery speech’).
While the regulations will help to stimulate local economies and provide more housing in town centres, architects, developers and local authorities will need to take care to ensure good building design is achieved and poor-quality housing development is avoided.
Developers are still obliged to adhere to the common law and other statutory obligations and sites will need to be de-risked. They will need to consider issues such as building control, health and safety, rights of light implications, party wall matters and access to adjoining land.
If developers can simply ‘get on with’ redevelopment in the absence of planning constraints, we should expect the number of right of light enquiries to insurers to increase, in an attempt to prevent delays on developments.
The government could go further and permit the overriding of rights of light on permitted developments, to unlock land further. This would be akin to appropriation, removing injunction risks and converting any redress/remedy due to statutory compensation, to speed up delivery and limit development risk.
Developers looking to convert shops and brownfield sites in built-up areas should not discount neighbouring owners’ and occupants’ interests. Access to adjoining land owned by others is not a right that is likely to exist under permitted development rules. If access is not available under the Party Wall Act 1996 for scaffolding, hoarding, cranes and the like, discussions with the neighbours will need to be had.
Where works are notifiable under the 1996 Act, the process provides the developer with a framework to resolve disputes with neighbours – this will be of greater importance if the normal planning consultation process is no longer required. Adhering to these obligations can also help a developer bring forward plans that conform with the government’s ideals on space standards, making use of existing shared structures and ensuring the provision of high-quality accommodation.
Cautious developers seeking to minimise risk may also consider precautionary schedules of condition of neighbouring properties, to protect themselves from spurious damage claims.
James Adam, head of party wall and neighbourly matters service, Hollis