REAL INSIGHT - Property Update - September 2012

Behind the housing headlines

For all the excitement over the Government's announcements to Get Britain Building Again, very few of the measures announced have proceeded further than ministerial pronouncements. Nonetheless there have been interesting things happening which you would be forgiven for having missed:

• The ability to extend the life of planning permissions has itself been given a new lease of life. This temporary measure only applied to permissions granted before 1 October 2009 but has now been extended to cover those granted before 1 October 2010. Given the standard 3 year lifespan, this change gives a second chance for many unimplemented permissions due to expire in the next 12 months.

• Councils will also have to explain in their decision notices how they have worked proactively with applicants to find solutions to problems. If treated as more than a box-ticking exercise, this would give a real boost to the similar duty already contained in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

• The Community Right to Bid has also come into force. Holders of assets of value to the community may now find themselves having to give locals a chance to bid before they can sell.

Keep an eye on the Government's planning changes on Mishcon de Reya's planning blog.

Taxing times for prime resi

Mishcon de Reya has responded to the Government consultation document, "Ensuring the fair taxation of residential property transactions", which covers:

• The Government's new 15% SDLT charge on corporate purchases of UK residential properties worth over £2 million; and

• The Government's proposed introduction of an annual charge and capital gains tax charge in relation to UK residential properties worth over £2 million in corporate structures. A headline summary of our concerns and recommendations is set out here.

These include our concerns about: perceived SDLT avoidance; pushing non-doms to hold UK property directly; the extension of the capital gains tax (CGT) regime to non-residents; dismantling corporate structures; and property development businesses.

Jonathan Legg and Ned El-Imad recently participated in Hamptons's SDLT roundtable to discuss these issues; click here for FT coverage. If you are affected by any of these changes, please contact Andrew Goldstone, Jonathan Legg or Kassim Meghjee for advice.

Clampdown on clamping

New laws come into force on 1 October 2012 that will ban car clamping and towing by anyone other than the police, local authorities, government agencies and bailiffs. Property owners or occupiers who flout the ban will commit a criminal offence.

The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 introduces a new criminal offence of immobilising, moving or restricting the movement of a vehicle without "lawful authority" on private land. It is not possible for lawful authority to be conferred by obtaining the owner's consent, and any notices warning of such parking restrictions will be ineffective.

The maximum penalty is an unlimited fine following conviction on indictment, and on summary conviction a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum (currently £5,000).

However, the Act has introduced provisions for the keeper of a vehicle to be held liable for unpaid parking charges where the identity of the driver is not known, provided that a specified procedure is followed. It also allows regulations to be made to extend the powers of the police to remove vehicles from private land where they are illegally, obstructively or dangerously parked or have broken down.

The real deal

A busy September for the London property market! This month we advised D2 Private on the sale of 23 Savile Row in Mayfair and CBRE on its high-profile acquisition of Franc Warwick Chartered Surveyors.

Deconstructing construction

The first in our series of roundtable Construction Breakfast Workshops covered "Financial Security in Construction Projects". Look out for details of our next workshop, to be held at Summit House in November.

Please email us for further notifications or if you have specific topics to be included.