We round up the key changes to legislation expected in the year ahead that could affect owners and developers of commercial property.

This year will see the introduction of new legislation affecting commercial property. How might the most important of these affect you and your business?

ARE YOU LOOKING TO CONVERT OFFICE PREMISES TO RESIDENTIAL?

The temporary permitted development rights introduced by the government allowing a change of use from office to residential without planning permission will become permanent. A number of authorities have exemption areas (including areas within the City of London, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Southwark and Kensington) and others have introduced Article 4 directions to prevent the rights applying. Importantly, demolition and rebuilding of the property may be permitted alongside the change of use. We await further details by way of secondary legislation.

THE END OF EMPTY PROPERTY BUSINESS RATES RELIEF

After 30 September 2016, the empty property rate relief scheme for newly built commercial buildings will cease to apply. The additional 15 months or 12 months of rate relief that previously benefited newly built commercial property will no longer be available.

In addition note that The Chancellor in his autumn statement indicated that the government would conduct a review of the future structure of business rates by the 2016 Budget. The Business Rates regime (long considered ripe for review) may just be reformed.

DO YOU OWN COMMERCIAL PROPERTY WITH A LOW EFFICIENCY STANDARD?

Minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES) will take effect this year. From 1 April 2016 Energy Performance Certificates must reflect an 'E' rating or above in order for a commercial property to be marketed.

It is almost certainly the government's long term goal to increase the EPC rating towards an 'A' rating. If you are buying or taking an interest in a property it might therefore be worth considering how viable, given costs, it is to increase the energy efficiency of the property to meet the higher standard that might apply in years to come.

ARE YOU INTERESTED IN INVESTING IN AN ENTERPRISE ZONE?

The government intends to announce eighteen new enterprise zones and extend eight existing zones with effect from April 2016. The new and extended zones will benefit from reduced business rates and 100% first year allowances for expenditure on plant and machinery.

DO YOU BENEFIT FROM VALUABLE CAPITAL ALLOWANCES?

The ability to recover capital allowances in a particular year  on a 100% basis (where applicable) is to be capped at £200,000, down from £500,000, from April this year.

DO YOU HAVE PREMISES ON A FLOOD PLAIN?

Flooding has been a major issue in recent times and is likely to remain at the top of property agenda in 2016. The Flood Reinsurance scheme (Flood Re) is anticipated to take effect in April 2016, but not all properties will benefit. Owners of commercial properties in particular will be left to find cover in the open market.

AFFECTED BY HS2?

It is likely that the legislation to permit Phase 1 of the HS2 scheme will be enacted, which will see progress to build the section between London and Birmingham. This being the case construction may begin on Phase 1 in 2017.

It looks as though 2016 is going to be an interesting year!