Welcome to our Summer 2017 round-up of issues relevant to UK construction businesses.

Each of the summaries below links to a recent article from colleagues specialising in health and safety, planning, employment or real estate law. For further information, please contact one of the partners listed under the key contacts section.

Health and Safety issues

  • The Sentencing Council has issued proposals for four new guidelines on the sentencing of manslaughter offences. The consultation sets out draft guidelines on four separate offences: unlawful act manslaughter, gross negligence manslaughter, manslaughter by reason of loss of control and manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility. The Council has underlined that it will not be reviewing the legislation and case law upon which the offences are based. Instead it seeks the views of as many people as possible on the draft guidance for the sentencing of manslaughter and in particular on:
    • the principal factors that make any of the offences included within the draft guidelines more or less serious;
    • the additional factors that should influence the sentence;
    • the approach taken to structuring the draft guidelines;
    • the sentences that should be passed for manslaughter offences; and
    • anything else that those interested think should be considered.

The Council will hold consultation meetings and will interview some judges to ascertain how they would apply the guidance. The consultation will continue until 10 October 2017. You can read the consultation here and respond to consultation questions online here.

  • Safety concerns raised by the tragedy of the Grenfell fire have triggered a government review of the Building Regulations. As reported by BBC Newsnight, the safety issues uncovered by the fire have raised concerns about the regulations, their interpretation by the building industry, and the processes used both for testing materials and obtaining sign-off on materials by building inspectors. With the complexity of the investigations following the Grenfell fire, the review process could be a difficult one for the industry. In the meantime, the use of materials in construction will be under scrutiny. (You can read the Newsnight article here.)

Planning

  • What happens to old [planning] applications? The question of what powers local planning authorities (LPA) have to deal with old planning applications is raised by both applicants, concerned that their planning application may be unilaterally withdrawn, and LPAs, keen to understand their options for dealing with undetermined applications. Georgina Reeves explains more.
  • The House of Commons Library published a briefing paper on "Planning for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects" (NSIPs) (number 06881, 13 June 2017), which require a type of consent known as "development consent". The paper applies to England and, where specified, to Wales. The paper explains the legal framework for NSIPs under the Planning Act 2008, the application process for Development Consent Orders (to be decided in accordance with National Policy Statements), the Development Consent Process and the status of the National Infrastructure Commission and the potential future change.
  • Viability Decisions – Care Needed on "Market Value" Assumptions: Roy Pinnock reviews the recent Parkhurst Road appeal decision and how it emphasises the importance of understanding how land value expectation (and so the price for land) should reflect planning policy requirements.

Employment issues for construction businesses

Real Estate

  • Five things landowners need to know about the new Electronic Communications Code: the Digital Economy Act 2017 sets out a new Electronic Communications Code (to come into force on a date to be appointed by the Secretary of State) designed to put in place modern regulation to support the timely and cost-effective roll-out of digital communications infrastructure. It overhauls the existing Code (contained in Schedule 2 to the Telecommunications Act 1984) and seeks to strike a balance between the competing interests of landowners, operators and the wider public. Emma Broad and Carla Revelo explain the provisions of note to landowners.
  • Rating – the road to revaluation: Looking down the road – an overview: on 1 April 2017, the business rates revaluation took effect. The changes came amidst a time of upheaval and controversy in the ratings world. Bryan Johnston takes a look.