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

The summaries below contain updates and links to recent articles from colleagues specialising in planning, health and safety, regulatory or employment law. For further information, please contact one of the partners listed on the right.

Planning

Permission in principle: an "alternative" route to obtaining planning permission?

  • "Permission in principle" is a new tool for obtaining planning permission proposed as part of the Housing and Planning Bill. It seems designed solely to expedite the delivery of more housing. The broad intention behind it is to separate "in principle" matters such as use and location from technical details, which are left to be agreed later. Jamie McKie in our planning team explains more about this new "alternative" route to obtaining planning permission here: "Permission to land"

20% hike in planning application fees – a step closer

  • In August, the Local Government Association (LGA) warned local taxpayers that they would be forced to spend £1 billion covering the cost of planning applications by 2022. The LGA has called on the government to allow councils to increase planning fees and also to commit to testing a fair and transparent scheme of local fee setting, to allow councils to recover actual costs. (You can read the LGA's report here: LGA calls on government to allow them to increase planning fees).

The government has now moved a step closer to delivering one of the Housing White Paper commitments to increase nationally-set planning application fees by 20% by publishing the draft Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications, Deemed Applications, Requests and Site Visits) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 (Regulations) to bring this proposal forward. Georgina Reeves explains more here.

Health and Safety

Health and safety – the need to go above and beyond

  • High fines and prison sentences for health and safety breaches are becoming more common. With increasing pressure to comply with health and safety legislation, we consider the new challenges facing construction: "the need to go above and beyond".

Updated interim safety advice for building owners to ensure the safety of residents

  • The DCLG has updated its "Building Safety Programme" guidance website on which advice can be found for landlords and building owners on a variety of issues arising from the Grenfell fire. You can sign up to the DCLG's weekly Building Safety Programme email updates here and find more information about Grenfell Tower here.
  • Following the Grenfell fire and the scale of remediation works consequently highlighted as necessary, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has published its Updated interim safety advice for building owners. The guidance relates to "circumstances in which it has been confirmed that the core (“filler”) within Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) in conjunction with other elements of the cladding system on a building, does not meet relevant requirements of the Building Regulations guidance". This latest guidance "supersedes Annex A to Melanie Dawes’ letter of 22 June on Safety Checks following the Grenfell Tower fire".

Regulatory: Data Protection

  • All businesses should now be preparing for the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) which will apply directly to the UK as a EU member state from 25 May 2018. In addition, the Data Protection Bill, which was published in September 2017, is now working its way through Parliament. The bill adds a number of key components to the GDPR which you can read about here: "UK publishes Data Protection Bill".

House Building

"The CMA is now consulting on the new undertakings that have been offered by the NHBC. These proposals would oblige the NHBC to clearly display on its website that builders who are members of the NHBC can source structural warranties from both the NHBC and other providers, or from another provider alone. Given regulatory developments, these proposals would also remove any requirement on the NHBC to oversee warranties provided by its competitors. The proposed new undertakings would replace the previous undertakings and remain in force for 15 years. They are set out in Annex 1 of the CMA’s final decision" (which you can find here).

Employment issues

The continuing importance of carrying out right to work checks on all employees

  • Pre-Brexit uncertainty about the rights of EU nationals working in the UK continues. We await confirmation of what documentation they will require to prove any ongoing right to work once the UK leaves the EU. What is certain is that it will remain important for employers to continue to check the eligibility of all their employees to work in the UK. Read more here: The continuing importance of carrying out right to work checks on all employees.

The impact of the Supreme Court's decision that Employment Tribunal fees are unlawful

  • Following the Supreme Court's decision that Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal fees are unlawful, the government (at the time of writing in September) is still working out a system to repay paid tribunal fees, including to those parties that have paid the fee as part of a costs award. Notwithstanding the forthcoming announcement, the employment tribunals have already begun to deal with claims that are, on the face of it, out of time (having been re-issued now that no fee is payable). Read more here: The impact of the Supreme Court's decision that Employment Tribunal fees are unlawful.
  • The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has held that the monitoring of personal messages on a work-related internet messaging account did breach the Article 8 right to privacy. We take a look at what this means for employers: Privacy of personal communications at work.