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Autumn Statement 2013: A Look at The Key Property Issues

View profile for Ian Riley
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Last week’s Autumn Statement contained a number of announcements which affect the property industry. Here are a few key issues which affect my work as a commercial property solicitor:

Planning

Ordinarily planning permission is required to change the permitted use of a premises.  There is also legislation for “permitted development” which allows certain changes without the requirement for obtaining planning permission. The government has announced that it will consult on a new permitted development, allowing a change of use from A1 (retail) to A3 (restaurant) or D2 (leisure).

It was also announced that the restrictions on mezzanine floors in retail premises may be watered down.

These proposals show an appetite for allowing further diversification in premises, with reduced burden of “red tape”.

A number of steps were announced to reduce the burden on developers of residential dwellings (by reducing costs) and to improve the performance of the planning regime.

The Government is regularly stating that they want to increase the supply of housing and these announcements appear to confirm their motivation to achieve this.

Business Rates

Business rates will not increase by more than 2% from 1 April 2014 for a period of one year.  The increase was previously set to be in line with RPI and would have been at a rate of 3.2%.

A rates discount will be given during 2014 to 2016 in favour of retail premises with a rateable value of up to £50,000.00.  The discount will be up to £1,000.00 and the types of premises eligible for such discount will include restaurants, cafes and pubs.

Reoccupation relief will provide a discount of up to 50% for new occupants of retail premises which have been empty for over a year.  The discount will apply for 18 months.

The problems facing the high street have been well publicised in recent times. Often, business rates are cited as one of the expenses which small businesses struggle to bear. These announcements may help to regenerate some of the ever increasing empty spaces in our local areas.

Other

Help to Buy; SDLT (re charities); Capital Gains Tax and many other announcements were made which affect the property industry in some way or another. On a number of the announcements, further details are awaited as to the exact parameters of any scheme and its application.  As us lawyers often say “the devil is in the detail”!

We can all hope that the Autumn Statement announcements and other Government policies help the economy to improve and increase activity.  Here’s to a happy and prosperous 2014!

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