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Open house: UK government greenlights property market restart


United Kingdom

As the UK housing market eases back into gear as part of the gradual lifting of the coronavirus lockdown, Fieldfisher's real estate and construction experts consider the implications of the new guidance for property development and planning.

  The UK government's plans to restart England's housing market is encouraging news for house builders, and the UK economy generally.
Under relaxed lockdown regulations tabled by the government on 11 May, show homes can reopen, estate agents, removal firms and conveyancers are permitted to resume operations and property viewings can be carried out.
Councils will also be given the freedom to authorise construction activity to take place in residential areas until 9pm on Monday to Saturday, allowing for staggered shifts and to ease public transport pressures.  
Regulations concerning a return to a partially normalised housing market are accompanied by guidance permitting surveyors to return to work. This is good news for property developers whose housing stock has been frozen since lockdown measures came into force in March.
With an estimated 450,000 property sales put on hold on 23 March, the easing of the restrictions will enable house sales to start proceeding again. This will have a significant impact on property developers, who can begin liquidating assets to create cash flow.  
Community Infrastructure Levy
The government has also responded to concerns voiced by local authorities and developers about the impact imposing a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) may have on developers' cash flow during this uncertain time, by amending the CIL 2010 to enable charging authorities to defer payments to developers with an annual turnover of less than £45 million.
Charging authorities are also permitted to temporarily dis-apply late payment interest and return any interest already paid by developers, if they consider it appropriate to do so.
These temporary adjustments will ease financial pressures on developers as a direct consequence of CIL payments.
Further measures announced to support developers and construction companies concern the introduction of more flexible working hours on construction sites.
The government is taking steps to implement varied start and finish times for construction companies, which are normally restricted under planning permissions.
The extension of time within which contractors can operate on site will give them the opportunity to attempt to catch up on time that has been lost during the lockdown.
If contractors are unable to meet original completion dates, it may mean the revised completion dates could occur sooner than initially thought.
For more information on the government's guidance, please see its latest planning update. Fieldfisher will update its commentary once further guidance has been published.
If you have any queries, please get in touch with your usual client partner in Fieldfisher's real estate or construction and projects team, or contact Susan Simpson, Helen Andrews or Dinah Patel directly.

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Real Estate

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Real Estate