Head of Planning & Development

Mark has recently joined the team at Meller Speakman as the Head of Planning and Development.

Prior to joining the company Mark has worked in the private planning sector for over 7 years, in consultancies across the North West and the Midlands. Mark has particular experience of bringing forward strategic development sites and proposals involving regionally significant listed buildings.  

Mark originally hails from County Durham, is a keen runner and can often be seen plodding along Manchester’s Canals

Coronavirus Grant and Relief Scheme details

1.     Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme supports SMEs with access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to 6 years.

The Government will also make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees, so smaller businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.

The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to pre-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The scheme will be delivered through commercial lenders, backed by the Government-owned British Business Bank.

The scheme is open until January 2021.

Eligibility

You are eligible for the scheme if:

•     your business is UK based, with turnover of no more than £45 million per year

You need to show that your business:

•     would be viable were it not for the pandemic

•     has been adversely impacted b the coronavirus

How to access the scheme

The scheme is now open for applications. All major banks are offering this scheme.

To apply, you should talk to your bank or one of the 50 accredited finance providers (not the British Business Bank) as soon as possible, to discuss your business plan. You can find out the latest on the best ways to contact them via their websites. Please note that branches may currently be shut down to enable social distancing.

The full rules of the scheme and the list of accredited lenders are available on the British Business Bank website.

If you have an existing loan with monthly repayments you may want to ask for a repayment holiday to help with cash flow.

2.    Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Bounce Back Loan Scheme

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme enables smaller businesses to access finance more quickly during the coronavirus outbreak.

The scheme helps small and medium sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover.  The maximum loan available is £50,000.

The government guarantees 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months.  After 12 months the interest rate will be 2.5% a year.

The scheme is open until 31 January 2021.

If you already have a Bounce Back Loan but borrowed less than you were entitled to, from 10 November 2020 you can top up your existing loan to your maximum amount.  You must request the top up by 31 January 2021.

Eligibility

You are eligible for the scheme if:

•     your business is UK based and was established before 1 March 2020

•     has been adversely impacted by the coronavirus

•     you cannot claim if you are already claiming under the Coronavirus Business Loan Interruption Loan Scheme

How to access the scheme

There are 28 lenders participating in the scheme including many of the main retail banks.  You should approach a suitable lender yourself via the lender’s website.

The lender will ask you to fill in a short online application form and self-declare that you are eligible.

The lender will decide whether to offer you a loan or another type of finance and you’ll be responsible for repaying 100% of the amount borrowed.

3.    Support for businesses through Business Support Grants

If your business is required to close due to lockdown restrictions you will be eligible for the following grants:

•     For properties with a rateable value of £15k or under – grants of £1,334 per month or £667 per two weeks

•     For properties with a rateable value between £15k-£51k – grants of £2,000 per month or £1,000 per two weeks

•     For properties with a rateable value of £51k or over – grants of £3,000 per month or £1,500 per two weeks

Grants will be allocated by local authorities.  Further support may be available from local authorities which can be found on individual local authorities websites.

4.    Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has now been extended to March 2021.

Employers can claim for 80% of furloughed employees’ (employees on a leave of absence) usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month.

Employers will only pay employer National Insurance and pension contributions for the hours not worked.

The scheme is open to all UK employers with a UK bank account and UK PAYE scheme.

Employees must be on the PAYE payroll by 30October 2020

The Job Support Scheme that was set to replace the Job Retention Scheme has been postponed.

5.    Support for businesses through deferring VAT payments

We will support businesses by deferring Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments for 3 months.

If you’re a UK VAT registered business and have a VAT payment due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020, you have the option to:

•     defer the payment until a later date

•     pay the VAT due as normal

If you’re in temporary financial distress because of COVID-19 more help is available from HMRC’s Time to Pay scheme.

6.    Support for businesses through deferring Self-Assessment payments on account

If you’re due to pay a self-assessment payment on account by 31 July 2020 but the impact of the coronavirus causes you difficulty in making payment by that date, then you may defer payment until January 2021.

Eligibility

You are eligible if you are due to pay your second self-assessment payment on account on 31 July. You do not need to be self-employed to be eligible for the deferment.

The deferment is optional. If you are still able to pay your second payment on account on 31 July you should do so.

How to access the scheme

This is an automatic offer with no applications required. No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged if you defer payment until 31 January 2021.

During the deferral period you can set up a budget payment plan to help you pay the deferred payment on account when it comes due.

If you’re in temporary financial distress because of COVID-19 more help is available from HMRC’s Time to Pay scheme.

7.    Support for self-employed through the Self-employment Income Support Scheme

The third SEISS covering November to January will now cover 80% of average monthly trading profits, £7,500 in total.  All other eligibility criteria remain the same as previous grants and you are experiencing reduced demand due to Covid-19 or have been forced to close during the period the grant covers.  Applications will open 30 November 2020.

The fourth grant will cover February to April but the level of this has not been set yet

8.    Support for businesses paying tax: Time to Pay service

All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service.

These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

Eligibility

You are eligible if your business:

•     pays tax to the UK government

•     has outstanding tax liabilities

How to access the scheme

If you have missed a tax payment or you might miss your next payment due to COVID-19, please call HMRC’s dedicated helpline: 0800 024 1222.

If you’re worried about a future payment, please call HMRC nearer the time.

Biodiversity Net Gain- What Landowners Need To Know

The principle of Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is now heading a full pelt towards the planning process with major implications for landowners and developers. Here are the basics.

In principle, BNG requires developers to ensure habitats are enhanced and left in a measurably better state than they were pre-development, delivering at least a 10% improvement in biodiversity. 

Whilst not yet a mandatory requirement, in February 2019 the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was updated and introduced a requirement to ‘identify and pursue opportunities for securing measurable net gains for biodiversity’.  When the Environment Bill receives Royal Assent at the end of the year Local Planning Authorities will have a legal framework for targeting biodiversity enhancements. It is proposed that there will be a 2-year transition period but we are aware of authorities already imposing BNG.

Green field planning applications, even those benefitting from an allocation will need to ensure they are submitted with BNG in mind. For example, a residential development of 10 hectares will be expected to provide a ‘net gain’ of 10% totally 11 hectares elsewhere. If a local authority has a site already identified for BNG, then payment of a commuted sum through a s106 agreement may be possible.

Barrier or Opportunity?

For those promoting development proposals, the introduction of BNG is another barrier to delivery imposed by the planning system. Our very recent experience is one of a delayed committee date while the consultant ecologist tries to reach a palatable level of compensatory land with the Council’s ecologist. In this case, the applicant is fortunate to have land with limited development potential available. Had this not been the case, the Council’s consultation response was clear, planning permission would have been refused. A commuted sum in lieu of provision was not an option as the Council had no identified site where this sum could be spent.

Cost is another obvious impact arising from BNG. Developments already burdened with CIL and s106 requests will now have to factor in BNG delivery into their appraisals. The costs of BNG land will vary but whether it’s an impact of £12k or £200k per acre, the impact on a site’s viability will be challenging.

A further barrier imposed by BNG is its impact on site delivery. When will BNG be requested to be effective; prior to development commencing or triggered at some defined point of occupation? The former will necessitate compensatory land to be purchased and habitat created well in advance of the programmed site start.

However, BNG should be seen as an opportunity for landowners with land not benefitting from immediate development potential. BNG land can either be sold or leased (for circa 30 years) to a developer. On occasion and depending on the habitat to be created, land can be continued to be grazed. The value attributable to the land will ultimately be reliant on the availability of similar land nearby and how urgently the developer requires it.

At Meller Speakman, we benefit from a network of developer clients and landowners so are well placed to advise on the implication, good or bad of BNG. Contact Peter Wain or Mark Murphy for further information.

peter.wain@mellerspeakman.com

mark.murphy@mellerspeakman.com

Septic Tanks

Is your property served by a Septic Tank?

The Environment Agency has made changes to the General Binding Rules which will take effect from 1 January 2020. These affect both new and existing septic tanks.

Septic tanks work by settling the solids within a chamber and then discharging the liquid septic effluent into the ground by a specially designed drainfield.

The General Binding Rules will no longer allow septic tanks to discharge effluent into watercourse from 1 January 2020. If there is an existing septic tank which does discharge into a watercourse the owner must either:

  1. Upgrade the septic tank treatment to a full sewage treatment plant or
  2. The discharge to the watercourse stopped and a connection from the septic tank to a drainfield connected

Drainfields consist of a number of rigid perforated pipes in a trench covered in drainage stone. The pipe allows the effluent to filter through the pipe and seep into the ground to be broken down further by soil bacteria. This is not to be confused with a soakaway pit or crates, which are not allowed.

Soakaways are primarily designed for draining rainwater thus not appropriate. Should a current system be used for draining septic tank effluent an application to the Environment Agency should be made or the system upgraded in line with the new legislation.

Septic tanks must meet the relevant British standard in force when it was installed. However, if a tank was installed prior to 1983 it does not have to meet the British Standard as they were not in place.

From 1983 they need to meet the relevant standard as detailed below:

  • – CE Marked
  • – Certification of compliance with British Standard
  • – The tank is detailed on the British Water’s list of approved equipment for BS EN 12566-1

Further regulations are applicable if your septic tank is located within 50 metres of:

  • – Special conservation areas
  • – Special protection areas
  • – Ramsar sites
  • – Biological sites of special scientific interest

Ensuring new septic tanks are of the correct size is key. Meller Speakman will be carrying out surveys of all managed properties on septic tanks over the next 12 months and advising clients of the necessary works.

Please get in touch if you would like us to advise you.

EPC Regulations

Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) Regulations mean that from 01 April 2018, it is illegal to re-let properties with a rating lower than ‘E’. Both domestic and non-domestic properties in England and Wales will need to meet these minimum standards. EPC Certificates are valid for 10 years and all properties must have current certificates in date.

Farmhouses let under an agricultural tenancy, both Agricultural Holdings Act (AHA) 1986 tenancies and Farm Business Tenancy (FBT) are exempt from these regulations. Licences are also not within the scope of the regulations. Residential properties let under the following tenancies are required to comply with the new regulations:

  • – Assured tenancies under Housing Act (HA) 1988 (including ASTs)
  • – Regulated Tenancies Under Rent Act 77
  • – Assured agricultural occupancies under s.24 HA 1988
  • – Protected tenancies – s.3(6) Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976
  • – Statutory tenancies – s4(6) Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976
  • – Excludes social housing but includes extensions and renewals

A new tenancy or renewal of an existing tenancy will not be issued on any properties below an ‘E’ rating after 01 April 2018. Fine of up to £5,000 for Landlords who are in breach of this new legislation.  Properties with existing tenancies will need to have an EPC rating of ‘E’ or above by 01 April 2020.

Properties with ratings below an E will need to make efficiency improvements to boost the rating before the property is compliant to let. EPC reports provide a list of recommended measures to help improve the energy efficiency performance of the property. Due to the nature of many older rural houses and cottages, these have been highlighted as more susceptible to not reaching the required standards and won’t always meet the standards required for compliance. There are a number of temporary exemptions which Landlords can register for on 01 October 2017 if any of the following criteria applies:

  • – The Landlord has made all relevant energy efficiency improvements and the EPC rating is still ‘F’ or ‘G’
  • – There are no relevant energy efficiency improvements that can be carried out to the property.
  • – Devaluation: The required improvements will either cause damage or reduce the value of the property by 5% or more
  • – Consent: It is not possible to gain the consent for the works to be completed required by the Tenant, Lender or Superior Landlord.
  • – Cost: The identified improvement measures are not cost-effective, either within a seven year payback or under the Green Deals Golden Rule.
  • – New Landlords (further rules apply).

Exemptions are valid for 5 years from the date of registered.

We strongly advise that those letting properties, start implementing the required changes immediately to ensure compliance by the 01 April 2018. This will also allow the cost of works to be staggered if extreme measures are required. Meller Speakman are able to provide further advice on this, if required please contact get in touch.


Succession Planning

Succession Planning

Succession planning is key to protecting the future prosperity of a family business.  Owners of family businesses should assess their short and long-term objectives, potential structural risks to the business and plan for generational changes.  Businesses should also assess the impact the loss of key player could have on the day-to-day management, again both short-term and long-term.    

Businesses should aim to have robust and logical plans agreed and put in place that will avoid unnecessary last-minute conflicts, ambiguity and muddled business strategies and help maximise available tax reliefs along the way.  It is all too common for landowners and agricultural businesses to leave succession planning until the ‘11th-hour’, just ahead of the passing of a family member, or when it is often too late, i.e. after the sudden death of a family member or when a key player can no longer continue in their role.  This often leads to an illogical approach to planning, making the whole experience stressful and worse than necessary; can lead to family and shareholder disputes and place a business under unnecessary financial pressure.  Good succession planning allows time for potential business risks that could have a significant impact on the business to be discussed, evaluated and key objectives agreed allowing the correct strategy and business structures to be adopted. 

Businesses and families should take a proactive stance by starting discussions early on, ensuring all involved parties have a chance to voice their future ambitions and objectives and how they wish to achieve them. This will provide a platform for logical, well thought-out plans and appropriate structures to be considered.

Future generations should be brought into businesses from an early stage, slowly building skills and knowledge whilst older generations still have overall control.  Clear lines of responsibility provide accountability, but also helps younger generations feel they add value and are a valued part of the business.

To plan, it is recommended that an independent third-party agent is appointed to offer advice on structures to assist with discussions.  This can also help avoid a breakdown in communication.

Removing Agricultural Occupancy Conditions

Removing Agricultural Occupancy Conditions

Do you own a property which is subject to an agricultural occupancy condition? Are you looking at getting it removed (or modified)?

In order to do this you will need to apply to the Local Planning Authority (LPA) to determine that the condition is no longer deemed necessary.  If that is refused, then the matter can be taken to appeal for decision by a planning inspector. 

The process is often a difficult one because LPAs must be persuaded that the dwelling, which was probably only given planning consent on the grounds that it was required for an agricultural worker, is genuinely no longer required for that purpose.  Further, the wording of the most modern occupancy conditions is such that the issue has to be proven for the locality generally and not just in relation to the particular farm in question.

An agricultural occupancy condition can be “lifted” in one of two ways:

(1)     By applying for the removal of the occupancy condition.  If successful, the condition will be removed from the planning consent and the property is then unburdened. 

(2)     If the property can be shown to have been occupied in breach of the condition for ten years, then the application can be made for a Certificate Of Lawfulness of Existing Use or Development

When applying for the removal of the condition, as set out under (1) above, LPAs will expect to see detailed evidence to support an application for the lifting the restriction. 

The most difficult issue to address is how to respond to the common insistence by the LPA that there is a lack of demand for that type of accommodation from those employed or last employed in agriculture.  The real test here should be that of whether there is a need for an agricultural occupancy condition on that dwelling (in its locality) and not of demand for it.  Marketing can only test demand, not need. 

The common traditional approach required by LPAs has been to test the market for potential occupiers by offering the property for sale or to let with marketing over an agreed period with appropriate advertising, often on a basis agreed in advance with the LPA.

Alongside the required marketing effort, it will usually be expected that he property must be offered at a discounted price to reflect the condition. 

Other evidence which might help to demonstrate a lack of demand (or indeed need) for agricultural workers’ dwellings in the area might include:

  • – a review of the general demand for housing in the area;
  • – an assessment of the number of rural workers employed in the area at the current time, compared to the number employed when the property became subject to the condition;
  • – details of any new rural workers’ dwellings made subject to occupancy conditions over say, the last five years;

For further information and advice on the above please contact Peter Wain, Managing Director.

Introduction of the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018

Landlords in England are now subject to even further legislation aimed to improve the standard of rented residential accommodation. The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 came into force on 20 March 2019. The Act amends the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 requiring rented residential accommodation is provided and maintained in a state of “fitness for human habitation”. The consequence of which is it provides tenants an alternative process to request repair and improvement works to be undertaken. Should the landlord, or a landlords managing agent, not undertake the works and the accommodation remains unfit for human habitation it can result in the tenant issuing legal proceedings without needing to contact their local authority first.

The Act uses the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) to determine the accommodations fitness. This is done using the 29 hazards identified by the HHSRS which include but are not limited to:

  • – Condensation, damp and mould growth
  • – Excess cold
  • – Excess heat
  • – Asbestos and Manufactured Mineral Fibres (MMF)
  • – Carbon monoxide and fuel combustion products
  • – Electrical hazards
  • – Sanitation and drainage problems
  • – Water supply
  • – Structural collapse and falling element
  • – Crowding and space
  • – Inadequate natural lighting

The accommodation only needs to be defective on one of the 29 hazards to be deemed unfit. The landlord will not be responsible:

  • – For repairs which the tenant is liable:
    • The duty of the tenant to use the premises in a tenant like manner
    • An express covenant of the tenant of substantially the same effect as that duty
  • – Rebuild or reinstate the dwelling in the case of destruction or damage by fire, storm, flood or other inevitable accident
  • – To keep in repair or maintain anything which the tenant is entitled to remove from the dwelling
  • – To repair which, if carried out, would put the landlord in breach of any obligation imposed by any enactment
  • – To carry out the works or repairs requiring the consent of a superior landlord or other-third-party in which consent has not been obtained following reasonable endeavours to obtain it

The act is applicable to all tenancies which provide accommodation unless they have a fixed term of 7 years or more. Periodic tenancies in existence on 20 March 2019 will be covered by the provisions of the Act but benefit from a 12 month grace period restricting tenants from issuing court proceedings until 20 March 2020. A Farm Business Tenancy that is continuing annually (but not under a new agreement) after a 7-year term has expired it will still be exempt.

Meller Speakman: Advising landowners since 1836

Meller Speakman’s roots are deep. They date back to Mr E Meller who established a Land Agency and Surveying business in Manchester in 1836, just a short while after the World’s first steam-powered railway opened between Manchester and Liverpool in 1830.

In 1860 Mr Meller brought his son on board to form the partnership E Meller and Son before recruiting a further addition – Mr Speakman – becoming E Meller Sons & Speakman some years later. Records show the partnership then expanded their business south and across Cheshire and included the management of Mr Henry Loyd’s Minshull Vernon Estate for over 50 years until it was sold in 1912. A framed letter dated December 1912 displays Mr Loyd’s gratitude to their longstanding service and can be found hanging in our new offices!

In 1916 the firm amalgamated with a Land Agent, Mr J H Hall; the firm was renamed Meller Speakman & Hall and moved to new offices located in Cooper Street, Manchester. One of the estates Mr Hall managed was the Toft Estate, Knutsford and Meller Speakman continues to manage the estate to this very day! In 1933 Mr Hall was commissioned by Manchester City Council to identify a number of potential sites for a new airport to replace Barton aerodrome. The recommended site was ‘Ringway’, or perhaps better known today as Manchester International Airport, which now handles over 23 million passengers a year!

In 1946 Meller Speakman & Hall acquired an interest in John E Braggins, auctioneers and Estate Agents based in Knutsford and in 1976 the ‘association’ formally became Meller Braggins & Co.

More recently in 2013, the Land Agency business of Meller Braggins became Meller Braggins Estates Plus before re-branding this year to the new name Meller Speakman coupled with a move to new offices in Wilmslow.

Expert Advice: Should You Register for VAT?

Property transactions are generally exempt from VAT, which means the associated input tax cannot be recovered.

It is not compulsory to register for VAT if ALL of your supplies are exempt from VAT or your taxable supplies are below the £81,000 threshold. If you have non-residential properties within your portfolio or other supplies that are not exempt you may wish to consider voluntary registration. This may also mean opting some or all of your non-residential land/property to tax.

Although this will then mean charging VAT on any taxable activities, you will also be able to reclaim the VAT on expenses relating to these activities. As long as your input tax exceeds your output tax in a given period, you will be able to reclaim the difference from HMRC. Dependant on the amounts of VAT you can reclaim you may wish to submit returns on a monthly basis. This would result in an increase in paperwork but allows you to reclaim monies back sooner.

If you would like to discuss this further please contact Meller Speakman Finance Director, Rachel Degg at rachel.degg@mellerspeakman.com or telephone 01625 468789.