Home > Croftons REVEALED ! Article 2
Tell us more about your services! We know you for development work but what else do you do for RPs?
In this our second “Croftons REVEALED!” article, we begin a series of insights into our legal services for RPs. We introduced our 11-strong team of RP lawyers in our last article, now we would like to reveal what they do!
We’ll start in this article with development schemes. You may already know us mostly for development work but we realise few RP clients realise the full of extent of our expertise or what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ in development schemes.
For many RP clients, our role is to provide all the legal advice on the purchase and proposed development of land, usually working within tight timescales. No two development schemes are ever the same and what we can bring to every RP is a vast experience of issues and solutions which we have built up throughout our 40 plus year history of development work.
Even before land is acquired, there may be legal issues – perhaps there is a tender process, perhaps there are neighbourhood concerns, perhaps there are highway, planning, s106 or infrastructure challenges, perhaps there are rights of way to overcome.
We know how important it is to visit the site.
Now, you might say, that sounds pretty obvious and very basic. We think so but many firms rely on official documents and plans. In our eyes, there’s nothing like ‘seeing somewhere for yourself’. Why? Because we can identify issues which might not show up on a plan or legal document – and factor these into the legal process. Otherwise, guess what happens – problems come out of left field at a later date and potentially delay development plans or incur additional legal costs for you. We avoid that happening to you!
We’ll just say it again at the risk of adding a sentence to this article: A site visit can be of material significance during a development project which is why site visits are standard procedure by all Croftons’ lawyers.
So, let’s look at some of the legal issues involved in site acquisitions:
Restrictive covenants – we always check these carefully – for example in one scheme, the owner of the land being sold to our RP client proposed that no commercial vehicles be permitted to enter the site. We pointed out that this was entirely impractical as it would mean no removal vans, furniture vans or other deliveries, repair vehicles…and we knew what that would mean…who would want to live there?!
S106 agreements – ensuring that any provisions in relation to affordable housing actually enable you to sell or rent or charge the properties now and in the future
Highways matters, including access, ‘pinch point’ problems, road closures, unadopted roads
Restrictions and possible claw backs when acquiring sites from local authorities, for example a recent scheme came with a restrictive covenant so the site could only ever be used in the future for affordable housing in perpetuity. However, for our client this could have severely restricted any future changes to the site and future charging of properties; for tenants wishing to exercise a right to acquire, they may not have been able to obtain a mortgage as the restriction would not be acceptable to most mortgage lenders. You’ll be pleased to know that, liaising with the local authority solicitor in this case, we agreed a clause which was acceptable and workable for the RP and the local authority, yet still protected the local authority in the spirit of the land transfer at nil cost
SDLT and VAT issues, usually with particular emphasis on VAT often meaning resulting in a deal being structured as a Golden Brick agreement
Joint ventures – more and more we are seeing RPs develop land in joint ventures with landowners, builders and local authorities often with “interesting” structures to the deal! However structured we work with your partners to ensure the structure works AND most importantly that you are protected and not exposed to risk
While these are all legal issues, in our view the role of a lawyer goes beyond being technically able…pragmatism, commerciality and sensitivity are all characteristics we recognise as important in our work with RPs.
As an RP, your ‘raison d’etre’ is to provide affordable, quality housing to individuals and families from one end of the age and health spectrum to the other. You are operating in times of unprecedented change and funding constraints. We never lose sight of the fact that your raison d’etre is all about people and their lives and homes. We regard our role as helping you achieve the best commercial return in a way which protects and enhances your reputation and standing in the community, and delivers quality affordable housing on time and on budget.
On 10 October 2012 we are hosting a seminar for development teams. You will come away with a “toolkit” to enable you to deal with the community infrastructure levy, golden brick deals and off plan sales. Be an early bird and book your place now – email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lucy Worrall, Partner
Posted on 14.08.12
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