The Week That Was - 23 June 2023

Published on 23 June 2023

Welcome to The Week That Was, a round-up of key events in the construction sector over the last seven days.

CMA increases reward for cartel whistle-blowers to £250,000

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has increased the reward available to whistle-blowers who inform them of unlawful activity that they have witnessed.  The CMA is now offering up to £250,000 in exchange for information regarding cartel activity, up from £100,000 it previously offered.  In addition to the reward, the CMA offers the benefit of anonymity to those who come forward with information.

Currently, individuals involved in illegal cartel activity can be imprisoned for up to five years. If the individual is a director of a company, they may be banned from holding a directorship for up to 15 years. Businesses found to be involved in cartel activity can be fined up to 10% of their annual turnover.  

To read more, please click here.
"Second staircase" rule expected to cause delay to London's high-rise housing

The "second staircase" rule requires that all new London residential developments over 30m in height, which have not received planning approval prior to 23 December 2022, must have a second staircase before being signed off by the Greater London Authority.

The new rule, which came into "immediate effect" on 10 February 2023, is expected to cause delays of between 6 and 9 months for those projects currently in the procurement phase, according to Arcadis.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan introduced the rule following the Government's recent consultation on amendments to Approved Document B of the Building Regulations, published on 23 December 2023, which proposed that a second staircase be included in residential buildings over 30m in England and Wales.

For further reading, please click here.

Court of Appeal confirms that a court has no power to backdate a claim form

The Court of Appeal has decided in a recent judgment that the High Court does not have the power to backdate a claim form under the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR).  Under CPR 7.2, proceedings are started when the court issues the claim form.  The purpose of the seal on the claim form is to indicate that the claim form has been issued and proceedings have commenced.  The date on the seal marks the beginning of the period of service.  The Court of Appeal confirmed that the court must seal a claim form with the date on which the claim form was in fact sealed.

It is important to note, however, that this decision is not significant for limitation purposes, as a claim is 'brought' for limitation purposes on the date on which the claim form as issued is received by the court, in accordance with paragraph 5.1 of Practice Direction 7A to the Civil Procedure Rules.

To read more, please click here.
Costs pressures set to reduce level of social housing construction programmes

Councils have warned that, without additional funding, they will have no choice but to scale back their social housing construction programmes.

A combination of national, global and local issues is creating increased costs pressure on Councils' construction programmes, with the Local Government Association warning that there could be a 14% drop in total delivery of social housing without additional grant funding.  Councils are experiencing reduced income due to inflation exceeding rent caps and the right-to-buy scheme, which means that Councils do not have sufficient funds to replace the social housing stock sold.  In addition, Councils are facing the increased construction costs experienced across the sector, with build costs increasing by up to 30-35% for certain Councils.  These increased costs are being further compounded by the costs of building safety works.

Individual councils submitted evidence to the inquiry by the Commons' Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee investigating the sustainability of the social-housing sector that they would "realistically have to scale back our overall aspirations for new-build properties over the medium term" (Hull City Council) and "the current system provides an unsustainable model of funding" (Southwark Council).

For more information, please see here.  

4,700 year wait to reach proposed onshore wind capacity at current rates

A report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has concluded that the current planning system in England will fail to deliver the Government's ambitions to build the infrastructure needed to meet net zero goals and housing needs.

The IPPR has warned that, at the current rate of development, it will take 4,700 years for England to achieve the onshore wind capacity called for by government advisers.  At the centre of this delay appears to be a change to planning laws in 2015 to make it more difficult to gain permission for new onshore wind farms, in what amounted to an effective ban. Since then, only 17 onshore wind farms have been approved, producing just 0.02% of the total onshore power needed in England.

As a solution, the IPPR has called for restrictions on onshore wind and solar power to be reduced and for local authorities to be compelled to identify land suitable for wind and solar power generation.  It has also called for big planning reforms, including decisions on new home building to be linked into plans for low-carbon transport networks, with housing and transport together equating to over 40% of total emissions and emissions for both sectors having barely declined since 1990.   

For more information, please see here.

Authors for this week's edition: Mahsheed Ibram, Charlie Underwood, and Harry Collins.

Disclaimer: The information in this publication is for guidance purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  We attempt to ensure that the content is current as at the date of publication, but we do not guarantee that it remains up to date.  You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

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