This week the BCLP Retail Team look back on the variety of changes since the start of lockdown, presented here in an interactive timeline. We discuss the raft of new measures introduced by the Government as cases increase, and the extension of the ban on evictions for business tenants. We also bring you an informative conversation regarding the new Use Classes Order, its relevance to retailers and its place in the Government’s planning reforms.
The following timeline details relevant Government measures since the start of lockdown. It is accurate as at 25 September, and will be updated on a rolling basis.
New Measures as Cases Increase
The Government has announced a host of new measures in response to the rising rates of infection in the UK. These plans include a new Jobs Support Scheme to replace the furlough scheme set to end on October 31st. The new jobs scheme will supplement wages of workers retained with shorter hours, allowing employers to avoid redundancies. (Read a more in-depth analysis of the scheme here).
Meanwhile, workers have been encouraged to work from home if possible, and many offices have delayed their reopening plans (whether or not this is universally accepted remains to be seen, as some businesses are challenging this approach). A continued dearth of employees in places of business could prolong the economic challenges facing city centre retailers. Further measures include new requirements for workers in retail shops, who work in public areas or may be exposed to the public, to wear face coverings (unless exempt). In addition, the hospitality sector faces new restrictions including a curfew (between 10pm and 5 am), and food and drink operators having specific requirements for table service. Increased penalties will apply for breaches of new and existing obligations. The UK faces a balancing act in supporting economic recovery, while slowing the spread of Covid-19.
Eviction Ban Extended
The Government announced a further extension on banning business evictions until the end of the year to help preserve jobs and prevent struggling retailers from closing. Whilst for tenants this comes as welcome news, landlords are understandably concerned the impact on their investments, the possibility that businesses relying on these measures won’t be able to pay accrued rents once the ban is lifted, and that some businesses that are open and trading are refusing to pay their rent. The Government is encouraging those businesses in a financial position to pay rent to do so, stressing that these measures are to help the most vulnerable businesses by giving them a period of time to ameliorate their financial position.
The New Use Classes Order Explained
The new Use Classes Order came into force on 1 September. Whereas retail, professional services, and restaurants were previously split into their own separate use classes (A1, A2, and A3, respectively) they now form part of a new Class E “super class” comprising commercial, business and service uses. These changes are part of the Government’s wider planning reform agenda, allowing business operators greater flexibility to respond to changing market demands, helping to bolster economic resiliency in the wake of the pandemic. Click here to listen to Tim Smith, Partner in our Planning & Zoning team and Simon Sharp, an Associate Director in our Real Estate Finance team, discuss the new Use Classes Order, radical changes proposed as part of the Government’s “Project Speed”, as well as the potential impact of the wider planning reform on the markets.