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August 19, 2013 2:22 pm
1. Landlords to check immigration status of new tenants
If current government plans go ahead, private landlords will find themselves policing the immigration status of their residential tenants.
So landlords have to understand immigration law? No, but they will need to get the paperwork right or find themselves another tenant. If illegal migrants are found living in a property, the landlord could be fined. The government proposes £1,000 per migrant for a first offence, then £3,000 per migrant for further offences. The landlord will need to see documents (such as a passport, driving licence, ID card and biometric residence permit) for all the adults who will be living in the property.
But the landlord won’t always know who is in the property The government accepts that. Before letting out a property, landlords will have to do their best to find out who will be living there. But if a landlord becomes suspicious that there are illegal migrants in a property, he/she will have to protect themselves by reporting the tenants to the Home Office.
Have your say The government is keen to hear views on its proposals, via an online survey about tackling illegal immigration . Some important issues will be influenced by survey responses, including the level of fines, protections for law-abiding landlords and whether the rules should extend to lodgers in private homes and extended stays in tourist accommodation. The closing date for comments is August 21.
2. Hosting wind farms, nuclear power stations and shale gas drilling
The wider benefits of onshore wind farms in the UK are not always felt at a local level, so most operators now offer a package of benefits to the host communities. For example, under the Community Benefits Protocol , operators contribute £1,000 per megawatt of installed capacity per year for onshore wind farms of five megawatts and above, for the life of the wind farm.
What sort of benefits are on offer? Anything from community funds, benefits in kind (like a community facility or local environmental improvements) to profit-sharing or community ownership of a project.
£1,000 per megawatt doesn’t seem like much. That is what the government thinks, too. Last year it gathered evidence on community engagement and benefits, focusing on how communities can have more of a say over – and receive greater economic and wider social benefits from – hosting onshore wind farms. It published its response in June this year and is expecting an increase in the recommended community benefit package in England to £5,000 per megawatt of installed capacity per year, for the lifetime of the wind farm.
What if the wind doesn’t blow ? The benefit packages are based on the installed capacity of a wind farm, not on what it actually generates, so the wind farm’s performance doesn’t affect payments. But profit-sharing or community ownership arrangements could be hit if the wind farm doesn’t generate as much electricity as expected.
Isn’t this just legalised bribery to get planning permission? No. The general principle is that community benefits are voluntary and fall outside the UK planning system. Decisions about planning proposals must be based on planning issues alone and must not be influenced by unrelated benefits being offered by developers. Unacceptable development can’t be “bought”.
What about other types of energy infrastructure? On June 27 the government published details of the expected benefits for communities where drilling for shale gas involving hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) takes place. It expects operators to provide £100,000 in community benefits per well-site at the exploration stage and to pay out 1 per cent of revenues to communities once production starts. More recently, on July 17, the government announced that local authorities in areas hosting new nuclear power stations will be able to retain 50 per cent of the business rates they collect, together with the growth on that share, for up to 10 years. Extra government funding will also be available for a further 30 years. The government estimates that this could be worth about £128m to the area around the recently approved new Hinkley Point nuclear power plant in Somerset.
What happens in other countries? The approach to community benefits varies from country to country, but in Denmark, for example, developers are required by law to offer up to 20 per cent of the shares in onshore wind farm projects to individual householders living within a 4km radius.
SJ Berwin an international law firm. This column is written by Fiona Larcombe, a solicitor in its London real estate team.
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