Sports Q&A - I want to make alterations to my sports venue due to Covid-19 – do I need any third-party consent(s) for this?
15 June 2021
The answer is, maybe! This depends on a few factors, which are set out below.
a) Is the venue Leasehold?
If your sports venue is leasehold rather than freehold (meaning you must abide by the terms of a lease you have entered into with a landlord), the first step is to check the alterations provisions in your lease.
Such provisions can vary lease to lease. However, it is usual for structural and external alterations to be prohibited. This means that if, for example, you are planning on adding more entrances and exits at your venue (to control the flow of spectators), such work may be prohibited if it impacts on the structural integrity of the building.
Any other alterations made to a property, such as internal and non-structural works, are usually permitted with the consent of a landlord. This means that an application will need to be made to the landlord, setting out what works are required and requesting their formal consent to the alterations. In such instances, works cannot be started until landlord consent is obtained (usually through the use of a licence for alterations).
Again, depending on the terms of a lease, some internal alterations may be permitted without gaining the consent of a landlord. Such lease provisions usually include works such as the installation of internal demountable partitioning and works associated with installation of that partitioning. Such a provision may be very useful if you plan to temporarily change the size of certain spaces in your venue e.g. to make internal rooms bigger and more spacious.
However, it is important to note that if you have entered into a long lease (typically over 20 / 25 years in length) you may have more flexibility to make alterations, and there may be fewer instances in which you will need landlord consent. Always check the terms of your lease!
However, you will also need to check if you need planning permission and/or building regulations approval for any works (please see below).
b) Is the venue Freehold?
If your sports venue is freehold (so there is no lease involved) you will likely have more flexibility over the alterations you can make. However, this does not mean that you have free reign to make any alterations you please (especially those of a substantial nature). You have to think about planning permission and building regulations approval (please see below). You may also need to seek the consent of your lender, if you have one.
c) Do I need any other consents?
a) Planning permission
Planning seeks to guide the way community areas develop and can have an impact on the use and appearance of land and buildings and highway access provisions, for example. It will also look at the impact that development will have on the surrounding area.
It’s likely that you will need planning permission if you intend to:
- build something new
- make a major change to your venue, such as building an extension
- change the use of your venue (or part of it)
If you are intent on making a minor change to your venue (e.g. changing the layout of internal areas by adding partitioning) it is unlikely planning permission will be needed. If you would like to undertake a bigger project (like adding an extension to provide more space for spectators) it is almost certain planning permission will be necessary.
You can contact your local planning authority through your local council to check if you would need planning permission for works.
b) Building regulations approval
Building regulations is separate to planning permission and sets standards for the design and construction of buildings, to ensure the health and safety of people using or surrounding those buildings.
You may need building regulations approval if you intend to:
- construct something or extend your venue
- make various alterations to your venue (such as replacing windows and doors, installing air conditioning systems or radiators, and installing new sanitary facilities)
Remember that building regulations approval may be required even when planning permission is not needed.
You can contact a ‘building control body’ to check if building regulations approval will be needed for any proposed works.
c) Documents registered at HM Land Registry
Although minor alterations (and even substantial alterations) are unlikely to be impacted by any other documents registered on your leasehold or freehold title at HM Land Registry, it is always important to check.
The ‘Title Register’ will list documents which have an impact on your property. In some instances, there may be covenants (positive and/or restrictive) that need to be complied with. For example, there may be a restrictive covenant that prohibits the construction of an extension on a certain part of your property.
If there is a title covenant which impacts on your ability to make your proposed alterations, there are a few options that can be explored. This includes obtaining title indemnity insurance (the most common approach), negotiating an express release of a covenant or making an application to the Lands Tribunal to modify or discharge a covenant (which is rare)
d) Lender’s consent
If your property is charged, it would be prudent to check the charge documentation to understand whether lender’s consent is required for variations and alterations. If it is, you will need to ensure that you seek lender’s consent before carrying out any works. There may be additional obligations imposed on you as borrower (for example, you may also need to seek lender’s approval to a planning application, or the lender may even want to approve the plans themselves). The sooner you check what is required, the better.
Important: Before carrying out any alterations to your venue it is imperative that you check any lease / finance document provisions (if any) and gain appropriate professional advice.
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