Landowners can stop the clock on public usage rights

New law opens the way to more building development by giving landowners the chance to break public usage rights to prevent registration of village greens
Public use of privately owned open spaces is on the line following the introduction of legislation that allows landowners to bring to an end recreational use of land as a village or town green.
Areas of open space used by local residents for recreation and playing lawful games can be registered as village or town greens after they have established 20 years’ use and can show that the land is being used ‘as of right’. To establish that right, the land must have been used without permission, but without force or secrecy. Once land has been registered as a green, it is then protected from development by longstanding legislation.
And whilst the classic image of a village green is where cricket is played on summer days, it does not have to be green or grassy. Recent cases have seen a seaside beach and a golf course successfully claiming village green status, in battles with developers that have gone as far as the Supreme Court.
But now, new legislation opens the way to stop the clock ticking towards 20 years.
Section 15 of the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 came into force on 1 October 2013 and it amends the earlier Commons Act 2006 by allowing landowners to register what is known as a ‘statement’ to bring an end to any recreational use of land as a town or village green.
By making this statement, the landowner will interrupt any 20 year period and this will stop anyone from being able to register the land, as it effectively puts the clock back to zero. It can start ticking again, but the landlord can effectively break the usage each time before it reaches 20 years, thereby protecting their potential development rights.
Where land has already passed the 20 year usage, but has not been registered, the new law still allows landlords to make the statement, but this will trigger a one year grace period in which an application for village or town green status could be made.
Said property law expert Andrew Moore of Breeze & Wyles Solicitors LLP : “In the past objectors to potential planning applications have often tried to register land as a village green to prevent development and a surge of applications for registration are likely when communities find out about the new rules.”
He added: “There’s likely to be quite a few sprints going on, with landowners racing to register a statement and local people racing to make an application to register the land as a village green. Either way, we’re expecting to see a big rise in activity on this front. ”
Web site content note:
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013
Commons Act 2006
Newhaven Port and Properties Ltd v East Sussex County Council
Lewis v Redcar

Most Innovative Use of Partner for Windows: Breeze & Wyles Solicitors LLP wins again!!

Breeze & Wyles Solicitors LLP is pleased to announce its second award for its Automatic Title Checking System. Tikit TFB plc at its annual User Conference for 2010 awarded the firm the prestigious award of 'Most Innovative Use of Partner for Windows'.

Murray Fraser, Director of Volume Services said: "It is fantastic news to continue to receive the recognition for the work that we have done to deliver nearly paperless and almost completely automated legal service processes".

It has been some years coming. Our problem in the past has been the lack of visibility of the process developments that we have made. Our focus has always been on development, automation and cost efficiencies rather than blowing our own trumpet. All of these are direct benefits to the clients.

Our focus in recent month has been the creation and development of a new product using the automation process developed in our property work. This is due to go live and an industry annoucement will be made in teh first week of the New Year! watch this space."

Further articles will be published in due course on the new product but we are currently in testing with one of our larger clients and hope to finalise the post beta version on 4 January 2011.

Breeze & Wyles Solicitors LLP wins LAWNET Best Single Innovation of the year 2010

Breeze & Wyles Solicitors LLP wins LAWNET Best Single Innovation of the year 2010

On Friday 8th October 2010 Breeze & Wyles Solicitors LLP won the Best Single Innovation of the Year award 2010 given by LAWNET to the firm for its automated title checking system. The firm has only been a member of LAWNET for three months so this comes as a significant honour. With the levels of innovation already existing on the panel it would take some product to clinch the honour this year.

Since 1995 remortgage transactions have been handled by an ever smaller number of firms. Originally almost every firm in England and Wales handled a significant volume (say 20-30 per month). Over the 15 year period since that date the lenders have taken control of the remortgaging process so that today only 10 firms can handle volume remortgaging. The average number of remortgages handled by those firms is approximately 1500 per month. This has been achieved by significant progress in IT development within those firms to make the process less dependent on human interaction, thereby reducing the unit cost of production and to increase the overall risk management processes.

With the technological advancements that these firms have implemented (particularly in the last five years) it is hard to see how any one firm can stand out from the rest in this area. However, Breeze & Wyles Solicitors LLP (BW) is proud to be able to announce that it now has a fully automated title checking process. In previous years BW maintained a file opening team of 10 people including perhaps the most expensive, the qualified solicitor. Moreover a solicitor can easily become bored carrying out repetitive title checking tasks, leading to a higher rate of qualified staff turnover, and the associated acquisition costs. Perhaps more importantly human intervention is at best 95% accurate, meaning that 5 in every hundred matters is a potential risk to the firm in term of negligence claims. In order to combat that risk a further level of quality control is required further extending the costs per unit of production. A final issue relates to service quality. Unless the product is right first time every time the consumer of the product is likely to become disillusioned when the process if delayed because a title issue that should have been identified at the outset is only dealt with some weeks after instruction or worse still on the day of completion.

In order to enhance the service proposition, BW using EMC2 Captiva OCR software integrated with its TFB Partner for Windows case management system has created an automated title checking process. This means that the only human intervention is required for exception reporting, where for instance the system does not capture the relevant data. This usually occurs when the data contained SQL reserved characters. This means that in the vast majority of cases no human intervention is required to check the title or send the initial letters with security documents to the consumer (borrower). Depending on the issues raised those letters are manipulated to ensure that all of the issues that are raised through the title check process are notified to the consumer together with the steps required to remedy the problem.

Accordingly, the file opening team now consists of one person to supervise the title checking and letter generation at instruction. This has provided a significant unit cost reduction and has freed members of staff to manage and maintain consumer expectation.

Prompt Payment? What can SMEs do?

Speaking at the CCR-i event on 1st October 2013, Rt Hon Michael Meacher (MP for Oldham West & Royton and Member of the All Party Inquiry in to Late Payment in SME’s stated;
• £36 billion is owed to SME’s (50% increase on the previous year) – this sum is equivalent to two thirds of the total lending to SME’s by lenders;
• Whilst the government has sought to tackle the issue of late payment through the voluntary Prompt Payment Code, only one fifth of large Companies have signed up to the Code with many Companies refusing to sign up or worse, extending their “average days for payment” on the basis that they can.
Add in to the mix the statistics that 1 / 10 Companies (approximately 230,000 Companies) is a Zombie trading insolvent and you realise that aged debt represents a real issue for SME’s in the UK.
So what can you do as an SME to protect your position?
• The key is to truly know your customer – are you trading with a Limited Company? If so, what is the full name of the Limited Company? If not a Limited Company, are you trading with a Partnership or Sole Trader?
• If you start trading with a Limited Company, “health check” the Company using software checking the Companies financial status. If the Company seems to represent a risk, ask for a Personal Guarantee if appropriate, or if that is not appropriate, limit the credit limit applied to the account.
• If you are trading with a limited Company, monitor the Company throughout the life of the account. Many systems that allow you to health check a limited company provide a monitoring reporting system. This will alert you to any detrimental changes in the Company. This will in turn allow you to take a view regarding future trading with that customer.
• Actively chase debtors. When to do this is sometimes difficult to assess where you hope for an ongoing relationship with the customer. However, the important thing to remember is that the longer the debt is unpaid, the greater the risk that your customer will cease trading. Companies facing financial difficulties are often juggling creditors and therefore, regularly chasing your debtors will help to push you to the front of the queue.
There are lots of Companies that are able to continue to trade because of low interest rates. These companies are those juggling their creditors. The key is to push your business to the front of the queue to increase a chance of payment whilst the business is still trading. Otherwise, you may find yourself at the back of the queue (as an unsecured creditor) following insolvency.
For further information about our award winning debt recovery service, where costs start at £2.00 plus VAT for a letter to your debtor, please contact our Maria Koureas-Jones on / 01992 558411.

Internet Goliaths give a lesson for smaller business

A court battle between software giant Microsoft and broadcasting colossus Sky has delivered a sharp lesson in the need to check out trade marks before launching a new product, which experts say is just as relevant to small business.
Microsoft are being forced to change the name of their SkyDrive online storage after Sky issued proceedings alleging trade mark infringement and passing off, arguing that the average consumer would make a link to the Sky brand. Sky’s claim - backed up with evidence of calls to their helpline from customers who had assumed it was one of their services - was successfully upheld in the High Court.
Sky also successfully argued that there was a serious risk to their reputation and that Microsoft’s use of SkyDrive would dilute the brand; and that Microsoft’s actions amounted to passing off by showing goodwill that was generated across Sky’s broadband business and digital content storage which Microsoft could draw upon.
An attempt by Microsoft to counter-claim invalidity of Sky’s trade mark registrations on the basis that ‘sky’ was simply descriptive of cloud computing was unsuccessful.
The case has highlighted the need for companies to undertake clearance searches to check there is no conflict with an existing registered mark and also to minimise the risk of encroaching on the goodwill and reputation of another company which could give rise to a claim of ‘passing off’ such as this.
Explained Commercial expert Brendan O’Brien of Breeze & Wyles Solicitors LLP: “It turns out that Microsoft had done their research back in 2007 but perhaps underestimated the importance of the Sky brand, believing that the company was solely concerned with broadcasting. But Sky had started to supply internet services in 2006 and by 2010 was in use in 3million households and they raised an objection to the SkyDrive name at the outset, which Microsoft decided to contest.
“But the lesson is not just for big business. Global brands are particularly zealous about protecting their name and image and it would be quite wrong for a small company to imagine that they are too small to be noticed by a major international company or that such a company would not bother pursuing a little business.”
He added: “It’s a complex area, but the message to any company looking to develop a new brand for a product or service is to make sure a realistic assessment has been made against current brands, including the potential for any future developments by any similarly named competitor, particularly in fast moving technology markets such as this.”
British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc, Sky IP International Limited, British Sky Broadcasting Limited, Sky International Ag v Microsoft Corporation, Microsoft Luxembourg Sarl
This information is not intended as legal advice