In such circumstances, as well as considering how to develop the site, academies should not forget to consider any restrictions on the title to (or their lease of) the site and planning requirements to ensure that all necessary consents are obtained.
Firstly, it is important to check the title to the site as there may be restrictions imposed by previous owners known as 'restrictive covenants' which might either require the academy to obtain permission for alterations from a third party or may prevent the academy from carrying out certain types of development. Such covenants need to be examined to see if they are still enforceable and to check who has the benefit of the covenant (ie who could enforce it or grant the necessary consent). In some cases, indemnity insurance may be available if it is impossible or impracticable to comply with the covenant.
In addition, academies should also consider the way in which they hold their site (ie freehold or leasehold). Academies which have a lease may find that this also contains restrictions on alterations and developing sites.
The Department for Education's model Academy Lease (Model Lease) provides that an academy may not make any structural or external alterations without the Landlord's (usually the Council) prior written consent, but such consent may not be unreasonably withheld or delayed and can only be refused in specified circumstances. As a condition of granting consent, the Landlord may require the Academy to reinstate the works at the end of the Lease term (if it is reasonable to do so). Although not expressly stated, internal non-structural alterations are permitted without Landlord's consent under the terms of the Model Lease provided they do not hinder access to service media.
The alterations may also require planning permission, although in some cases permission is granted automatically by legislation (this is referred to as 'permitted development') and in those cases the academy would not need to make a planning application.
In addition, building works also normally need approval under Building Regulations.
If the premises is a listed building or within a conservation area, then further consents may also be required.
If the works will be in the vicinity of any pipelines, cables or other service media then it may be necessary to consult with and/or seek approval of the relevant utilities company.
In addition, there are specific rules that need to be followed if the alterations will involve a change of use of playing field land.
We would also recommend that construction advice is obtained on more significant projects where JCT construction contracts and associated documents may be involved.