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Alternative venue uses in the time of Covid-19

On 3 April 2020 the first of the government's emergency field hospitals to treat coronavirus patients was opened in East London's ExCel centre.  The UK’s newest hospital was built in just 9 days, with the exhibition centre, which normally plays host to expos, conferences and shows such as Crufts, converted into the temporary NHS Nightingale hospital, with space for 4,000 beds.  This is a fantastic, leading example of an alternative use for the 87,328 square metres of double exhibition halls. 

The scale and adaptability of the ExCel centre was apparent during our negotiations of the Venue Use Agreement at the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.  ExCel hosted 6 Olympic and 7 Paralympic events during 2012.  I remember only too well turning up for a meeting and arriving at the "wrong" end of the Venue.  The walk to the "right" end really gave me a sense of scale for this massive facility and its potential as a world leading Venue.

Whilst a temporary hospital would by no means be right for all Venues, for those faced with "dark" events spaces, are there alternative uses for those spaces?  For example, we have seen pubs, local restaurants and halls turned into temporary essential goods collection points and storage spaces.  We are also seeing other Venue spaces used to support the wider NHS (for example the use of parts of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for drive-through Covid-19 testing for NHS staff).  Although these are temporary changes, what are the legal considerations and obligations around these alternative uses?

Every Venue is different, but in any agreement for the use of a Venue by a third party occupier there are a number of key considerations:

1. Planning

Are there any planning consents required or current planning conditions that would prevent/limit the proposed activities?  Are there any additional structures required - buildings and other structures may benefit from 28 day permitted development - The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 Class B – temporary use of land.  

2. Licensing 

Do any of the proposed activities require a licence?  Will the Venue Owner take responsibility for the Licence or will this fall to the operator/occupier? 

3. Insurance

The Venue Owner’s insurers and the incoming occupier’s insurers should discuss on site responsibilities as well as:

  • Public Liability
  • Land and Buildings
  • Employer Liability

4. Use of Branding 

All parties should consider the use of the Venue’s branding (including drafting to grant relevant rights of use and obligations around prior approval).

5. Build in/Build out 

It is essential that Build in and Build out timeframes are considered, for example, if temporary structures are to be erected, staffing and use of utilities and services should be accounted for during these periods as well as when the occupier is fully functioning in the Venue.

6. Security

During the period of use by the occupier as well as during Build in and Build out - what level is required and who is responsible for it.

7. Staffing & Services

If staff are needed who is responsible for them, including their supervision and if venue staff are used how are costs covered?  Staffing, employment rights, secondments and TUPE issues should all be considered.

8. Reinstatement & Repairing obligations

The Venue Owner and the occupier should agree arrangements for the reinstatement of the Venue before the occupier commences occupation.  The obligations could be on the occupier to carrying out reinstate works or the parties could agree for the occupier to pay for reinstatement works to be carried out by the Venue Owner.  Consider which contractors are best placed to carry out the work.  The parties should be mindful of the timing of the reinstatement alongside other events/activities, if applicable.

Should the Venue Owner ask for a deposit or other financial security to cover any damage caused/reinstatement works to the Venue?

Should you wish to discuss any aspect of this note or the issues that your business is currently facing, please do not hesitate to contact me or your usual member of Charles Russell Speechlys’ Real Estate team.

The first of the government's emergency field hospitals to treat coronavirus patients has opened in east London's ExCel centre.

The temporary NHS Nightingale Hospital is able to hold as many as 4,000 patients and is the first of several such facilities planned across the UK.

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