06 Apr 2016

Due dilligence before purchasing a plot

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When purchasing a piece of land for a self-build project, it’s important to do your homework to ensure there are no hidden risks associated with the plot. Rebecca Hickey, Head of Product at Landmark Information Group, explains more.

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While, on first inspection, the site may look well suited to your needs it certainly pays to do your research before making that final decision to buy. That way, you can ensure that there aren’t any issues that could compromise your aspirations for the site in terms of development restrictions, costs and timeline for the build.

For example, is the plot considered to be in an area affected by some form of flooding? Do you know if the land is located in an area where Radon is an issue? Is the area known for having ground instability issues, such as subsidence or even sinkholes? Are signs of past land contamination present?

These are just some of the questions to ask. Plus, on top of these environmental concerns, are there other ‘local’ factors that could affect how you use the site? For example, are there any planning applications in the pipeline in the locality, which have the potential to impact on your future enjoyment or the value of the property you plan to build? This could include anything from a new road, rail line or large-scale development through to green energy installations such as a solar or wind farm.

All of these questions can be answered via your solicitor as part of the conveyancing process. They are able to access a wealth of independent, impartial reports and data that reveal any potential concerns so further site investigations can be carried out, planning applications adjusted, or it may simply provide greater ‘bargaining power’ in terms of agreeing a purchase price.

Here is a list of information to consider when talking to your conveyancing solicitor:

Flood Risk:

• We are all very aware of the devastation flooding causes to households. A common misconception however is that a site is not at risk if it’s not near a river or the sea – this isn’t correct, as groundwater or surface water flooding are two examples of other types of flooding that can cause significant damage and disruption.

• Flood reports not only provide a view on all flood types, but also offer details relating to insurability and inform you as to whether any flood mitigation risks need to be included as part of the house build.

Planning Insights:

• Before any plans are submitted or land purchased, reports are available that show what planning applications have been submitted in the area. This provides a view as to the types of applications that are being approved and, transversely, not, in the immediate area, which may help when preparing your own in the future.

• Local Development plan information would also highlight those areas that had been earmarked for residential expansion and give a view as to which areas are more likely to have new build development approved, which may help you get your own permission.

• Some planning reports also provide neighbourhood information regarding the demographics and amenities in the area.

Land Contamination:

• Reports are available that are specifically geared at sites for redevelopment and provide a view on whether land contamination could be present. As well as providing professional guidance on ‘next steps’ should contamination be identified, the reports can also provide confirmation on whether the presence of Radon gas would have an impact on build methods.

Ground Stability:

• Do you know if the site could have issues relating to ground instability? Reports not only provide a view on potential risks, but offer an assessment of subsidence claims that would inform you as to whether any special considerations need to be given regarding foundation materials and building structure – all of which could significantly affect the potential build costs.

Energy & Infrastructure:

• The inclusion of Energy and Infrastructure projects would support the plot search, as proximity to HS2 and Crossrail could enhance the future value of the property. This type of report also makes you aware of any implications of being located near to a solar or wind farm or near a potential fracking site.

Highways:

• Highways reports look at the adoption status of roads and footpaths around a potential development site. This can be an important factor; for example, do you know if there is a ransom strip that could prevent access or incur significant costs to sort out?

• Is there a right of way crossing on the site that may need to be re-routed and what is the feasibility of that? Is there an un-adopted road that you, as the purchaser, would be responsible for maintaining? Reports are available to provide this level of insight.

Utilities:

• Utilities reports are typically recommended whenever there is the potential for breaking ground. As the land purchaser, you would need to check your liability regarding responsibility to the workforce as well as cost of repair to a damaged utility service, such as telecoms, gas or water services, if the location hasn’t been properly assessed prior to build. As such it pays to undertake a utilities search if you are planning to excavate a site.

Air Quality:

• Finally, if you’re concerned that the site may be in an area affected by air pollutants, it is possible to obtain an Air Quality report. This will show whether you are in an area that currently has issues with atmospheric pollutants, or is expected to do so in the future, and if so whether any planning conditions may be imposed as a result.

Further information....

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