Buying with planning consent. Over the years I have been asked to add value to developments, that my clients have purchased already with planning consent.  It is something I have always enjoyed doing in my practice, as we can tailor the development design and specification to our client’s needs; however, on more occasions, than we’d like, we are handed consented schemes that are simply not buildable. This puts us into a position of catch-up with our developer clients, when they, perfectly reasonably, want to avoid delays and get on-site asap.

Buying with planning consent -The result of buying a site with an unbuildable planning consent is not only delays and the potential for compromise, but also the risk that the Local Planning Authority may not allow the alterations needed in order to build.

Here are five aspects that you should look out for when purchasing land with consent.

1. Party Walls

We have come across projects where the party wall situation has not been considered in the consented scheme, causing subsequent delays and problems with the adjoining owners.

Has the party wall situation been fully assessed?

Does the design reflect the party wall situation?

Has an accurate survey been made of the area around the party walls?

2. Structural Element Sizes

If the sizes of walls, roof, and floors have not been at least approximately sized to comply with the Building Regulations, you may be buying a site with a building that will not fit. We have seen many consented schemes with walls, floors and roofs that are nowhere near compliant with Building Regulations. This may lead to a design needing to be raised in height, or sunk into the ground, but that carries huge planning risk and is likely to significantly increase costs.

TIP: Check with your architect at an early stage of your purchase process that the structural elements look realistic and, if they are not, what the implications may be.

3. Stair Design

Some planning consents include a limited number of drawings and so the whole design is not fully described. This can lead to significant errors in the original design only becoming apparent once the technical drawing work is underway. Again, compromise and increased costs are a real possibility. A typical error in the original design is the stair design. We have seen several examples of stairs that, if they were built as the planning drawings suggested, would require a homeowner to crawl up the stairs for fear of banging their head.

TIP: Our advice is to check at an early stage, with your architect.

4. Outline Planning Permission

If you are thinking about buying a site that has Outline Planning Consent, make sure you know exactly what the consent is for. An Outline Consent usually only deals with particular matters that have been listed in the application itself, such as access, principle of development, and massing. An Outline Consent will not only come with Planning Conditions but also with a Condition requiring you to discharge Reserved Matters.

Reserved Matters are, in effect, all the items that were not considered in the Outline Application and will most often include the design of the building itself. I often describe a Reserved Matters application as tantamount to a full planning application in its detail.

TIP: Be aware of this, as you will be buying the site at a certain risk and are likely to have higher consultant and Local Authority fees to pay, as well as a longer programme than you may have imagined.

5. Feasibility

Do the plans match the conditions and are they feasible? Do the conditions relate to the consented drawings and reports? We have seen energy reports, for example, that are so onerous, and not coordinated with the plans, that the intended design is not completely unachievable. It is possible to apply to alter conditions, but you really need to know if this is the route you will need to take. Again, cost implications and delay may be the result.

FINAL TIP: Look through the planning conditions and take a view, or seek advice, on whether they are feasible to discharge.

We work with developers and landowners to maximise the potential of their sites and increase their ROI. The developments range from 9 units to upwards of 50 units and often include areas of other uses such as commercial, retail, and F&B. We have excellent working relationships with a range of trusted consultants and suppliers and can advise on all aspects of these developments; from feasibility stage through to completion. We have developed an efficient and accurate site viability programme to assist developers and landowners evaluate their sites and this is offered at feasibility stage.

To arrange a call and strategic advice consultation with one of our Chartered Architects, click here, we’ll talk to you about your site or building, and how to get the most out of it.

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7377 5458



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