Avoid Unwelcome Surprises By Doing the Homework Before Buying a Brownfield Site

Land in the UK that has been previously used for any purpose and is no longer in use for that purpose is called a Brownfield site and it is often seen as a good investment for both housing or a more commercial development.

There are several things to consider when considering buying brownfield land, including its previous use and possible contamination, its location, planning permissions that might be needed, any legal restrictions attached to the land and the cost of supplying various utilities to the site.

Buying building land can be expensive, but generally a brownfield site that has previously contained buildings may be a more affordable investment, but this will depend on doing the homework thoroughly before making a decision to buy.

Because they form the foundations of any new building the ground conditions are important and it may be necessary to have a specialist take a look to ensure the plot is not affected by flooding, or historical agricultural pollution or industrial pollution. It can be very expensive to have land decontaminated before it can be re-used.

The size of the plot will also be important, especially if the plan is to build homes on the site. The average home will require approximately a tenth of an acre allowing for some room around the property, but local authority planners may also impose other conditions, such as landscaping and off street parking spaces that would affect the number of dwellings that can be put on the site and therefore whether development will be both cost effective and provide an acceptable return on the investment.

Planning permission can be costly to obtain and it is preferable to buy land with at least outline planning permission in place as although the initial purchase price of the land will be higher there will be a saving on the initial costs, the confidence that there is at least some indication that the local planning authority has accepted some development can go ahead and eventually the result should be greater profit on the investment.

If the site that is being considered is close to other development the next question is for what purpose the planning authority is likely to be willing to permit its use. If a brownfield site is in a largely residential area is likely to be attractive for further housing, or perhaps a small local shop, but would hardly be suitable for some industrial uses.

It is essential to have a solicitor on board and to have them research any legal restrictions before deciding whether to go ahead with the purchase. Among the most important considerations are access, both to any public road, especially where this crosses a verge, or private road, covenants, any rights of way across the site, and what rights there are for services to cross the land.

It is also wise to check with the local Council about any documents it may hold relating to the land, and the cost of an application for detailed planning permission, which can be expensive, especially if the authority rejects initial designs and asks for modifications. If there are any trees on the land the council may either have preservation orders in place to protect them or wish for them to be protected and therefore accommodated in any building plans. This too can make the difference between an investment that will yield a reasonable profit or not.

If there have been previous applications to develop the land and these have been rejected it will therefore also be possible to establish what the planning authority finds acceptable and what it has objections to. By the same token if it is in an area where local residents have been consulted, any letters of objection or support will also be on file.

Doing the homework properly before committing to purchase a brownfield site for development can make all the difference to a successful and profitable outcome.

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