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Selling to developers

(39 Posts)
acornfed Wed 07-Feb-18 06:01:51

Gutted. The land next to us is going to be sold to developers very soon less than two years after we bought our "forever house."
Yes - I have learnt many lessons. We just didn't think we'd care as much about the view as we do after we have lived in it. Very silly and naive I know. We were told it couldn't be developed as it backed on to a SSSi site but actually it can be as all it needs is a 15 metre buffer . I can't imagine anyone wanting to buy the property with all the uncertainty

No planning has gone in yet but the developer has bought the land, which sits just outside the settlement boundary and cleared the (beautiful) trees. My son has asthma and he probably won't be able to play in the garden much until the building work is finished.

I want to sell the house and approach the developer as our house would give him much better access to the land. Our house is worth over a million (yes I know I am very very lucky) and has a 0.75 acre plot . Our house has a restrictive covenant on though for one dwelling.
Is this easily over ruled? It seems the covenant is owned by the person who owns the land to be developed.

Poosnu Wed 07-Feb-18 06:39:10

That type of covenant is absolute and can't be overturned as things currently stand.

However if the developer owned both plots - the land with the benefit of the covenant and your land subject to the covenant - the covenant could be extinguished. There would be no one to enforce it.

acornfed Wed 07-Feb-18 13:17:44

Thanks very much
Is there much chance of a developer being interested if it improves access to the land only?

Blankscreen Wed 07-Feb-18 13:26:48

If the developer has already bought the land next door then they will already have their access arrangements sorted.

If your house can be developed then they may be interested but it is unlikely they will pay over a million just to provide alternative access.

sixteenapples Wed 07-Feb-18 13:30:14

I don't see why not. It will depend on price. all you can do is approach him.

I am very sorry to hear this - it is terrible news. I hope that you can turn it to your advantage.

Sensus Wed 07-Feb-18 13:30:53

Not unless Planning Permission depends upon it.

If you effectively 'ransom' the access, either due to restricted width, or because they need your land to deliver the bellmouths, off-site highway improvements or (most commonly) visibility splays, then they might be interested in purchasing the house to deliver these, then selling it on minus the necessary land when they have consent.

whiskyowl Wed 07-Feb-18 13:37:16

Your house sounds beautiful, and I am sure it would sell to the right person. A 15 metre buffer is actually quite a lot, plus you have a huge plot, and do remember there will be gardens for the other houses on top of that. Though you will lose a view, you may be pleasantly surprised at how little it affects you in the end, particularly if you are able to use landscaping to screen. Instead of losing money in the sales process (stamp duty must be a lot on homes that size!) you would see this as an opportunity to invest in a world class garden!

I know change is really worrying, and of course you must be approaching this with trepidation, but it doesn't have to be the end of the world. flowers

Sensus Wed 07-Feb-18 13:38:38

"If the developer has already bought the land next door then they will already have their access arrangements sorted. "

They may not have actually bought the land yet - it's more likely that they have an option on it, subject to obtaining Planning Permission.

But it's unlikely that they would have even gone so far as to enter into an option agreement unless they were pretty convinced that they could deliver the access - that's a very basic, fundamental part of the initial feasibility process.

Obviously £1 million for a 0.75 acre plot equates to £1.33 million per acre. There are parts of the country where residential development land is worth that much, but they're relatively few and far between.

acornfed Wed 07-Feb-18 22:15:35

Whiskyowl what a particularly kindly message. Thank you

What is having an option on land mean please?

whiskyowl Thu 08-Feb-18 08:19:08


I think an option on land is when developers purchase not the land itself, but the right to buy that land at a future date, should they be successful in getting planning for it. They usually run for a fixed number of years. The developer then takes on the risk of seeing the land through the planning process. I think what Sensus is saying is effectively that this isn't a set-in-stone deal! They may not get planning.

Sensus Thu 08-Feb-18 08:57:52

Yes, as Whiskeyowl says.

Developers seldom buy land outright unless it either has Outline Planning Permission already, or else is such a nailed-on certainty that Planning Permission is assured.

An Option is where they agree a price for full purchase, but then pay a nominal sum (still often tens of £thousands) for exclusivity while they go through the Planning process and any other due diligence on the site. At the end of the period of exclusivity (known as a 'lockout period') they can either choose to buy the site, or to walk away from it, leaving the vendor free to market it to others again.

It isn't necessarily all down to Planning, either: it's not unknown fro a developer to gain Planning permission on an Optioned site, but then still walk away from it, if they have more profitable alternatives on the boil elsewhere.

I should add that before I set up my own Architectural and Planning practice, I was regional head of design for one of the big housebuilders. If you wish to message me your address (in confidence, of course), I would be happy to give you an opinion on how important I think your plot might be for the feasibility of the development.

acornfed Thu 08-Feb-18 09:45:13

Sensus- wow thank you. That's so kind. I will do that.
Can you find out if land has an option on it or is this private information?

acornfed Thu 08-Feb-18 09:50:35

How does someone send a PM on the iPhone app please?

BubblesBuddy Thu 08-Feb-18 10:02:25

I am surprised that trees have been felled already. Also, is this site in the Neighbourhood Development Plan? What about the Local Authorities Local Plan. If it is, then it will be developed. If it’s not, then there will be a lot of local resistance. A large plot on the edge of my local village has just gone to appeal and the developer failed. It wasn’t in the plan so no pp. You can check out the status of the site in terms of the local plan and pp with the LA.

DH works on pp negotiations and appeals by developers and it can take years to get detailed pp - even when a site is in a local plan for development! If the site is in the local plan, why didn’t your solicitor pick it up? You should have found out about this if it was a known development site.

Sensus Thu 08-Feb-18 10:24:26

I've sent you a message (hopefully) with my contact details, Acornfed.

No you won't be able to find out if the land has an option on it, but it might be possible to find out (from the Land Registry) whether it has recently changed hands - ie. that it has been bought outright. If it hasn't, then it's a pretty safe bet that either it's under option, or the sale is still going though and hasn't shown up at the LR yet.

With my former 'Evil Developer' hat on, I'm not surprised in the slightest that the trees are already gone. It comes under the heading of what we would term 'pre-application land management'. smile

Bluntly: if they're not there, they can't prejudice the Planning application, and there are lots of things that you can do, perfectly legally, on agricultural land that you can't do without permission if you're planning a residential development.

In a similar vein, I have seriously considered retiring to run a mobile poultry farm, hiring out my services to developers... I would live in my Romany caravan and tour the country with a thousand assorted poultry (and maybe a few free-range pigs). A couple of weeks on a prospective development site will see it reduced to something that looks like the Battle of the Somme, with no ecology left on it at all, and compared to the noise and smell of geese and turkeys, I reckon most neighbours would welcome a building site with open arms! wink

acornfed Thu 08-Feb-18 10:29:27

Bubblesbuddy, thank you.
It wasn't in the LA plan or neighbourhood plan so thought it would not get developed. It is right on the edge of a settlement boundary and in a green field site and so under COM2 there can be building on there for affordable housing (I believe).
It is a particularly beautiful field but only our house has a full view of it so not sure how bothered the other residents will really be if one or two houses go up initially and it is developed by stealth.
Chatting to some of the neighbours they say that we need more affordable housing and those kind of things and of course they are right etc etc
They also want to keep their powder dry most likely to oppose things that would affect them more.
The trees were chopped down by tree surgeons on a weekend. The tree dept have looked into it and couldn't do anything as although old and beautiful non had a TPO but are adjacent to a SSSI site.

BubblesBuddy Thu 08-Feb-18 11:44:30

I do know that trees can be felled if they are not protected by a TPO, but it seems very early to bother with no pp. My DH is a consultant to many large housing developers and they tend not to bother with this sort of thing unless the trees are very much in the way. If they were adjacent to the SSSI site it seems they would not have been in the way because they need to leave the buffer zone.

I would still have thought that if it is not in a LA plan or neighbourhood plan that someone would be organising an objection. They do around here for that, and win.

Can you check out what your local parish council thinks? Do you have a conservation office for the SSSI? Or a local wildlife trust for example. A Villagfe preservation society? That sort of thing. Has the site been the subject of planning applications in the past? What is the history of the site? As it does not have pp, you have all to fight for. Your biggest plus is that it is not in any plan.

Housing Association housing usually is contained within developmet sites (say 25%). It does not have to be a separate site. However in a village, there may be a need for social housing and, as such, it will be a small development for local people only. If it has yet to get pp, then there should be local discussion about it and a social housing site should be identified in the local plan. This does sound a bit kite flying!

Sensus Thu 08-Feb-18 12:06:55

"Housing Association housing usually is contained within development sites (say 25%). It does not have to be a separate site. However in a village, there may be a need for social housing and, as such, it will be a small development for local people only. If it has yet to get pp, then there should be local discussion about it and a social housing site should be identified in the local plan. This does sound a bit kite flying!"

The COM2 local policy already referred to by Acornfed is commonplace.

It's what we call a 'rural exceptions' policy, and it allows sites of exclusively affordable housing in small settlements that would otherwise be viewed as 'unsustainable', or on greenfield land outside of settlement Planning boundaries (but usually on the edge of such boundaries), where open market housing would not be allowed.

The need for the affordable housing may already have been identified by the Local Authority, as part of a Housing Needs Assessment, a process that all Authorities are obliged to undertake.

Beyond the Housing Needs Assessment, it is frequently possible for developers to evidence the need for affordable housing by liaising directly with the Local Authority Housing Officers, with their lists of local people who are in need of housing.

Such is the desperate shortage of housing in the UK, that it is also frequently possible to leverage such 'Rural Exceptions' sites into open market housing.

Do not rely on the Local Plan being up to date - and if it isn't, it's open season for developers on any likely bit of land.

BubblesBuddy Thu 08-Feb-18 15:29:58

How ever the site has been identified for development there should be local information about the decision-making process and it still needs pp. I didn’t think that could be circumvented whatever the need. There will be information about this site somewhere and it makes sense to ask the Parish Council and the LA for information.

I think we all know about the need for housing and rural housing is needed too. However local people who are affected by decisions should be able to find out about how the decision was reached.

BubblesBuddy Thu 08-Feb-18 15:33:22

Our local plan is yet to be agreed and the neighbourhood plan isn’t agreed either. Previous policies applied for the site I mentioned and the planning inspector didn’t allow the proposed development. At the very least there should be evidence of housing need and no developer can build social housing because they feel like it. (Well not yet anyway!)

Sensus Thu 08-Feb-18 15:45:42

"There will be information about this site somewhere and it makes sense to ask the Parish Council and the LA for information. "

This is not necessarily the case if, as the OP has already stated, a Planning Application has yet to be submitted.

On the contrary, developers will tend to play their cards very close to their chest, until they feel that it is necessary to 'go public'.

We're frequently prohibited from even speaking to Planners about a site during the feasibility phase, for fear of information or our client's interest leaking out, and quite often land wont be openly marketed - a Land Agent may offer it only to a pre-selected handful of prospective developers who they know have the resources, appetite and local connections to be genuine prospects.

Don't assume anything...

BubblesBuddy Thu 08-Feb-18 17:18:06

I did say “if it has been identified for development” there may be info at the PC or the Planning Authority. Of course the developer may have an option and they won’t agree the sale price and final contract until they have pp.

The op says it’s going to be sold and then that it is sold, which suggests confusion. If money has actually changed hands, the developer usually knows they can develop! If it is contentious, the landowner won’t get the full value if the cost of getting pp is enormous. There is nothing to stop the op making enquiries. They may elicit nothing of course or they may. They may turn up that the LA is keen for social housing on this site. The PC might be desperate for it to go ahead. No harm in surfing through their planning committee minutes to see what turns up, if anything.

acornfed Thu 08-Feb-18 17:23:52

Thanks all.
I have done some digging and the local planning policy document has only just been updated and should be valid for about 15 years. The village design statement has also been recently updated stating quite strongly that areas outside of the settlement boundary should not be developed. I don't know how much weight the VDS actually holds..?
The last planning application on the field was 20 years ago and refused. The site was then bought by someone wanting to prevent a development but now admits he is ready to sell for the right price. I've seen developers measure up and also oversee the tree felling so it all looks like things are moving.

acornfed Thu 08-Feb-18 17:26:41

Sorry I should have said that the land is rumoured to have been sold and we have all presumed it has based on the above, but now I am a bit wiser it seems it could have "an option " on it

Sensus Thu 08-Feb-18 17:37:02

"I did say “if it has been identified for development”"

Yes, of course, but in this context we probably need to qualify by saying if it has been identified for development by the Local Authority.

It may have been identified as suitable for development by a developer or land agent, outside of the LPA's knowledge.

As you say, the final sale price will be subject to Planning, including the costs of obtaining the permission (which will be deducted from a 'gross' land value that has been agreed at the outset), but that won't concern the OP, I don't suppose!

Parish Councils usually can't find their bum with both hands, in my experience, so the Planning department of the Local Authority is the place to start if you do want to make such enquiries, but don't make assumptions that the site isn't being brought forward if you draw a blank.

"At the very least there should be evidence of housing need and no developer can build social housing because they feel like it. (Well not yet anyway!)"

There are, however, good recent appeal decisions that basically say (to paraphrase) that we've got a critical, national housing shortage and LPA's should not resist sustainable housing development (affordable or otherwise), just because they've met their numbers on local need. If the Local Plan is out of date, this is doubly so.

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