Always Remember the Next Man

17th May 2022


by Jenny Rushmer, Partner, Head of Commercial Department

One of the phrases that is often uttered on building sites is “always remember the next man”.  Whichever trade is coming in hopes that the previous trade has left the site clean and tidy in readiness for them to commence work.  Needless to say, that does not always happen and in the case of self-build developments, it often falls to the plot owner to roll up their sleeves on the weekend to brush, sweep or load out in readiness for the incoming trader.

The key with any self-build development is organisation and this should start with the conveyancing process and run right through into the build. All too often a plot owner is so pre-occupied with the purchase of the plot, they do not stand back and evaluate what additional information might be needed moving forward.  It is essential when undertaking the conveyancing process that the plot owner looks beyond simply the conveyancing itself and asks for an enhanced service from their solicitor. In particular, that enhanced service should include a utilities review and a deep dive into planning.

A utilities search is prepared by the solicitor’s search provider.  It reveals a snapshot of all existing utilities within the vicinity of the property.  Typically, a solicitor will undertake the utilities search to ensure there are no utilities running through the proposed site.  For the plot owner, the utilities search contains essential information to ascertain the points at which your property will connect to the mains services.  All properties need access to electricity and water, and the position of those services has potential cost and time implications for the plot owner.  If, for example, electricity and water are located at the property frontage then it should be a relatively inexpensive job for the property to be connected.  If, however, the mains water and electricity are located on the opposite side of the highway then a road closure order would be needed prior to making the connection.  A road closure order would delay the connection of the property to the main services.  That delay could potentially impact on the timescales of the build.  The utilities search also reveals those services which are not available to the new property.  By way of example, foul water drainage may not be located in close proximity to the property.  If that is the case, then the plot owner should consider a private sewage system and the private sewage system should be included in the plans for the proposed development.  A private sewage system may also require further tests to be undertaken (e.g., perforation tests).

You should also ask your solicitor to undertake a deep dive into the planning permission.  The property may have the benefit of planning permission and in order to procure planning permission some surveys may have been undertaken.  The plot owner will want to rely on those survey results, and it is therefore necessary the solicitor to obtain letters of reliance from the survey providers enabling the plot owner to rely upon the results of the survey.  In addition, further surveys may be required (e.g., contamination, bat surveys) before work can commence on the development. These conditions can be categorised into pre-commencement conditions and pre-occupation conditions.  It is essential that you know what the pre-commencement conditions are and what works need to be undertaken in order to satisfy those conditions.  There is nothing more disappointing for the plot owner to commence work on site only to have the planning enforcement officer arrive and place a stop notice on the development.

Whilst the plot purchase is typically seen as only a conveyancing process, it is a missed opportunity for most plot owners to gather essential information about their project.  Connection fees and additional surveys that need to be undertaken all come at cost and a fact-finding mission. Our team have a wealth of experience in self-build development and can assist you with budgeting by identifying those costs which are yet to be incurred.


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This article aims to supply general information, but it is not intended to constitute advice. Every effort is made to ensure that the law referred to is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead. However, no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy. Always seek advice specific to your own circumstances.  Fraser Dawbarns LLP are always happy to provide such advice.

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