Planning, construction & development

24th September 2013


by Daniel Ball, Partner

How to avoid the ‘builder headache’

The more developers I act for, it becomes increasingly apparent, that building plots and larger development sites are thwart with perils for the unwary. This is no criticism of developers, on the contrary, I have the greatest sympathy with the builder who wants to get on site to ‘break soil’ or ‘lay brick’ only to be thwarted by the lawyer with legal problems – most of which are more interesting for the lawyer than the common bricky to muse over. I’ve recently been instructed on two cases which are fraught with problems whereby landowners have approached an architect for planning permission. The architect has performed a stunning service in getting planning determined only for the lawyer to put the stop on the sale of land – which only 6 weeks earlier- all looked very rosy. The disregard by the landowner of their title deeds is the primary cause of the ‘builder headache’. This so called headache manifests itself in a variety of forms and here are but a few for the unwary to avoid:

  1. Location plans to determined planning applications not being consistent with title deeds;
  2. Location plans including other land owned by third parties;
  3. Planning Permission being granted in contravention of covenants on the land;
  4. Other third party interests by way of historic easement that should be varied
  5. Visibility splays crossing land owned by the neighbours.

All the above problems can be dealt with by taking legal advise on the title deed in contemplation of planning permission. Obtaining a resolution to the aforementioned problems comes at a lesser expense if planning has not been determined. Land owners are effectively placing themselves in a ransom situation and the neighbours and other third parties are cutting into the profit margin. Of course the builder may well take on the aforementioned problems, but only at a reduced selling price and of course this will do nothing to alleviate the Builder Headache.

So what to do:

The Landowner should obtain an up to date Official Copy (Register and Plan) to their title at the earliest opportunity. This can be obtained from your solicitor and at that point you can then unveil the grand scheme for development and have the lawyer highlight those issues before they become problems.

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