As an investment, buying land with a view to either self-build or produce residential properties for the market can be a significant financial decision, with potentially large returns. If you are a first-time land buyer, it is essential to be aware of the various factors you will be facing. Buying land to build on requires several important considerations such as location and the possibility of acquiring planning permission. The following advises on the most important things to consider.

Planning Permission

The ability to gain planning permission will likely be at the top of the list when it comes to buying land. The chance of attaining permission to build can vary widely depending on location, the local council, and whether the plot is in green or brownfield land.

Brownfield Land – previously developed land that is not currently in use. May also describe land that has been previously used for commercial or industrial purposes with known or suspected pollution such as soil contamination.

Greenfield Land – land that has not previously been developed.

Check Existing Planning

Some plots are sold with planning permission already granted. However, it’s important to be aware that this is often only what is known as outline planning permission, so further details will need to be cleared with the authorities. The two types of planning permission a plot can be sold with are:

Outline Planning Permission (OPP) – the consent in principle for development to occur not including particulars such as design and size. These plots must still attain Detailed Planning Permission within three years of OPP being granted.

Detailed Planning Permission (DPP) – a plot with an approved proposal for a structure, for example, a three-bed detached house and garage. It is possible to submit an application for a different design in this instance.

Check Access

It is vital to check your ability to gain access to the plot from a public highway. In some cases, landowners have been known to keep ownership of a strip of land that separates the plot from an access point. Known as a ‘ransom strip’, the owner of the land may be able to block access or sell the ground at a higher cost, due to its access value.

birds eye view of a country road

Choose an Area and Get to Know it

Searching for land in a vast area can potentially reveal a considerable number of results and possibilities, making the decision seem overwhelming. By narrowing down the desired area, it will be easier for you to establish the possibilities of the land in question. This can include a better knowledge of local tradespeople and local councils, which you will inevitably be dealing with during the planning and building process.

Get the Land Properly Surveyed

A land survey by a qualified chartered surveyor is an essential part of land development. A professional land survey can help you to establish many key aspects of the proposed plot and will uncover any hidden aspects that could cause severe and expensive problems in the future. A survey will include details of boundaries and rights, as well as factors that may affect the build, such as flood risk and overhead power lines.

an open field with a telephone pole

Existing Buildings

In some cases, a plot of land may already contain some kind of existing building. Barns and other disused farm buildings may be eligible for permitted development, although it is strongly advised to seek professional advice as approval rates vary. If there is a derelict property already on the site, it may be more feasible to demolish the existing building and start anew, with the added benefit that VAT is reclaimable on new builds, but not on renovations.

Martin Perry Associates are able to provide a range of property services for those looking to buy or develop land. As chartered surveyors and structural engineers in Plymouth and the West Country, we provide reliable and professional information and advice. For more information on planning permission, take a look at our blog about applying for planning permission on agricultural land.