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What to Think About Before Developing an Unusual Property

You may have seen Grand Designs on TV and wondered if an unusual development is for you. It can actually be a reality – and not necessarily for a million pounds either. Here we offer some things to think about before embarking on an unusual build or renovation project.

Unusual House

Any type of development is not without risk. However, certain types of building, ranging from windmills to water towers, have their unique issues which must be dealt with. The fact that many of them are undeveloped means that you will need to start from scratch to turn them into habitable homes.

Can You Live In It?

Now that’s the big question! You may have fallen in love with a tumble down building in the middle of nowhere, but if you can’t get permission to redevelop it then it’s a non-starter. Speak to a local planning officer at the local council and check whether it is likely the Council will grant planning permission before you purchase the property. You don’t want to be left with a pile of bricks with no future.

Planning permissions are usually granted subject to conditions and it is possible for a contract to be entered into subject to a satisfactory planning permission being granted. The property may fall within a Conservation Area where there are restrictions on what alterations can be carried out. Additionally, the property may be a listed building where listed building consent will also be required and where there are tight planning restrictions on what can and cannot be done to a property, even down to the type of materials used and the colour of paint.

Is There Vehicle Access?

It may sound obvious but you need to be able to get vehicles to the property, and not just cars. Redeveloping a property will usually involve large lorries delivering materials to the site, and you may even need a crane for the high up jobs. If the building you want does not have adequate access you will face all manner of difficulties. You don’t want to end up having to unload an HGV at the bottom of a hill and drag materials to the building.

If you can’t see any access for large vehicles you may need to rethink your plans. You may have a friendly neighbour who would let you use their land for access but in remote spots even this may not be practical. Bear in mind that the extent of a right of way has to be negotiated, it has cost implications and the actual exercise of it must not amount to a nuisance.

Where Will the Utilities Come From?

Any home will need water, electricity and heating as a bare minimum. You will need to consider if the house will be self-sufficient or need external utilities connecting. There are ways of checking utility connections and a lawyer will carry out various property searches. If you have spotted a septic tank when you inspected the land, there are drainage implications which need to be resolved before you buy the land. Do your research into local utility providers if there isn’t already a source to the building. You may find that this will add a lot of expense to the project as you will have to pay for extensions to the network of utilities.

If you decide to go eco-friendly, bear in mind that solar panels, water filtration systems and other green solutions can cost a lot more than bog-standard fixtures. Add this to your overall redevelopment costs at the beginning so they don’t come as a shock further down the line.

Are There Any Special Rules?

Some properties come with rules and regulations already attached. Do not assume that having seen a property which is empty you can automatically convert it. For example, if you wanted to convert a church, you should speak to the Church Commissioners as special rules apply and there are specific property searches and enquiries which must be carried out, even down to necessary groundwork where you have to be careful in case of accidental exhumation of graves.

The government is keen to promote brown field development where past industrial land can be used for residential development. Remember that conversion of the old water mill into a country home may throw up environmental issues and the clean-up of former contaminated land. Bodies such as English Heritage may need to be involved too.

Redevelopment of any property, unusual or otherwise, can throw up some legal issues; not least because everything has to conform to building regulations, planning law and numerous other legislations, including any restrictions that may be on the title to the property held at the Land Registry or on the actual title deeds. It’s always best to get legal advice from the outset to ensure that any ideas and plans you have are lawful and permitted.

If you are embarking on a property restoration or unusual property purchase and would like expert legal advice the team of property lawyers at Slater and Gordon can help. Call us on freephone 0800 223 0087 or contact us online and we will call you.

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