It is crucial before you commit to purchasing a plot for your self build, that you know the planning permission status and are fully aware of the potential for development.
There are two main types of planning approval:
Outline planning approval indicates that development, in principle, is acceptable on the plot. It is not however consent to build and the local authority will require submission of a detailed application and approval before you can start work. Outline permission is valid for five years but an application for 'approval of reserved matters', which converts outline permission to detailed must be submitted within three years.
Submitting an outline application can give a good indication of development possibilities, without needing to provide too much information.
Full or 'detailed' planning approval requires the submission of detailed plans and specifications for your proposed property, including its position on the plot, access and vehicular provisions. On approval, full planning is valid for five years.
Buying a plot without any planning approval is risky business. We recommend you have at least outline planning permission before proceeding with a purchase and if you require finance or a self build mortgage to purchase your self build plot, then lenders will require this before they will advance funds.
If you've found a plot without any planning, you can apply for permission without owning the land but you must inform the owner that you intend to do so. If successful, the plot is obviously going to be worth more and the owner will know this. You'll probably have to negotiate an agreement whereby you both benefit from the increased value.
Sometimes plots are sold without planning permission and the vendor inserts a 'clawback' clause in the contract of sale. This means that they are entitled to a share of any increase in value of the land as a result of permission being granted at a later date. You take the risk and they get a stake in the reward!
If consent has been granted you should still pore over the paperwork carefully. Some of it will be available on your local authority website which can be found through the planning portal website. A visit to the local planning department offices to look at the whole file is also advisable.
Reading through the paperwork will help you gather as much information about the plot as you can. You could uncover problems or objections that were encountered and where they came from or constraints and conditions that didn't quite make it into the sales blurb.
The consultation part of the planning process sees the application transferred to different local authority departments for review and comment. Problems with highway access, turning heads, archaeological or conservation issues may be raised here.
Check consent is still valid, is not about to elapse and actually applies to the plot in question. A search for previous applications can allow you to build a picture of the plot's planning history.
If there are any issues that concern you, try contacting the planning officer who dealt with the application for a chat.
The more you know and the sooner you know it the better.
If you choose your designer during the plot search process, they will be on hand to offer expert advice on planning issues before you buy. If there are any problem areas, they may recommend employing a specialist planning consultant.
As part of their service, your conveyancing solicitor should also review the planning file and discuss it and any issues they have found, with you.
When it comes to planning permission, do the research and get proper advice before you sign on the dotted line!
Return to our Buying Land section for more information on finding a plot and avoiding the pitfalls.