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This is probably the least understood but most important aspect of any self-build project or housing development because if this part isn't done correctly it can have huge repercussions on your proposals; both financially and/or physically.

 

 

  

"Only Fools Rush In; Where Angels Fear To Tread!"

Of course many problems can be dealt as they arise; if you are 'happy' to risk wasting your money trying to mitigate or rectify such things; however we believe in a more intelligent approach to building houses whereby we use our own professional and practical building experience to create a holistic approach to the design and construction of projects and housing developments thereby minimising the effect of potential problems before they arise!

Planning Considerations

Planning is only concerned with how your proposals affect the land and its surroundings; i.e. it's all about the land's usage, the scale (size) of what you propose building, the aesthetics (appearance) and the siting (positioning) of the proposed house(s).

  • Planning isn't concerned about how much you intend to spend or even how the building(s) will be constructed; unless you intend building something akin to a 'Huf-Haus' which will directly affect the aesthetics (appearance) of any proposed house.  However; planning considerations and the site itself WILL directly affect every aspect of what you intend building AND impact upon both the construction costs and the 'open-market' value of the finished house(s)!

Similarly; the chosen site will impact upon those same considerations through its orientation, topography, size and physical location; it will also directly impact upon the potential construction costs, 'open-market' value of the finished house(s), etc.

  • When general concerns persist about whether any residential development will be permitted at all; they are best dealt with by the submission of an 'Outline Planning Application' including as much general detail as possible about whatever matters to you.  It will also involve the sundry supplementary documents/statements dealing with 'Design & Access', 'Flood Risk', 'Drainage', etc.  Although many people seem to feel that the amount of information now required for an 'Outline Application' rather defeats the whole point of making one; it still allows the basic principles to be either ratified or refused without incurring the expense of having the entire project designed to the 'nth' degree with full & final design drawings being produced!

It is also very important to realise that; despite the natural sense of relief; when planning permission is granted and/or exists ~ it doesn't guarantee that you will ever actually be allowed to build what has been approved!

FACT: Although legally you cannot start building your project or development without having a current full detailed planning approval for your proposed project or development; the grant of planning permission takes NO account whatsoever of all sorts of practical and/or legal considerations; the existence of which can totally prevent any attempt to implement any planning approval!

Potentially Serious Problems ~ That You Can See!

Providing there isn't a problem over the proposed usage of the land for residential purposes; taking full account of the orientation, topography, size and surroundings of the site; so as to maximise its advantages and minimise any disadvantages; will greatly enhance the likelihood of getting the desired full planning permission and maximising the financial viability of your project or development.

  • However; never underestimate the consequences of discovering that the chosen site is 'home' to a protected species; such as bats, newts, badgers and various plants and flora, etc.!  Unless the site is large enough to accommodate your proposed development without affecting them; it might prove easier to look for another site instead!
  • Another potential 'hazard' to development are trees.  Specimen trees often have a 'Tree Preservation Order' to 'inhibit' their felling and removal.  (NB: A surprising number of TPO's get slapped on trees as a direct consequence of people simply enquiring about the planning consent situation for a particular site!)  It is hardly surprising that different types of trees do have different types of root system; some tree types spread roots out near the surface, other tree types send roots almost straight down very deep; the type of tree/root system that exists will impact upon the siting and, possibly therefore, the size of what you can get permission to build especially if the planners don't agree to the felling of those trees.  Of course; certain types of tree combined with certain types of subsoil can cause major problems if trees are removed, or were removed relatively recently, due to the increased moisture levels affecting the stability of the sub-strata!
  • Potential 'flood-risk' areas are a planning consideration just as much as the means of foul sewage disposal and dealing with storm-water 'run-off'.  High water-table levels and/or the existence of water 'springs', are just some of the other practical problems that have to be dealt with that will affect how the proposed building is sited and/or constructed.  When there is no foul sewer available; they will also become a planning consideration because they will adversely affect how foul sewage and storm-water can be dealt with ~ knowing how to deal with such problems can save a great deal of anguish.

Then There's The Ground Itself!

The nature of what is beneath the surface of the ground won't normally affect planning; but it will impact upon construction costs!  Unfortunately; the usual 'industry' response is to literally keep pouring the client's money into the ground until it becomes possible to continue with the rest of the construction as 'normal'!

  • Whilst we would fully support the idea that major 'ground problems' of whatever nature ought to be reflected in a substantially lowered price to acquire the site; we also strongly adhere to the principle that any ground problems should always be minimised by not simply 'building as normal'!  That will automatically reduce or avoid the effect or impact of ground problems and minimise the cost of dealing with whatever problem remains.  It is invariably the cheapest option; i.e. it minimises the risk of any of the client's money getting 'wasted' in the ground!

FACT: Whether you spend 1,000 or 100,000 on the foundations ~ it won't increase the value of the finished property by even 1p!

And Plenty Of Problems You Probably Won't See ~ Until It's Too Late!

Of course; what lies beneath the surface of the ground may not simply be a 'poor' substrata and/or a very high water-table.  It could be a 'filled-in' former village pond, quarry pit, etc.  It could be the remains of old mine-workings; e.g. old ventilation shafts that haven't been properly 'capped'; or simply the risk of subsidence where the old 'workings' were at a relatively shallow depth.  Sewers, etc. sometimes 'turn-up' in the most unexpected places; especially when the manholes are 'blind'; i.e. buried chambers; with no access cover showing at ground level!  Nor does having an existing detailed planning permission guarantee that you can actually build what has been approved ~ one client came to us having already bought a plot with full 'DPP'.  Instead of simply preparing the Building Regulations application; we had to totally re-design his project and submit a new planning application after we discovered that there was a medium-pressure gas distribution main buried under the road-side verge; i.e. outside the plot; but considerably less than the statutory ten metres (minimum) distance required from the front wall of the original proposed house!

Beware The Expensive Statutory Obligations 'Attached' To Land Ownership!

Equally important is to know, or find out, what the site has been used for in the past; it isn't just the most recent usage that matters either ~ it is surprising how many former 'uses' can create a risk of 'contamination' that was probably never realised, never mind dealt with.  Despite lying 'dormant' for decades it will still be potent and it will become your statutory responsibility to deal with it once you acquire the land!  Similarly; any existing buildings on the site could pose problems if there is any asbestos whatsoever in them because there is a statutory duty to employ a specialist licensed contractor to deal with its safe removal.  There are also similar (expensive) restrictions upon how and where you can dispose of any of the contaminated spoil, asbestos waste, etc.

The Biggest Risk?

The biggest risk is to assume that none of these possible problems exists ~ most of the time they won't ~ but when they do; they could potentially 'bankrupt' your project and/or development ~ as could choosing to rely upon people who don't know how to find and deal with such problems and risks for you!

  • We purposely haven't mentioned the type of practical and/or legal problems that can halt any prospective project or housing development 'in its tracks'; partly because we are concerned that there may be people reading this brief 'summary' who are naive enough to presume that we have given them sufficient 'pointers' to somehow make them 'competent' to spot and/or deal with any potential problems that might occur.  Although we want to make everybody aware of the potential 'pitfalls' and 'risks'; it isn't our intention to mislead anybody into trouble by giving them 'grounds' for believing that they now 'know it all' so that they can safely handle such things for themselves.

When the job is done properly and comprehensively; it will always be money well spent; if only for the peace of mind it gives you to know that either there isn't a problem or, conversely, that any prospective or potential problems have been successfully dealt with! 

FACT: We have been successfully doing such things for ourselves and our clients for the last 40 years.

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THE NEXT STEP?

If you haven't yet gone beyond finding a suitable parcel or plot of land or making the fundamental planning decisions for your project or housing development; or you want advice before moving things forward onto the next stage; we are very happy to discuss your proposals with you.  Simply post or e-mail copies to us of any 'background information'; such as 'sale particulars', 'sketched out' ideas, formal plans, existing 'DPP' drawings, etc. that you have (together with your contact details), so we can discuss specifically relevant matters with you; rather than wasting your time, and ours, discussing abstract 'generalities' with you!

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