Tag: development land

Land and Property Professionals

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No matter who wins the next election, the number of new homes to be built on greenfield sites is set to rocket. The opportunities for landowners in key locations will greatly increase, but there will be winners and losers.

Politicians of all colours have played football with the housing market for years. In one breath they voice support for first-time buyers wanting a home at an affordable price and they criticise the housebuilding industry for failing to increase production. In the next, they vow to protect the countryside from unwelcome development, pretending that new homes can all be built on brownfield sites and allowing local authorities to fail to plan for sufficient new houses.

Both main parties aim for around 300,000 new homes per year, but for decades they have barely provided two thirds that number. Meanwhile, the population continues to grow, and houses remain unaffordable to many. Supply is not matching demand.

What is causing this shortfall? The Competitions and Markets Authority has recently submitted a major housebuilding market study, concluding:

Nothing will change until after the election, but whoever wins, it is likely that our housing shortage will be a growing political problem. Both main parties know that housing is the second basic need for the populace, after putting food on the table. The backlog has now grown too large to be ignored and, one way or another, housebuilding will be increased over coming years, driven by central government. Most of the increase will be on greenfield sites adjoining existing settlements.

Some will mourn the loss of parts of our cherished countryside and that is understandable. However, for some landowners, a windfall from a development scheme can be a much-needed shot in the arm for a farming business or for an expanding family. Many of our farming clients have benefited from modest developments on the edge of a larger village or town and often those developments prove to be well built, while providing valuable contributions to community facilities by way of a Section 106 agreement.

The process of promoting land for future development is very specialised and must be handled with skill and care. There are many pitfalls, including the possibility that land could be compulsorily acquired at agricultural values. The development world is populated by many who will take advantage of the unwary. Nevertheless, there are many professional land agents and land promoters across the country who work together to produce the best possible results for landowners and I would advise anybody with land with potential to take professional advice at an early stage.

There is no doubt that opportunities for the right land must increase considerably in coming years. In terms of housing supply, the next general election cannot come too soon.

If you would like more information or to find out how our Development department can help you, then please contact David or Andrew.

When approached by clients with potential development land, our first task is often to select a professional promoter to take the project forward. A land promotion can easily cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, even millions in some cases, and few landowners wish to risk such sums on an uncertain outcome. A promoter will take on the cost of the promotion at risk in exchange for a slice of the sales revenues if a consent can be achieved and the land sold.

But, which promoter to choose? There are hundreds claiming to be the next big thing, but few have both the experience and the finances to make it onto the Robinson & Hall shortlist. Negotiating good terms is an important part of our role but selecting the right partner to work with is arguably the most important decision of all. Much better to achieve a sale at more generous terms to the promoter than to choose the promoter offering the keenest terms only to find that they are unlikely to produce a positive result.

We work with the client’s solicitor and accountant (it is never too early to take tax advice in these matters) to produce a promotion agreement and it is then for the promoter to survey the land, produce masterplans, make representations to all relevant bodies, woo local politicians and planning officers, deal with local objections, overcome technical issues and many other things besides. We remain close to the promoter throughout this period, reporting to the landowner and often having input into design and the handling of local politics. We monitor the many surveys which will be required (ecological, archaeological, landscape impact, highways, ground investigations and many more), ensuring the minimum disruption to farming activities and negotiating compensation where necessary.

Hopefully, usually after some years of input from the promoter and ourselves, we will eventually arrive at the happy day when a planning committee resolves to grant consent for the residential development of the land. Our work is just starting. There is a Section 106 agreement to be agreed and signed, the planning consent must be issued by the local authority and we begin preparations for a sale of the land. Often, we need to commission further work to clarify matters such as archaeology, contamination or ground conditions. We bring all the title, technical and planning documentation together into an online dataroom and we market the land to our database of national and local developers. Our work is not over until a sale contract is signed and it takes great experience to ensure that the best possible price is actually achieved for our landowner clients.

Over the past year or more, residential development land values have been assailed by higher materials prices, higher labour costs, increasing fuel costs, rising interest rates, political turmoil and the covid pandemic. Yet we have continued to achieve rising prices for our land sales. Part of this success comes from the continued strength in the housing market, but part lies in knowing which housebuilders are in greatest need of a new site in any particular area. Our local knowledge is invaluable.

No doubt there are new challenges to the market now upon us. How the market will react in the short term I cannot say at this time. However, in the longer term, the demand for new housing in this region must continue and the opportunities for careful landowners are obvious. Promoters are as keen as ever to secure good sites and the housebuilders know that they need to buy land if they are to continue to build houses.

If you are considering your options and would like to find out how we can help you, then please contact David or Andrew.