Finding Land

Finding suitable and affordable land is often the most challenging part of a self-build journey. This article will highlight some of the key factors to be aware of when looking for your perfect plot.


Identifying a Suitable Plot

First and foremost, it is crucial to identify whether a site you are looking at will be a suitable and sturdy plot for your new home. There are a number of things to consider here including:

  • The size of the plot – is the plot big enough for the house you want to build
  • The surrounding areas i.e. are there suitable facilities, do you need to be close to certain amenities such as a hospital or school, who will be your neighbours
  • The condition of the plot's ground – can you spot areas of poor ground i.e. wet areas (could be at risk of flooding or sinking), heavy clay (can cause soil to shrink or swell resulting in the movement of foundations), soft sand (can be erodible and cause uneven ground) or filled land (must be suitable to hold the required foundations)
  • Is the plot's ground even – uneven or slopping ground can cause problems when building on it
  • Is there suitable drainage systems and other services in place – ask landowner, nearby neighbours or local authorities to confirm but do not start to arrange services until the plot has been purchased and planning permission confirmed
  • Can you picture your dream home there? Will the sun set or rise where you want it to? Are there trees or buildings obstructing your view? Is there suitable access to the house? Is there appropriate space for parking?

If you have visited a plot and analysed it against the above list and you think it meets your required needs, unsurprisingly the next step is to look at planning permission and any other legal considerations.


Planning Permission and Other Legal Considerations

Once you have decided on a plot, you need to check the planning permission for it.

The planning permission of a plot will likely fall into one of three categories: the land has no planning permission, the land has outlined planning permission or the land has detailed or full planning permission for a building with a devised set of plans.

If the plot has no planning permission, you can get in touch with a planning officer to find out if it will be possible to get planning permission. Sometimes a plot without planning permission may be cheaper but there can be higher risks involved. It is important you check the site suitability list in the previous section and the potential future risks in the following section.

To apply for planning permission in Scotland and to find out more on how to apply and the fees incurred, visit https://www.eplanning.scot/ePlanningClient/

TOP TIP
if you have found the perfect plot but it has no planning permission, ask the landowner to come to an agreement on price subject to the plot securing planning permission. That way if the planning application is successful the plot price will not suddenly increase and if it is not successful, you do not need to buy the land.

If the land has outlined planning permission, there will be an initial set of plans often with conditions attached to it, also known as 'Revised Matters'. Common Revised Matters are:

  • The building's appearance
  • Access to and from the building
  • The layout
  • Scale
  • Landscaping

If there are Revised Matters in place, you need to check if your plans adhere to those conditions or if you can redesign your plans to fit into required conditions.

It also important to note that outlined planning permission lasts for three years from the date it was issued so be sure you have enough time to begin development before the planning permission expires or else you will need to reapply.

Finally, the plot of land may have a detailed or full planning permission on it. This type of planning permission can be more restrictive for building designs and plans. It is likely that a full planning permission has a design to follow – although in some cases other designs may be considered.

In addition to applying and securing planning permission, other legal factors must be taken into consideration before building a property. This can include:

  • Right of access – who has right of access? Will you have right of access to get to the plot or do other people have right of access? You should be able to find out this information from the landowner
  • Are there any restrictive agreements or planning obligations that your development may breach? If so you must let local authorities know, as you may be required to pay compensation for any perceived damages
  • Does your development obstruct any public access such as footpaths or tracks? If so, it could hinder your chances of obtaining planning permission
  • Be sure to research any legal fees you may need to pay and pay them on time
  • Are there any environmental risks attached to your development? Such as obstructing a protected species' habitat or felling protected trees
  • In Scotland, once planning permission is confirmed you must apply and pay for a building warrant before construction begins. If this is not done before the development begins you may be fined. For more information on building warrants look here: https://www.mygov.scot/building-warrant/

Once you have looked at planning permission and all other legal risk, it is important to identify any possible future risks and how serious they are.


Potential Future Risks

Like all developments, there are potential future risks that should be identified early on to avoid future problems and potential damages to the property. This can include:

  • Risk of flooding – with the potential to completely ruin or seriously damage a development, it is important to check the risk of flooding before beginning construction. To find out if your development is at risk of flooding you can check here:
    https://www.sepa.org.uk/environment/water/flooding/flood-maps/
  • Risk of contamination – is there a risk of the land becoming contaminated? Land can become contaminated from being exposed to various substances such as heavy metals, agricultural use or garage use. If there is a risk of the land being contaminated then you may want to apply for an environmental assessment. More information on contaminated land in Scotland can be found under the Scottish Government’s Planning Advice Note 33, accessible here:
    https://www.gov.scot/Publications/2000/10/pan33

As you can tell from the above, finding and securing suitable land can be a time-consuming and extensive process but it is a crucial step in building your own dream home. This article can act as a guide for finding and securing the right plot of land.