Top Five Types of Building Plot

27 August 2020 Potton News
Finding land is one of the biggest hurdles self builders will have to face, and it can be a bit daunting considering where to start. There are a lot of misconceptions about what kind of land is suitable for building on, so we've prepared a helpful article that should sort the facts from the fiction.

When people think about self-build plots, they tend to picture rolling fields in countryside settings. You might be surprised to find out that this often is not the case. In fact, almost all of those fields will never get planning permission. Why? Read on and find out…

The Settlement Boundary Rule

First and foremost, the golden rule is that if the plot is outside the settlement boundary, then planning permission is unlikely to be obtained. Maps can show you exactly where this line ends – find them on your local council website. If you’ve found a plot right next to the boundary with a road and pavement back to the settlement, it’s worth an enquiry, especially if you know the local council wants to build more homes. You could also check the status of the council’s five-year land supply, which might go in your favour. Just bear in mind that a plot half a mile away from the settlement down a beaten track is probably a no go.

1. Open Fields?

We're starting off with a bit of a white lie, but thought it was best to get the misconception out of the way early. A picturesque square of countryside just outside a settlement would make the perfect plot, right? Well, no. Unfortunately, if it looks like a field… it’s probably a field. Anything with horses, sheep, or cattle is a definite no, because that land is already in use. And an area of field outside the settlement boundary is probably just that, a field. While you might think it’s not being used, it might be arable land used seasonally for farming, or fallow land left to re-fertilise. As appealing as an expanse of green might seem, steer clear of these kinds of 'plot'; more often than not, they're not really building plots at all. 

And to add to the conundrum, lots of green spaces are now protected as Green Belt land, meaning they will remain undeveloped. Councils are very reluctant to approve new builds in countryside because they want to preserve this greenery, to keep areas looking nice and organic.

But don't despair! There are a lot of other (and easier) ways to find plots that are far more likely to get planning consent…

2. Infill Plots

These might be second in our list, but they're the first real option for land suitable for building. Infill plots are strips of land sandwiched between two existing houses. So, they’re usually in a developed area, with services and road access nearby – already much better than a field. As long as they’re not part of a green corridor (an area reserved to preserve animal habitats), then this is an excellent choice.

3. Garden Plots

Similar to infilling, a garden plot involves taking a portion of a property’s garden and using that for development. And, just like infill plots, with garden plots mains and water services are already provided. Road access can be tricky; if there’s no road to the rear of the existing property, you will have to build one alongside it to reach the new garden plot. There is also the problem of overlooking, so you need to make sure that the garden is big enough to accommodate a new house while allowing adequate room between it and neighbouring properties. And, of course, you'll have to find a sizeable garden large enough to accommodate a building plot and leave enough original garden space behind.

You also need to make sure you won’t cause a loss of amenity to the neighbours. Again, looking at maps will give you a clue as to whether or not a garden plot will be approved. Some councils look upon them more favourably than others, so if you can see evidence of them nearby, that’s a great sign.

4. Brownfield Land

As unappealing as it might first look, brownfield land is an excellent option. It’s the term for land that has been developed previously. This previous development means that services and road access are already in place, and planning permission is likely to be granted because the site was home to a building before. They might come with some restrictions though, like maintaining the old building’s footprint, so make sure you investigate thoroughly. Remember that agricultural buildings do not fall under brownfield sites.

5. Replacement Dwellings

Fast becoming the most popular route to self building, building a replacement dwelling first involves locating a property with an existing, often dilapidated or otherwise unattractive house on it. If the price for renovation is higher than the cost to demolish and rebuild, or just more than what the property is actually worth, then a replacement dwelling is the way forward. Like brownfield sites, they are very likely to gain planning permission and already have service links. Often, councils allow a larger footprint for the replacement dwelling, which means you can get a bigger house than the original - sometimes up to 30% larger!

And finally...

A top tip is to think creatively. Picture a site as it could be, not as it is. Obstructions like overgrowth or walls might make the plot look a lot smaller than it actually is, and are generally quite easy to remove. Without wanting to sound like a parrot, maps are a great way to see the actual size and dimensions of a plot, as well as what kinds of developments, services, and potential hazards are nearby. And don't forget the number one rule: stay away from open fields!

Consulting a planning expert is almost always advised; it might look like a nice plot to you, but it’s wisest to get a professional to make sure that it’s suitable for development before you purchase it. There are plenty of land opportunities out there, you just have to remember what (and what not!) to look for. Happy hunting!

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