Will my new be threatened by local development?

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Local development could seriously disrupt your daily life and reduce the value of your home. How can you check local development plans for an area before you buy?

Local area plans

Local area plans outline the future development framework for an area for the next 15 years, including:

  • area and strategic priorities
  • the neighbourhood plan framework
  • land allocations
  • infrastructure and housing needs

Area plans are also the starting point for considering whether planning applications should be approved.

Local authorities publish their local area plans on their websites.

In respect of local area plans, the Gov.uk website states:

'Succinct and up-to-date plans should provide a positive vision for the future of each area and a framework for addressing housing needs and other economic, social and environmental priorities.'

As a buyer, you can review the local area plan from the draft planning stage onwards.

Planning applications

Planning permission applications are available in the public domain. If a planning application has been submitted or granted for a new supermarket in the field behind a home you are interested in buying, this can be viewed on the respective local authority website.

The local council's planning department will have a record of local planning applications and approvals. Although you may not wish to spend hours trawling through recent decisions, a planning department's website will usually have a search function to check a postcode, street or using local area keywords.

You can find the relevant council for a property on the Government Planning Portal.

The search should return details of decisions in the specified area, including their scope and whether the request was approved, denied, is being appealed, or has been withdrawn.

Be aware that if the council has withdrawn permission for a nearby development, permission may still be granted if the developer appeals.

Check online

Local newspapers, online message boards or Facebook groups may discuss significant planning decisions or anticipated development in the area.

Although local rumours should be taken with a pinch of salt and opinions will be subjective, these resources can reveal the prospect of major changes to an area before an official decision is made.

At the viewing

As you arrive at the property, imminent or ongoing construction in the immediate area will probably be obvious.

Given that the legal side of the house buying process alone can take an average of 12 weeks, it's worth considering that work that's underway may be completed by the time you move in.

When you view the property, keep your eyes and ears open for signs of possible local development. The agent might tell you about planned developments but will probably give you a positive spin.

Look for any council planning notices posted in the area and keep an eye out for developer's "coming soon" billboards.

Speak to the neighbours

If you can, ask the neighbours if they are aware of any planned works in the area.

If they are friendly with the vendor, a neighbour may be reluctant to reveal information about the property, but they may mention any 'hot-button' local issues like unpopular developments.

Fields and wasteland

Many homebuyers have been disappointed to learn that the unobstructed view they thought they would enjoy, could be obliterated by a new development.

If you have fallen in love with a house because it backs onto picturesque rolling hills or because an adjacent empty plot means your garden won't be overlooked, you may want to investigate whether there are any plans for the site.

Any undeveloped land could be developed in the future. Unless the land is contaminated or protected by green-belt or other restrictions, there is a strong chance of future development.

Ask the estate agent about any open land near the property, but remember, the agent works for the seller.

What do sellers need to disclose?

A seller will complete various standard property forms about their property and how they have used it.

The TA6 Property Information Form specifically asks the seller:

'Have any notices or correspondence been received or sent (e.g. from or to a neighbour, council or government department), or any negotiations or discussions taken place, which affect the property or a property nearby?'

The seller must complete the form honestly and provide details of any work carried out.

If a seller fails to disclose any notices they have received which you subsequently discover as the new owner, you could have grounds for legal action.

You can see a copy of the full Law Society TA6 form here:

The local authority search

Your solicitor will carry out a local authority search as part of the conveyancing process.

This search can reveal planning approvals and other issues affecting the local area and that may directly impact the property.

What do the searches cover?

The searches will consider various factors including:

  • If the property is built on contaminated land
  • If the property is located in a conservation area
  • Any local planning decisions that directly affect the property
  • Whether roads and footpaths adjacent to the property are maintained by the council
  • Any planned road schemes adjacent to or close by the property (usually within 200m), such as plans to widen roads or add another lane

The search will also reveal planning-related issues that have affected or will affect the property directly. This include:

  • Planning decisions made in respect of the property
  • Planning-related enforcement notices against the property itself
  • Building regulations affecting the property

Beware. Searches and other investigations carried out by a solicitor may not uncover all cases of local development. This is particularly true if the developers are building some distance from your planned purchase.

Using planning to renegotiate

Evidence of a planning application or approval that affects the property may be a useful bargaining chip when negotiating with the seller. This is particularly true if the proposed works could negatively affect one of the main selling points of the home, such as the view.

The seller may be unaware of the development and they may be willing to renegotiate the selling price.

Is local development a bad thing?

Not necessarily. House price data shows that the construction of local amenities can measurably increase the value of a home. Value-boosting local amenities include underground stations, new schools and hospitals and even a Waitrose supermarket.

Approval for additional residential property, a block of flats or an unsightly building could, however, reduce the value of your new home. Your home is more likely to be negatively affected if, for example, the new construction overlooks your property, blocks light or leads to noise problems.

Changes to roads, traffic lights or parking restrictions can also affect a property's value.

Noise, road closures and movement of materials and construction vehicles caused by the work itself can also lead to years of disruption, significantly affecting the new owner's enjoyment of their home.

Your next step

If you are buying, selling, remortgaging or transferring equity in a home, we can help you find an expert conveyancing solicitor.

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Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

Author:
Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher