How do people find land to build on in London?

How do people find land to build on in London

Building one’s own home is a dream that most of us have. The ability to have our home designed and built from the ground up around our vision, needs and aspirations is alluring. However, living in a city like London where land values are high due to high demand, how do people find land to build on in London for their self-build homes?

For anyone looking to buy land, the most obvious starting point is approaching estate agents and attending auctions. However, this might result in paying over the odds for your plot due to high competition. For people looking to build their own homes to live in, government policy requiring that local authorities keep a register to assess demand for self-build is intended to make it easier for self-builders to buy serviced plots.

But what of small developers looking to provide turn-key housing at the lower end of the scale to the volume house builders and asking the question how do people find land to build on in London?

Here are some suggestions of what you should be keeping an eye on whilst on your daily travels through the city.

Derelict buildings

When looking for land, the assumption is that it will be empty ready for something to be built on top of it. But in a city like London, which continues to reconstruct itself as buildings get demolished, and replaced by newer, taller and denser versions, the derelict building that you’ve spotted just might provide the land for your new build.

Underdeveloped buildings

Similarly to derelict buildings, underdeveloped properties are also often overlooked. These are properties that are for example, only a couple of storeys high, but are adjoined to or surrounded by buildings that are much higher.

Needless to say that assessing the impact that your new build will have on neighbouring buildings is crucial to gaining planning approval, so discussing a potential find with an architect or planning consultant early in the process is advisable.

Disused lock-up garages

There are lots of garages in London that have become redundant as they have become too small for modern cars. If you’ve ever asked the question – how do people find land to build on in London – and you happen to spot a row of disused lock-up garages, this could be the potential land for your self-build or small scale development.

Large driveway

A large driveway to the side of an existing terrace home is a potential plot for an urban infill self-build or single dwelling development. Off street access and connection to services would be straightforward with this type of plot.

Large gardens that can be fenced off with access directly off the street, so for example, end terraces with large gardens are potential for self-build or single dwelling developments.

The division of land should leave the original property and the new build with sufficient garden space. And it is crucial that both the garden development and the original building are not overlooked nor impede natural light to interior spaces.

Here is a recent blog post that discusses good design principles used in new build houses on small urban plots that you may wish to explore.

Urban infills

A gap between two terrace houses that is sufficient for a single dwelling of similar width whilst continuing the streetscape would be ideal for a self-build or single dwelling development.

Looking at the houses either side of the infill will give you some idea of what will gain planning permission. The infill development must fit in well with its neighbours, so that it is not overbearing nor overshadowing whilst also maintaining privacy.

Once you’ve identified a number of potential plots, approach owners through the land registry. Purchasing land without planning permission is a risk, so consider de-risking the purchase by drawing up contracts whereby you agree to buy the land only after planning permission has been gained.

Also be sure that there are no covenants in place that would prevent you from building on top of your find even after gaining planning permission.

So how do people find land to build on in London?

By keeping a constant watchful eye and thinking imaginatively beyond the empty plot.

If you have spotted a plot that you think would be ideal for a self-build or a small scale development, we offer feasibility studies that can help assess its development potential. As land will be where the most spend will be, it’s worth consulting with an architect in the early stages of your purchase.

I hope this post as provided some answers to the question, how do people find land to build on in London. If it raises more questions or if you have any comments, please leave in the comment box below or reach me on Twitter to the continue the conversation.

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