In the latest series of property articles, B P Collins’ property team is considering issues which could constrain or prevent development of land, which might be apparent on a site inspection. If you need specific advice on this matter, please get in touch with the property team by calling 01753889995.
In their previous article, the team covered the importance of a site inspection, and more specifically issues with boundaries, squatters and encroachment. In her second article, she focuses on utilities, structures on the site and rights of light.
A developer is likely to carry out extensive surveys which should reveal any existing utilities at a site, but an early inspection may reveal evidence of utilities which constrain the site, or a lack of utilities which may make servicing the site problematic. Utilities may be obvious – there may be overground cables, telegraph poles or manhole covers.
A developer will need to consider servicing the site through its construction, and final plots. Is there anything which could indicate that there will be supply issues to the site? Will there be a need for increased capacity?
Does the topography of the site benefit a developer? There may be a natural drainage flow to a watercourse which assists in the costs of surface water drainage. Or conversely, will there be a need for pumping stations to service higher plots.
If there are existing structures on the site, are they currently housing any telecommunications apparatus? The Electronic Communications Code makes it tricky to remove telecommunications apparatus from a site. But there may be provisions to “lift and shift” meaning a developer can factor in the apparatus to its site plan.
A site visit will also be a good opportunity to consider whether any rights are needed over third party land and discuss any requirements for collaboration agreements or third party payments.
Structures on site
Structures on site relate to the landowner’s ability to provide vacant possession under the Contract, and what either party considers to be “vacant possession”. These could be fixtures and fittings, or they could be existing buildings, depending on what the landowner has been using the site for.
Existing structures may create different issues on an urban or rural site. If there are existing buildings on site and the developer is taking on the cost of demolition, we should find out if there is any asbestos risk. Perhaps the developer is acquiring a later phase of a site and the previous phase owners have been using it for construction purposes such a storage of spoil heaps. This can raise contamination issues and it is important to ascertain that these are being safely removed and that there are no ongoing environmental issues.
The key point with any structures on a site is who is responsible and who is bearing the cost of removal or demolition. Establishing this early on in negotiations can save a dispute as to whether vacant possession has been provided when the parties get to completion.
Rights of light
Rights of light are obviously more relevant to tall urban developments. We would consider the surrounding buildings and how they could be impacted by any proposed development in terms of their rights of light. This is most relevant for buildings that are at least 20 years old, as they could have obtained a right of light by prescription, although new buildings with the same footprint and windows in similar places may have the benefit of previous prescriptive rights.
If there is any chance of rights being claimed, a developer would appoint a surveyor to prepare a right of light report and we can assist with any deeds of release or indemnity insurance policies, which may be required in order for the development to go ahead.
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