Buying land in the UK: How to find a building plot

Published Jan 31, 2020 – 4 mins read

Over 10,000 people self-build each year; the notion of finding a building plot of land in an ideal location and building your dream home is clearly being fulfilled by many.

Finding and buying land in the UK is not always as simple as finding a home via the usual methods, they’re often not so obvious to find.

What is a plot of land?

A plot of land or building plot refers to the area which is included within the parcel of land. Sales details will usually include a drawing that shows the boundaries of the plot and the area which is for sale.

The definitions used for the advertising of land can be more confusing than the standard terms used by agents on homes which are already built, a property finder might be a huge help in navigating to find and secure a suitable plot of land fit for your purposes.

What is a plot of land

There are two main types of property available to buy in the UK – brownfield and greenfield. Greenfield land will be totally undeveloped such as a field whereas brownfield land will have or previously have had buildings on it.

It is possible to build on either type of land but it’s usually easier to get planning permission to build on a brownfield site than a greenfield site.

Planning permission on land

If your aim is to build a property on the land then you will certainly need planning permission.

It is sometimes the case that land is sold with planning permission already in place however this land usually comes at a premium and should you wish to make alterations to the plans to suit your preferences you will need to gain further permissions.

When there is planning permission in place it is often the case that it is only ‘outline’ planning permission which will require the buyer to finalise with the local planning authorities.

Planning permission on land

There might also be planning permission in place but restrictive covenants or other legal restrictions put in place by either the planning authority or if they’re selling a part of the land which they still live next door to the seller might be quite particular about what you can do.

This said, buying land with permission already in place can be a great advantage as you can be sure that you are able to build on the land.

If you are considering land that does not have planning in place you should carefully consider the time and effort that will be required in order to obtain planning permission, as well as the possibility that planning could be denied altogether.

Consider the wildlife

At least one of the professionals you engage along your journey to buying and building on land will likely flag the necessity to check your plot for specific local, protected wildlife.

It is the responsibility of the individual applying for planning permission to find out if the site is likely to affect a protected area or species.

You might not be granted planning permission if your build will interfere with a protected environment or species. The government website offers a number of tools including maps.

Land surveys

It might seem like there is little to be surveyed in a plot of land but we recommend those buying land in the UK employ the services of a chartered surveyor.

A surveyor will confirm the all-important boundaries of the land. Just because there is a fence running around the land or something else in place that appears to serve as a boundary marker does not mean that is legally the boundary of the land.

A land survey will establish the boundaries of the land, not only will this allow you to know exactly what it is you’re buying but it will also likely avoid future cost should someone dispute the boundaries of your plot.

Land surveyors will also uncover issues such as any rights of way, the locations of power lines and any present flood risk.

Be wary of ransom strips

Access in and out of your plot of land might not be as straight forward as it seems. Be wary of buying a plot of land which is separated from a public highway, where there is land which you will not own between the plot and a road.

Known as a ransom strip, this small parcel of land which will sit between the plot of land and the public highway is often retained by a previous owner with the intention of charging a ‘ransom’ in order for the buyer to have access to their plot.

The process of buying land in the UK

Engaging the services of a conveyancing solicitor who is specifically experienced in the process of buying land in the UK is advisable.

Your solicitor should carry out a number of checks; local authority searches including water and drainage searches which would uncover issues such as a public sewer being located under the land you hope to build upon. They’ll also conduct environmental searches which would uncover any issues such as land contamination.

Process of buying land in the UK

The exact searches required for the plot of land you are buying will be specific to the type of land and the local area which is why it is advisable to engage with a conveyancing solicitor who is experienced in assist with the purchase of land and if possible one who knows the area.

The same is true of all professionals you consider to work with during the process of finding and buying land – those who are experienced and have excellent local knowledge will be invaluable in ensuring your search and purchase are as smooth as possible.

How to find a building plot

Whilst it is a goal for many, self-build is not for the faint-hearted. The first hurdle is finding land for sale and establishing if it will work for your requirements.

An experienced team of property finders such as those at Garrington can assist in finding and secure a plot of land for development. To discuss your plans please contact us and we can share details of our tailored services for those buying land in the UK.