Choosing a Building Plot

There are few things more rewarding than finding a building plot (or site) and building the house of your dreams on it. People choose building sites for various reasons such a locality, view, convenience to work and family, access, surroundings, existing vegetation such as mature trees, shelter, privacy, ground conditions etc. We at Contour can provide with all the necessary architectural services to make it happen for you.

Residential building plots can be in an urban environment or can be in the open countryside. It may be small accommodating the proposed house and no more or it may be part of a larger ground area providing plenty of room around the new house for driveways and gardens etc.

However before you buy a plot it is important to consider the following:

Planning – What is planning permission? The planning authorities usually dictate the types of structures and finishes they would prefer for particular locations. The Planners are in charge of all developments within the cities, town and countryside. The planning approval process decides what you can build and what you can’t. Building plots with planning permission is by far the best option. Usually single building plots are put on the market for sale with outline planning permission already in place. Purchasing a building plot of land without planning permission is extremely risky. Outline planning permission is approval in principle and the details provided at this stage are minimal. Outline permission will quite often set conditions for the proposed development such as overall size of the house, the height (i.e. number of floors), positioning on the plot, finishes, access, draining requirement etc. Outline is only the first part of a two stage process to obtaining final approval before you can start building. The second stage involves making an application for detailed design approval (reserved matters). This time you will have to provide information of the proposal in detail. The planners will want to see the proposed plans, elevations, types of finishes to be used, topology levels of the existing ground, landscape proposals, drainage facilities and any other details they deem necessary to consider the application. When detailed planning is achieve then you can proceed and secure approvals from the other statutory bodies involved. REFER TO PLANNING APPROVAL PROCESS FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS.

Other statutory bodies – there are a number of other statutory bodies that you will have to satisfy before construction can start. The main one is Building Control Approval. Building Control drawings set the rules that specify the minimum acceptable level of safety for constructing buildings. Its main purpose is to protect the public health, safety and general welfare of the building occupants.

House accommodation – consideration must be given to the level of accommodation required i.e. the number of bedrooms, living rooms, bathrooms, utility room, garage and storage requirements etc. Is the plot large enough for the size of house you wish to build? The plot size will determine the size of the finished house. You should also allow for possible expansion in the future.

Views from the site – Rural building plots probably provide the best views. The plot may be located in an open area or elevated providing nice views overlooking the countryside. People generally desire a view from their new home. The down side with a house located in an open country side is that it may be draughty and more difficult to heat. Although with modern materials nowadays there are adequate solutions to this particular problem. Never the less the house will be subjected to the elements therefore increasing the need for continual maintenance. The maintenance can be reduced somewhat with careful selection of low maintenance materials.

Low ground – Is the plot in low ground or in a hollow that may be subject to floating. Make some research to determine if the ground was flooded in the past. If it flooded in the past it may again in the future even if it was very dry when you purchase it. Disturbing the ground during construction may affect it natural ability to self drain effectively.

Existing trees – Having mature trees and hedging etc…. around a plot provides natural screening and shelter and is generally pleasing to the eye. Building plots of land with natural screening is considered an advantage allowing the house to blend in with the surroundings. However, what one considers to be advantage can sometimes also be a disadvantage. For example – having lots of trees around a house means lots of leaves falling off in the autumn time blocking gutters, drains etc….and require clearing. The presence of trees can also cause discolouration to the house surface finishes. Also depending how close the trees are to the house may require reinforcement of the foundations. There is also the risk of trees blowing down during storm conditions and causing damage to the buildings. Generally speaking most people welcome mature trees and vegetation on the plot and put up the nuisance. It may be possible to position the house to avoid the trees. In fact the planning department may impose restrictions that certain trees cannot be removed.

Direction of the sun – The sun rises the east and sets in the west for European locations. Generally it is preferable to orientate the house if possible to maximum the benefits of the sun particularly in the evening time. Generally, people like to use the rear of their house in the evening time during the summer months. This may mean (space permitting) rotating the house so that the rear is pointing in southwards direction. This facility may enhance the value of the property in years to come. It is sometimes difficult to find building plots with a south facing option.

Access – Check what is required for vehicular access in and out of the plot by the planning authorities. They usually indicate the access requirements on the approval notice. It may involve the provision of sight lines either site of the access gate so that the driver of a vehicle has a clear view of the public road in either direction. The sight lines are for safety purposes for the ingress and egress of vehicular traffic into the plot from a public road. It is important to ensure that there is sufficient land available within your ownership to accommodate the sight lines. Always obtain the services of a suitably qualified person to check out the details of the outline approval in particular the sight lines provision before you purchase. It has happened that people purchase a plot of land to build a house and discover later that they do not control a sufficient amount of land to accommodate the sight lines for access. In this case they are forced to negotiate with the neighbours to obtain additional land for the sight lines which can end up being very expensive. This is usually referred to a ransom strip.

House type – single or two storey house. Check if there is height restriction condition placed in the planning approval. This height restriction could prevent you from building a two story traditional type house? If there is a height restriction and you want a two storey house type it is possible to construct a chalet type house. The upper floor is accommodated within the main roof structure giving the appearance externally of a single storey structure. This type of design, however, does place limitations on ceiling heights internally.

Proximity of utilities – How far away are the utilities services to the building plot e.g. electrical power, gas, water, communications and drainage? The greater the distance, the greater the cost. If a public sewer connection is not available it may be possible to gain approval for the construction of below ground sewage treatment system. This will incorporate a holding tank and an irrigation network system. The irrigation network consists of a pipes leading away from the tank to form a soakaway. Approval in the form of ‘Consent to Discharge’ is generally required for this type of installation. The building plot must be suitably sized to accommodate the sewage system.

Is the plot level – Sloping building plots can provide for interesting split level structures but can be more expensive to construct. The development may involve the movement of a large amount of earth and the construction of retaining walls.

Ground conditions – The presence of rock is difficult to cut out and soft ground may require special foundations. In both cases it will be expensive. It is worth while having a suitably qualified person inspect the soil conditions and advise on what to expect.

Drainage – Is the plot self draining or is there standing water which may require additional drainage to remove surface water. The presence of a below ground culvert or manmade drain to discharge surface water into would be desirable.

Utility services running through the site – You need to be aware of any utilities e.g. electrical, water mains, sewer pipes, gas and telecoms either below or above running through the site. If diversion is required it will be expensive. Building over these services is possible in certain circumstances but generally not recommended.

Purchase price– Like everything it will come down to cost. Building plot prices do vary considerably for different locations. Generally the better the plot the higher the price.

For a FREE consultation please call 02890 692 444 if you require assistance choosing a building plot