Planning for the Future

Imagine buying a property and 6 months down the line your idyllic countryside views turn into a development site. Knowledge and understanding of local planning information should be a key consideration in any transaction, allowing you to provide your client with the full picture and enabling them to make an informed decision.

We spoke to Neil Wood, Senior Business Development Manager at FCI about the increasing importance of planning reports for conveyancers in light of the recent changes in planning regulations and targets for new build homes.


1) Why are planning reports important?

Despite the impact of Covid, 2020 saw 410,700 planning applications submitted to district authorities in England of which 313,900 were approved, including 5,000 major residential developments.

Conveyancers need to be able to draw attention to relevant risk factors that may have a negative impact on the future purchase of a property, and a planning report can achieve this through a snapshot of the local environment. Most people who agree to buy a home are buying based on what they see. This might include green space surrounding the property – but what if those adjoining fields are reserved for 300 new houses?

Even if a construction site is not sufficiently close to a property to cause visual encroachment, the mere presence of a substantial development project nearby will impact traffic, noise, and dust, and once built may affect ease of access to local amenities such as schools, doctors’ surgeries or shopping and leisure facilities. To put this into context, once completed, a residential estate with 4,000 properties near a tiny village could increase traffic by 4-6,000 regular road users! While most purchasers can tolerate an extension to a neighbouring property, such a substantial housing development on their doorstep will cause significant disruption over a long period of time.

Increasingly, conveyancers are seeking to educate their clients about the risks of such proposed developments and the latest FCI planning reports can help them by providing all the relevant information to enable an informed decision to be made.


2) How have planning reports become more accurate?

At FCI our focus is on providing the relevant information in a robust and yet refined search. Our reports are compact and designed to be easily understood and passed directly to the client. We identify all relevant planning applications including the extent of any large-scale proposed developments which, due to the way many Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) record planning data, are commonly missed by some other searches. This enables us to identify applications nearby which will have an impact on a property purchase both in the immediate vicinity or further afield. Reports also include applications which have been withdrawn or refused over the past ten years. This is a useful indication that the area may be earmarked for development in the future.


3) What’s changed recently in the planning landscape?

Historically only around 10% of transactions utilised planning reports. In recent years, this has almost doubled to around 20%. However, with development targets increasing to 300K new build properties per year until 2025 across the UK, every local authority is looking at what land can be used for development. Some are struggling and even releasing green belt land, so it is more important than ever that clients have the relevant information about their proposed property purchase.

Changes related to Permitted Development Rights (PDR) which came into force in August last year have already provided a catalyst for regeneration, assisting in the swift development of commercial properties within the same use class and reassignment to residential use. Add to this a relaxation of planning restrictions announced in September as part of the government’s reform proposals and the UK is set for a surge in development activity.

It is now easier for property owners to extend their homes or for the conversion of commercial property into residential accommodation. This can also be positive news, as a buyer looking to extend their property can add value to their new home if precedents have already been set.

Covid has also had an impact. Since the pandemic, there has been a trend to move to more rural areas. Conveyancers need to be able to advise clients of any planning risk which may impact a property and its owners from enjoying that green space or idyllic view in the future.


4) Can you give an example of what can go wrong?

Bird & Bird was a classic case. A £26 million property was purchased in Surrey. The conveyancer did complete due diligence on environmental and planning searches but failed to pass on the planning search which identified the application to expand a local school into an academy. The purchaser confirmed they would never have moved if they had appreciated the level of disruption the school’s expansion would cause and sued the law firm successfully for £2million damages relating to breach of duty.

In the past, planning searches have been complicated documents and so conveyancers have generally avoided ordering them. However, these days planning reports are designed to be forwarded straight onto clients. Information is set out in a way that is very easy to understand, identifying all potential areas of risk and ensuring conveyancers can complete due diligence with respect to planning. Compared to the purchase price of a property, planning searches are a small price to pay for the benefits of the valuable information they contain.


5) Why should conveyancers use a company that can provide the most up to date/accurate data?

Ordering FCI reports through poweredbypie means conveyancers can supply clients with accurate information about the full picture including the risks associated with buying a particular property in a form that is accurate and easy to understand. It means clients can make an informed decision about their purchase.

Planning information is of course already considered in conveyancing, detailed in responses to the CON29 enquiries of Local Authorities. However, the listed planning history relates only to the property in question. To appreciate the surrounding activity in full, an interested party can access the Local Planning Authority website, but many of these websites simply contain lists of planning applications, and so a quick appreciation of the proximity or location of applications in respect of a property is nearly impossible.

FCI’s Premium Plus Planning and FCI Planning reports do all the hard work and deliver Local Authority planning application data, relating to both the subject property and crucially its surroundings, in a useable and visual format shown in full on a clear indexed map, with further details of each planning entry itemised below for quick reference.


6) What’s included in an FCI Report which contains Planning?

FCI’s Planning Reports include information on developments and applications, extensions and small new builds, change of use, lawful development certificates and telecoms installations. Most importantly, the reports also highlight possible planning and development constraints and major developments which may have an impact on the homebuyer’s quiet enjoyment, plans and the potential future value of their property.

Our FCICapture technology takes our planning reporting one step further and seeks to identify and flag planning applications which, although recorded by the LPA as being outside of the search radius, on the ground have the potential to encroach within influencing distance of the property. These are then clearly highlighted in the report for further consideration and interrogation as necessary by the purchaser.


7) How can planning reports help with due diligence and providing a better service to clients?

Ensuring planning reports are part of the suite of searches ordered by a conveyancer and provided to clients as a matter of course means full due diligence is completed. Any impact on the future value of a client’s property impacted by a potential development will be identified ensuring the conveyancer offers best advice and a thorough search service.

Future Climate Info’s (FCI) environmental and planning reports are available through poweredbypie. For more information on any of the FCI product range, contact your Account Manager, or, if you’re not already benefiting from working with poweredbypie contact [email protected]


This article was submitted to be published by poweredbypie as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Conveyancer. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Conveyancer.

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