Site Search Criteria
Alongside preparation of a business plan, this is the key task at this stage. The more open minded the group, the easier this task will be. Decide on any bottom line parameters – for example;
- Region – are you prepared to go anywhere or must your site be within x miles or y travel time of somewhere?
- Urban/rural – do you feel strongly about one or the other and what do you mean by those terms?
- Minimum number of houses – what is the smallest (and indeed largest) development size you could accept?
- Conversion – are you prepared to consider total or partial conversion or incorporation into the development of existing buildings?
- Space – think carefully about your outside space needs
- Cost - realistically how much can the group afford for different types of sites and how will the site be purchased (grant/loan/equity)
There area bewildering range of sources of land/property to check out. It's absolutely imperative that the group has developed and agreed a site policy and coordinates the search.
Sources of potential sites
- Make clear on your own website that you are looking for a site
- Let everyone and anyone know
Approach local estate agents; have a meeting with those who handle land sales rather than simply conventional house sales; stay in
- There are a range of websites offering development land for sale for example,http://www.developmentlandforsale.com http://www.uklanddirectory.org.uk, http://www.daltonsbusiness.com
- Government departments with land available for disposal have now published strategies about how they intend to do this. These are available on the following website Public Land for Sale by the Homes and Communities Agency
- Local authorities dispose of property and land using a variety of intermediaries including local land agents, estate agents and by auction. Enquire with the local authorities in the desired location(s) for the development about local disposal methods. Note most local authorities have a community asset transfer policy in place and depending on how your project is aligned with your council's housing strategy you could build a case for community asset transfer at reduced or nil cost to support the development of affordable homes and/or accommodation for over 55's.
- In the March 2015 Budget it was announced that there will be consultation to reduce the cumbersome Compulsory Purchase Order process.
All local authorities are required to identify demand for and keep a register of people that are seeking to self build. The newly enacted Right To Build Act will strengthen this requirement in specifying a number of advanced obligations in for example the level of information each local authority has to determine to support the task of satisfying demand. Note that there is provision in the Act for local authorities to register groups seeking cohousing plots.
The “right to reclaim land” – is a new right to allow citizens to ask for land to be sold for public benefit comes with guidance and a map of surplus land. It has yet to be seen if cohousing groups will succeed in using this a vehicle to access sites. However examples given of public land being brought back into use are encouraging.
The Community Right to Bid enables local communities to apply to have an asset of 'community value' placed on a register. When a 'community asset of value' is put up for sale this triggers a moratorium period allowing the community some space to fundraise to secure the asset. All local authorities are required to keep a Community Assets of Value register. Note there are restrictions on change of use for example from a library to residential.
Using Land Agents
Alternatively, you could engage a land agent to search for sites on your behalf. You would need to develop a clear brief and agree terms with the proposed consultant. Although this would involve additional cost, a good agent should be able to present you with a choice of sites matching your brief relatively quickly.
Survey and feasibility study
Depending on the nature of your potential site, you may need to commission a survey to tell you about the condition of any buildings or there may be issues associated with the land itself which you need to understand fully. You may need to undertake some kind of feasibility study if the site is difficult in some way. You may therefore need to commission a surveyor or an architect or both.