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Developers need to be alive to the risks of issues arising from third-party land ownership, warns legal property specialist Caroline Mortimer.

Failure to do so says Caroline, a partner at national law firm Clarke Willmott LLP, could lead to expensive and time-consuming delays on a development.

To construct and sell units as efficiently as possible, she says it is important to ensure there is a level of joined up thinking between everyone involved.

“One of the major concerns when it comes to third party land is a ransom strip that could prevent access into the site or the ability to lay services,” said Caroline, who is a partner in the commercial property team at Clarke Willmott with extensive experience in acting for housebuilders in all aspects of residential development.

“This is typically a few feet of land owned by someone else that separates a private property from a public road or from another part of the property.

“To minimise the risk, always arrange for an overlay between the highways search plan and the registered title plan to show any gaps between the site and the adopted highway.”

When it comes to looking at a service solution for a site, Caroline Mortimer says developers should ensure they are able to implement this and to ask themselves:

  • If you are connecting into an existing system and there are rights to use, are these rights sufficient to allow any increase in flow or are there capacity limits?
  • If there are rights to lay services through third party land, does this extend to obligations on the landowner to enter into any infrastructure agreements?
  • If you are constructing an outfall, are there rights to drain into the watercourse?

Another point to consider is whether the service strategy for a site would require additional works.

“For example, an outfall for surface water drainage into a watercourse may mean carrying out protective works to the channel to prevent erosion or flooding.

“If you are required to install such protection on third party land, you must be sure that you have the appropriate rights to do this.”

Meanwhile, where a site requires cranes, Caroline says developers should also consider if it is practicable to construct the site without any part of the crane oversailing onto third party land.

“On more constrained sites, it may be possible to, for example, construct a basement or install any pilings while remaining entirely within the boundaries of your own site,” she says.

“This could require temporary construction access, perhaps necessitating the need to negotiate a construction compound or contractor parking on the third-party land.”

Clarke Willmott is a national law firm with offices in Southampton, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff, Bristol, London and Taunton.

For more information visit www.clarkewillmott.com

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