As a property owner with a large garden, you may be wondering how you go about selling some of the land off for development. After all, there’s a national housing shortage on, and new builds seem to be going up in other people’s back gardens wherever you look these days. Could you cash in too?
But before you get carried away dreaming about all the things you would do with the windfall, let’s take a reality check. Not every residential property is suitable for development, and even if it is, the process may be far from straightforward.
Take a look at these 7 questions that you should investigate in to help you determine whether your garden does indeed have development potential.
Your basic property checklist
1. Does your garden have a minimum length of 35 metres?
Is your garden really big enough for two houses plus two adequately sized gardens? Take a look at other new builds in your local area to see how big their gardens are, then see how your own plans and proposals compare. If the amount of land isn’t sufficient to accommodate both, this can be a major reason why planning permission for ‘backland development’ might be refused.
2. Rather than behind your house, is there ample space next to the building?
You will need at least 7 metres of land between your property and the neighbour’s boundary in order to be eligible for an ‘infill development’, meaning the new building would neatly slot into your street alongside the other houses. However, if all you have room for is a narrow house, planners could refuse permission because the new development is out of character with the neighbourhood.
3. Are you lucky enough to have an extra wide plot?
Not all housing plots are created equal and it is just possible that your house was built with a particularly large garden in mind. If your property is wider than the average plot on your street, you might be able to get permission for a ‘replacement development’ whereby you knock down one house and replace it with two new ones.
4. Is it possible to create vehicular access from your garden to the main road?
Any new build in your garden will require proper road access, and not just a footpath. No suitable access means that your chances of obtaining planning permission are going to be very slim indeed. Is there perhaps another road that goes around the back of the garden? Or could you move/demolish a freestanding garage to create the necessary space?
5. Is your property located on the corner of two roads?
Corner houses typically have a double advantage when it comes to development potential. Not only are they generally sited on bigger plots with larger gardens compared to other houses in the same street, they tend to have better access too. Identifying a building plot with easy road access should be a much easier undertaking.
6. Is your property located at the end of a cul-de-sac?
End-of-the-road properties have similar advantages to houses built on corner locations. They’re typically built on wider and/or more generously sized plots than regular houses in the street, which makes access from different sides easier and allows for ample space for a second house to be built on the site.
7. Has anyone else in your street developed their houses or gardens?
Interestingly, if a precedent has already been set, either as backland or infill residential development, this may help your case substantially. Official planning guidelines have changed and been updated over time. These days, a greater housing density tends to be welcome since it helps to meet local housing requirements. Here’s a case in point.
More legal and financial checks
Once you’ve completed the basic property checklist above, your next step is to consult your conveyancing solicitor and ask about any restrictive covenants or other changes to permitted development rights that would affect your property’s development potential.
You should also speak with your local planning officer to get an insight into any additional factors that the authorities may take into account when considering your planning application, especially if you are planning to build multiple houses on the site. These can include landscape and environmental impacts, heritage issues, flood risks and much else besides.
It is assumed that your chief motivation for developing some of your land is financial gain. With that in mind, it is well worth checking with a local estate agent that the new development won’t have a detrimental impact on the value of the original house, or that any reduction in property value will be amply outweighed by the proceeds from the new development.
Finally, double check with your accountant that the sale of part of your garden qualifies for PPR (Principal Private Residence) relief from Capital Gains Tax. To ensure any relief is available, the land to be sold must be an integral part of your gardens/grounds, and not a separate area. For very large plots, HMRC may need convincing that the land you are thinking of selling is not required for the ‘reasonable enjoyment of the property’. Specialist advice is highly recommended.
Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer who regularly contributes to the horticulture industry. She enjoys nothing more than pottering around her gardening in the sunshine. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter, @Dakota_Murphey.