istock - what to look out for


At first glance you may think you have struck gold and found your perfect plot. After all the time you have spent relentlessly searching, you would not be blamed for jumping in with both feet and signing the contract.

It is crucial you take a step back and ensure that the plot is all it seems. This can save you a lot of time, money and more importantly disappointment further down the line. So what are the potential pitfalls you are looking to avoid?

Planning permission:

The planning permission system is complicated and can seem impossible to complete. This is further exemplified by it varying from council to council.

There are still some general conditions that should be ascertained before you go on to purchase your plot. Firstly, and most importantly, it is ill-advised to purchase any plot without planning permission.

It is likely that there is a reason there is no planning permission, the most notable being that it is either very tricky or in fact impossible to get any permission at all. It is important that in most cases the plot purchased either already has planning permission, or you ensure you gain planning permission before an exchange is made on the plot.

Assuming the plot has outline or detailed planning permission there are a number of checks to be made as to the detail of this permission:

  • All granted planning has a time limit on it, this is now only 3 years. If it is near to expiry you are not guaranteed to be granted the permission again.
  • All planning permission comes with conditions that have to met. These include providing access, using certain materials and can go as far as restricting the build to a single story. All of which can prove very costly.
  • OPP (outline planning permission) and DPP (detailed planning permission) both have drawbacks. Whilst OPP affords you greater free reign with design of your self build, many mortgage companies require you to have DPP before they will offer you a mortgage. Whilst DPP can prove difficult to substantially change and will restrict you in your design phase.

The details behind gaining planning permission are covered in more depth in the planning process article.

istock - what to look out for 2Ground conditions:

It is vital that you investigate whether the ground is contaminated. Particularly if you are planning to build on a brownfield site that was formerly of industrial use, or it has been subject to tipping.

In both cases there is a high possibility that the ground is contaminated and will be costly to achieve a satisfactory soil to build on. Similarly if the plot was once a pond or hole that has been filled then it is unlikely to be suitable to build on initially.

On another note it should not be assumed that planning takes into consideration ground conditions. The planning itself takes no account of ground conditions, and depending on what’s underneath your plot will have an effect on both cost and time-scale.


This may seem like an elementary consideration, but it is often overlooked in the excitement of finding your perfect location.

Although flooding is taken into account when planning permission is granted, the situation around flooding is ever changing. You are well advised to consult the environment agency’s website to see where risks of flooding are highest and where flood plains now lie.

Similarly the drainage systems for surface water and sewage must be checked, in most cases they drain via soakaway and public sewers. However if this requires you to cross other peoples land or is not the case at all then the cost implications can be substantial.


The problems here are two-fold, the initial problem is ensuring that there is access to your plot from a public road. In some cases private land can block you from a public road. Meaning an agreement should be made with whoever owns the private land before you buy the plot. Secondly, as long as you have confirmed access to a public road you must then ensure that there is physically enough room to accommodate access to your property adhering to any sight lines that might be necessary as a condition of your planning permission.