Miss­ing cer­tifi­cate puts sale of con­verted mill in jeop­ardy

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY - Jonathon Wing­field

Sev­eral years ago I em­ployed an ar­chi­tect to sub­mit a plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion for a small mill con­ver­sion. He also ob­tained the nec­es­sary Build­ing Reg­u­la­tions ap­proval and a close friend, who is a re­tired builder, project man­aged the con­ver­sion for me. I now want to sell up but my es­tate agent says that with­out an ar­chi­tect’s fi­nal com­ple­tion cer­tifi­cate and an in­dem­nity in­sur­ance state­ment it will be dif­fi­cult. The ar­chi­tect will not pro­vide the nec­es­sary doc­u­men­ta­tion so can you sug­gest a so­lu­tion?

Many do­mes­tic con­ver­sions do not in­volve ar­chi­tects and very few would have an ar­chi­tect’s com­ple­tion cer­tifi­cate. I am sur­prised there­fore that your agent has made such a re­quest. Your ar­chi­tect is quite cor­rect in re­fus­ing to pro­vide this as he was not re­spon­si­ble for in­spect­ing the works or ad­min­is­ter­ing the con­tract.

How­ever, any project such as this must con­form to Build­ing Reg­u­la­tions, which is po­liced by the Lo­cal Author­ity’s Build­ing Con­trol Depart­ment. They should have is­sued a cer­tifi­cate of com­pli­ance. It is pos­si­ble this is what your agent is re­fer­ring to. In any event your project man­ager should have ob­tained this cer­tifi­cate as a mat­ter of course, from ei­ther the main con­trac­tor or di­rectly from the Lo­cal Author­ity. If this was not the case it may still be pos­si­ble to get a du­pli­cate copy for a small ad­min­is­tra­tive charge.

Gen­er­ally, most new houses or con­ver­sions have an NHBC guar­an­tee or one backed by an in­sur­ance com­pany. How­ever, un­less the builder was prop­erly reg­is­tered you stand lit­tle chance now of ob­tain­ing such a guar­an­tee. How­ever, this should still not make your prop­erty un­sal­able. I sug­gest you go back to your es­tate agent and es­tab­lish ex­actly what he wants. If they still main­tain that an ar­chi­tect’s com­ple­tion cer­tifi­cate is re­quired then it is pos­si­ble they do not have the right ex­pe­ri­ence to mar­ket such a prop­erty.

A neigh­bour­ing farmer has al­lowed a field ad­ja­cent to our house to be used for odd lo­cal events and weekly car boot sales dur­ing the sum­mer months. He has also erected a sign pro­claim­ing it is the “vil­lage show­ground”. Do you think he is look­ing to change the agri­cul­tural sta­tus with a long-term view of sell­ing the land for res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment?

While I would op­pose such a move, it is at the risk of be­ing hyp­o­crit­i­cal. I own a field closer to the vil­lage that would pro­vide a far more suit­able site for any fu­ture de­vel­op­ment.

I can­not pos­si­bly com­ment on what your neigh­bour’s long-term plans are. Have you con­sid­ered that it may sim­ply be a phil­an­thropic ges­ture while also mak­ing a lit­tle money on the side from the car boot sales? That said “agri­cul­tural use” is dif­fi­cult to de­fine and there have been many court cases where peo­ple have pushed the lim­its. For ex­am­ple, a monthly farm­ers’ mar­ket may be ac­cept­able but I sus­pect weekly car boot sales could be con­sid­ered as go­ing too far.

It is un­likely that the farmer will sell the site with­out any pro­posed use as this would se­ri­ously re­duce the value. If he ap­plies for plan­ning per­mis­sion then, as a neigh­bour, you will be con­sulted and signs will also be posted on site in­di­cat­ing that an ap­pli­ca­tion has been lodged. It is then that any ob­jec­tions you feel ap­pro­pri­ate can be made.

De­spite the re­cent me­dia at­ten­tion to the changes in plan­ning pol­icy, green belt land is still not a prime can­di­date for de­vel­op­ment. That said there has been so much pres­sure from cen­tral gov­ern­ment for new hous­ing it is forc­ing some lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to look for new sites. If you be­lieve your land is suit­able, I sug­gest you bring it to the at­ten­tion of the coun­cil to gauge their re­ac­tion to any medium to long term op­por­tu­ni­ties . You may just have the right pro­posal at the right time.

Jonathon Wing­field is MD at Acan­thus WSM Ar­chi­tects, Leeds, www.acan­thuswsm.com

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