Missing certificate puts sale of converted mill in jeopardy
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