Scottish Field


The best thing about building your own home is the choice and the chance to get what YOU want and how you decide to spend your money


You might start out thinking that you want a fourbedroo­m home but suddenly you have the chance to own an incredible plot of land with stunning views but exceeds your original budget. So one of the bedrooms is sacrificed; the design you were so sure of, and set your heart on, is being traded off for something you did not know that you wanted when the search began.

It has never been easier to find a plot of land: that is the good news.

In this highly-connected age of ours, traditiona­l estate agents and Scottish solicitors with property sales all have web pages and there is a plethora of online businesses dedicated to selling plots. Some websites are free while others charge a fee to join or see the full details of the land for sale.

The bad news is that it has never been easier.

Far more people will know about the plot of land you are after and so you could end up in a bidding war or losing out if you don’t act quickly enough.

Many building companies or private developers have ‘land banks’ of plots they have in mind for future developmen­t and these could yield single plots if they are willing to sell.

Planning laws were in their infancy pre Second World War and you often found industrial, commercial and residentia­l all in the same street. So, when looking in towns, you will be pleasantly surprised at how easily an old yard or factory or business site can obtain planning permission for a change of use to residentia­l.

Some small to medium-sized businesses might have plots of land now lying empty. This can be a fruitful avenue to investigat­e as many older companies can have land that has been held for years; perhaps an old yard where housing grew round it.

Prepare to be flexible; your chosen plot may face a direction which prompts an about-face of the design you worked so hard to perfect.

The view is so stunning that the living room and dining room find themselves transposed; a huge window or balcony needs to be ‘right there’ to capture the view.

Perhaps the best sight-lines mean planners insist that the site entrance can only go in one place and nowhere else, so the front door and garage location must shift to accommodat­e this. Or you fall in love with a plot because it contains a magnificen­t old tree. The landscape or street scene might scream out for building materials you never considered before you found your plot.

How your new home sits within the landscape can transform your ideas from a nice-looking house into something unique. You and your architect can make your new home, and the land on which this will happen, into something very special.

Old, locally-based charities, or community trusts can also be land holders as can churches and do not rule out Councils, the Forestry Commission, Scottish Water or the companies now running what were once nationalis­ed industries like coal, electricit­y or the railway, also look at health authoritie­s, the police, fire and military. They all evolved over time, absorbing smaller organisati­ons or being reorganise­d along the way.

Right first time

Not to put any pressure on you but if, at the start of your home building journey, you get the land purchase wrong then unexpected expense and delay will haunt the entire project.

First and foremost is planning permission. If the land does not have planning permission it will be cheaper to buy but then comes the big question: will it get approval?

If the plot has full planning permission, you build what the permission tells you or apply for amendments, with the cost and time this involves.

All local authoritie­s in Scotland have a pre applicatio­n service and finding out what the land can and cannot contain, buildingwi­se, is far easier now than in the past.

A safe bet is to negotiate with the seller and agree to a price, subject to planning permission, and if approval is not given, walk away from the deal. Do not get bogged down at this stage no matter how wonderful the land is.

An appraisal of the site is also essential.

The appraisal should also include the quality of the actual ground; was it once a quarry, now filled in or contaminat­ed by previous industry or waste? Will it be capable of supporting a property without expensive ground works and piling?

And talking of additional expense is the site already serviced or will the cost of getting electricit­y and mains water to the site make it unviable. These are all surmountab­le with private water supply and waste water systems but they come at a price.

Communicat­ions are now an essential part of life and it is worth checking the price of bringing landlines and superfast broadband to the site. Here you might be pleasantly surprised; government investment gives broadband speeds in remote spots that equal or exceed some towns.

Remember to wander around the site with your mobile phone. Mobile phone and satellite television reception can vanish in the shadow of a mountain or a high-rise block.

Land - the past and the present

You have found a piece of land that you love; the location is stunning, the traffic is light and it is going to be the wonderful setting for your new home.

Of course it will be - because you knew to carry out an incredibly thorough check to make sure there were no nasty surprises lurking.

Do you know what the future holds for the piece of land you want to buy?

The view is stunning but is it going to have a bypass or housing developmen­t nearby within a decade?

It is on a nice quiet road – but for how long, is this going to be used by a new school, hospital or industrial estate, or warehousin­g.

Warehousin­g and logistics are in the midst of a massive boom, thanks to our addiction to online shopping and massive supermarke­ts selling flowers from Kenya, asparagus from Peru and strawberri­es in the middle of January. Such a depot can work a 24-hour day.

Right now the world is short of good quality aggregate – the high speed trains in the south of France are running on a track bed that was shipped all the way from Scotland. Even if a new quarry is not on your doorstep will your road be on the route for lorries or down wind from the dust?

Each council in Scotland has to have, and keep updating, its developmen­t plan outlining the area’s future needs. Land is zoned for different uses and even if it is zoned for industrial, commercial or quarrying it might never happen – but then again it just might.

And if you are looking to build in or within commuting distance of: Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow or in Aberdeensh­ire, Angus, Argyll and Bute, East Dunbartons­hire, East Lothian, East Renfrewshi­re, Fife, Inverclyde, Midlothian, North Lanarkshir­e, Perth and Kinross, Renfrewshi­re, Scottish Borders, South Lanarkshir­e, West Dunbartons­hire or West Lothian there will also be a strategic developmen­t plan covering all or part of the area, including large wind farms, areas to be zoned for housing or industry and commerce, be it an out of town shopping centre or distributi­on warehouses.

That is the future, but remember to have a quick look back at the past; many people forget that Scotland once mined a massive amount of coal.

A quick check online reveals the extent of this; maps show that the central belt of Scotland is thick with the sites of old mines. Fife, Ayrshire and Lanarkshir­e were massive coal fields but mining also took place on the Isle of Arran, Kintyre Peninsula and as far north as Brora.

Mining subsidence is no respecter of property or aspiration­s to build but the good news is the amount of informatio­n readily available about the locations of old coal mines which makes the whole search so much easier

Opposite: Councils are a good source of land with plots of all sizes. Victoria Kesson, of Tweetiepie Media, was working on behalf of Inverclyde Council at the Home Building and Renovating Show at SEC Glasgow this year, promoting serviced plots on Leperstone Avenue, Kilmacolm, being sold by the Council. Below: Finding the right land for your dream house.

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