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Contaminated Land

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#1 Tempt00


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Posted 16 April 2016 - 10:58 PM

Hi All,

After taking advice from this forum we're going to view some plots tomorrow local to us even though we couldn't complete the transaction for another 6 or so months. I'm not sure how long they have been on the market but the planning permission is from 2011, with some more updates done to it in 2014, and then some last month. I'm new to all this and frankly a little confused as I can't figure out if the planning permission is even valid still - nor why the seller is bothering to submit changes to the design of the house when he isn't building them?

Anyway, the land is contaminated. I've read the report and its contaminated they think due to coal mine and an old railway. The action they want taken is 540mm of top soil applied over all of the landscaping areas.

Any views on this? I have the link for the report is anyone interested, might help you nod off to sleep! Should a first time builder on a relatively tight budget steer clear of a plot like this?

If it makes any difference, the seller has stated on the ad that they will deal with contamination if the plot is sold for the asking price - it's about £10-£15k over priced in my opinion especially if the pp has expired.

Edited by joiner, 17 April 2016 - 05:34 AM.
"first" for "fist"

#2 ferdinand


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Posted 17 April 2016 - 04:38 AM

It's a punt, but a punt means you can win or lose depending on what happens :-).

If you know enough that the price as agreed is good compared to the true risk taking then there is value in the punt. How good are you at judgement calls and wrinkles?

In this case, you need all the background information you can get, and I think you need what I tend to call a "Hoary Old @!##" property person or time-served architect etc to be your personal debunker / balloon-puncturer, and as a sanity checker.

The Council can tell you the true status of the PP. It is possible that a 2011 PP was extended under the "recession exception" for further period but I believe that the extended periods have now all expired (could be wrong by a few months, but you will need more than that anyway so the PP will be lost). Talk to the Council.

If the PP is lost, that may mean that you can get out of the 540mm soil (if it is a Planning Condition not just a figure in a report) if you show it wasn't necessary. TBH 540mm sounds like overkill for topsoil (some could be subsoil), but it may be that you know a bloke making a fishing lake next year, so you could negotiate 25k off the price then do it more cheaply yourself with your mate's 100 tons of soil.

You need to do that due diligence with respect to everything, and make sure you get all the reports, then contact the writers of the reports to make sure you don't have a doctored version.

It is quite normal for plot prices to be varied by a third or more during negotiations. Work to an "anchor" price set by you and the market, not by the sales literature. And take YOUR time.

You also need to make sure that you are not left holding the baby or eg it is owned by a Ltd company that the chap can close down and walk away from. So there are elements of trust etc.

Best of luck.


Edited by joiner, 17 April 2016 - 05:36 AM.

#3 ProDave


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Posted 17 April 2016 - 08:22 AM

Get the planning application number and check it on the Council web site. PP is normally valid for 3 years, i.e you must "start" the development within 3 years or it will lapse. It sounds like the original PP in 2011 was about to lapse so he renewed or changed it slightly to extend it, so it will probably now be vailid until 2017. That might still be tight for you to "start" ther development in time to lock in the permission. but you have already mentioned you might want to change the design so would be submitting a new application anyway.

A good delaying tactic in your circumstances is simply to say yes you want to buy it but you want a differenrt house design so you make an offer subject to getting PP for the design you want. You then sumbint the application and everybody waits and you don't conclude the the deal and exchange contracts until you have the PP for the house you want, which will then be valid for 3 years. This is a bit of a gamble as if you don't get the PP for the house you want, or the seller pulls out in that time, you have lost the cost of a planning application. But this is exactly what I did on our plot where the planning (from 1980) had LONG expired.

Re the soil contamination, at least they are not asking for the contaminated soil to be removed (though what do you do with the excavations for the foundations?) just covered over with new soil. Whether this is a viable option depends on 2 things. Will the site levels work if you raise the ground level by that much? and where will you get that much clean soil at a reasonable price. It doesn't all have to be "top" soil, just as long as it's clean and you are not bringing in other contamination, so you want to know here it's come from.

In a relatively flat part of the country there would be something quite reassuring about being on a little island 500mm higher than the surrounding land, you know the chances of your house flooding are somewhat reduced.

Edited by ProDave, 17 April 2016 - 08:29 AM.

#4 Auchlossen



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Posted 17 April 2016 - 08:06 PM

I have been dealing with contaminated land. It has involved 3 reports by consultant at c.£2k each [tho these are shared with another party 50%]. A trace of asbestos was found in some of the upper soil. The solution agreed requires sheet over and 300mm topsoil cover over. But the real hassle has been for ground to be excavated and exported from the house/garage site, where the contaminated soil costs up to £130 a ton to put into special landfill, as compared to £5 a ton to a private landfill. So I am now planning to bury it on site, subject to agreement with SEPA and Council. So expect costs to arise of considerable significance, and share them or make others carry them. Good luck, and hold tight.