Countryside in Shropshire

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Farm sale secured by Forge

Bramley Farm based in Higher Kinnerton

Forge Property Consultants recently announced the sale of Bramley Farm, Higher Kinnerton, Flintshire. The four bedroom farmhouse, along with three traditional brick-built barns and approximately 60 acres of pasture land was on the market with a guide price of £350,000 for the house and £350,000 for the barns.

How to maximise property value before selling

Prior to the sale, we had worked closely with the property owners for several years, looking at ways of maximising the property’s value before selling it. The first step was to look at the land, amounting to around 60 acres of good quality pastureland. A grazing licence was drafted and the land was advertised as available. This resulted in the pasture being let to a grazier, which provided additional income for the client while still retaining flexibility.

Planning permission for barn conversion

The three barns had originally been used for agriculture but had fallen into disrepair after lack of use. On our advice, a planning application was submitted to allow conversion of each barn into a residential dwelling. Overcoming various challenges along the way, including bats nesting, a need to develop a separate access from the house and secure a garage/ car port outside the curtilage, planning permission for three dwellings was secured.

Open days for property sale

The entire property was placed on the market and attracted a large amount of interest over three open days that we held. In order to provide maximum flexibility over boundaries and help with tax planning, the land was not actively marketed but we advised interested parties that the land was available by separate negotiation. Offers were received on the barn, house and land lots individually but the sale that was finally agreed disposed of the property in its entirety.

Establishing a land boundary where no fenceline exists

Remote moorland in North Wales

Forge Property Consultants was recently involved in an interesting case to plot a boundary across some remote moorland in North Wales.

The historic boundary had been lost and to make matters more complicated, there was no fenceline between the private land and the common land. As a result, the landowner was losing valuable grazing. To solve the issue, the landowner enlisted our help to set out an accurately plotted boundary line and once that was established, he intended to construct a new fence.

No visual reference points for land boundary

The boundary was approximately 4.5 km long with no visual reference points. Our surveyor carried out an initial inspection of the site to establish access routes and gain an understanding of the complexity of the job. We then engaged Advantage Geomatics Ltd to assist our team with specialist measuring equipment.

Plotting points for boundary line

The first stage was to overlay the Land Registry title plan to Ordnance Survey data and then use this to generate grid reference points every 20 metres. The grid points were loaded into a Topcon Hyper SR RTK GPS rover. This device is extremely exact, being accurate to 20mm, and can be used for setting out, as it was in this case, or for topographic surveys when data is collected about land features and elevations.

Every grid reference point was marked with a tall stake and painted. After 4,500 metres of plotting, the team was within 100mm of an established corner post. Once our clients confirmed the boundary with their neighbours, they could put a up new fence, confident that the boundary line is now accurately established and their land protected for the future.

Our chartered surveyors have extensive experience in the management of all types of property - from huge country estates and large mixed portfolios to single dwellings, commercial units, offices and land. Contact us to see how we can help you maximise value from your land.

Increasing the purchase appeal of a farm diversification project

Woodland Park Lodges site in Ellesmere, Shropshire

The 51 acre Woodland Park Lodges site in Ellesmere, Shropshire has been sold to a family run business, Olympic Park Homes, which already runs two exclusive residential parks - Delamere Grove and Riverside Park in Cheshire. Located on Lions Lane, Woodland Park Lodges comprises 11 timber holiday lodges with separate office and reception building, set within around 51 acres of woodland. The site also has planning permission in place to construct an additional nine lodges.

Farm diversification

Forge’s involvement with the site dates back to 2010. It was initially a farm diversification project, utilising a previously unused area of woodland. Diversification is largely supported through planning policy at a national and local level. Every local authority has its own planning framework but generally rural diversification is actively encouraged. Advising clients on diversification is a specialist area for us and agricultural property provides considerable opportunity.

Planning permission and keeping green

Following our client’s decision to sell the farm and retain the lodge site, we were asked to help with the separation of the site, including securing planning permission for a new access. We also instigated a small solar scheme, whereby a solar developer was granted a lease of land with an agreement to sell electricity back to the lodges. This enables the site to save about 20% on electricity charges and also helps to reinforce its green credentials.

The next stage for us was to secure planning permission for an additional nine lodges to be built, which would lead to a substantial increase in the site’s future turnover, with a relatively modest increase in overheads. Once planning permission was granted, it helped add value to the site and undoubtedly made it an even more attractive proposition for potential buyers. It was sold off a guide price of £1.35 million. We were joint agents in the sale, alongside Colliers International.

This is an excellent example of a successful farm diversification project, which ultimately created an entirely independent and profitable leisure enterprise, which has reported excellent performance in recent years with future bookings confirmed as far forward as 2021. Now that the phasing out of farming subsidies has begun, diversification is undoubtedly the future for many rural businesses.

Resolving a breach of planning control

Former mine near Halifax in West Yorkshire

Planning permissions can be a tricky business - particularly if you don’t follow the rules clearly set out by local planning authorities. A breach of planning control can cause problems in the future, especially if you come to sell the property, or seek to carry out further alterations. Breaches can have happened accidentally, or may have been deliberate. In either case, it is something that must be addressed, and Forge Property Consultants can help you navigate your way to a successful outcome.

The most recent case of this type that we have worked on is the site of a former mine near the town of Halifax in West Yorkshire. The owner of the property and his family had outgrown the small cottage on the site, so he proceeded to convert one of the mine buildings into a dwelling in the early 1990s, without planning permission. All went smoothly, he moved in and has continued to live there ever since, with no enforcement action being taken by the local authority against him. However, when the owner sought to mortgage the property, he was unable to, as the house was not an authorised use - it was still classed as a mine.

A breach of planning control is defined as either carrying out work without the required permission, or failing to comply with the conditions on which the planning permission has been granted. In most cases, the development will become immune from any intervention or enforcement if no action has been taken within four years of ‘substantial completion’ of a breach consisting of operational development, within four years of an unauthorised change of use of a single dwelling house, or within 10 years in any other instances of breach of planning control.

Planning authorities can be quite strict when breaches of planning legislation are discovered, and they can follow a number of steps to enforce the law. These might include the use of stop notices and planning enforcement notices. Being in breach of planning can become a much more significant problem when the owner decides to sell or raise finance on the property, and it is imperative to resolve the matter at the earliest opportunity.

Forge Property Consultants has had several planning successes, using Certificates of Lawful Use - as in the case of the property owner in Halifax. Forge helped the owner gain a Certificate of Lawful Use, which allowed the owner to mortgage the property, without having to take any further action regarding the work he had carried out without applying for permission.

If you’re in doubt about planning permission, or need to look at a case retrospectively, then our property experts at Forge can guide you safely through the process.

N.B.
There are two types of Certificate of Lawful Use.

  1. Article 83A Certificate of Lawfulness of Existing Use or Development is used when an owner wishes to indicate that any changes that have been carried out are lawful - that is to say, that enforcement action cannot be taken against it. This can be due to the fact that it had (or did not need) planning permission, or that the use or operation took place so long ago that the time for any enforcement has expired.
  2. Article 83B Certificate of Lawfulness of Proposed Use or Development is where you confirm that what you proposed would be lawful, i.e. it would not require planning permission. It could be that the proposal does not constitute development, is classed as ‘permitted development’, or already has planning permission secured.

Maximising sales potential for prestige rural property

Sporting estate in Northumberland

The owners of an outstanding sporting estate in Northumberland approached us to ask for our help in selling the diverse property. In addition to a 19th century 14 bedroomed Grade II listed hall, complete with its own ballroom, and six cottages, the proposed sale included 250 acres of agricultural land and woodland as well as fishing rights on one of the best salmon rivers in England.

We had to find practical solutions to the numerous challenges to the marketing of such a diverse property. These included the reservation of certain rights by the owner, the presence of asbestos, sale of chattels and the fact that there were a number of interrelated transactions, which all needed to fall into place in the correct sequence.

We advised our client to divide the estate into lots to maximise the market appeal and eventual sale price. We also looked at potential development opportunities and the option of selling some land off as extensions to gardens. As part of the due diligence process we needed to rectify some planning issues and also iron out potential problems with historic changes that had been made to the hall, which meant that some aspects of the Grade II listing had been breached.

Ultimately, we sold the estate in ten separate transactions for £5.8 million, having secured vacant possession of the residential properties, as required by the eventual buyer. The demands of the whole complex, multi-faceted transaction were many and varied. The Forge team, with its range of different negotiating skills and areas of technical expertise, was ideally placed to rise to the challenge and meet and exceed the expectations of our client.

Valuation enables owner to convert barns to luxury homes

Farmland in Staffordshire

One of our farming clients in Staffordshire was looking to convert his three redundant agricultural barns and paddock into several luxury residential properties with land attached. In order to gain planning permission for the conversion he needed a formal RICS Red Book valuation, an area in which we specialise, with Forge surveyor Tom Mason being an RICS Registered Valuer.

Due to the highly bespoke nature of the barns’ development, our report needed to include consideration of the final sale value and development costs, as well as comparable site sales. We also made recommendations as to changes that could be made to aspects of vehicle access, layout, design and style of the dwellings to improve their marketability and attract a premium value when it came to selling them. This meant that our final report not only met our client’s immediate needs but resulted in a document that will continue to be useful throughout the ongoing development process.

Our client was impressed with the depth and content of the valuation and has already said he will be using our services again.

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