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Why does a property solicitor need a pair of wellies?

View profile for Sophie Read
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This is the question that fuelled the start of my career in property law and so seemed appropriate for my first blog post. As a budding law student, somewhat ironically, I had not initially considered a career in law. Various city firms visited the university I attended, presenting talks about their respective firms and practice areas but very few had me chomping at the bit to be a solicitor. This was until I stumbled across a talk titled ‘Why does a property solicitor need a pair of wellies’, presented by Steven Petty of Feldon Who? (see our earlier blog).

From a young age, I enjoyed spending every free moment outside, in a pair of wellies, working with and showing horses. Accordingly, the reference to wellies in the title of Steven’s talk caught my attention, and listening to the talk inspired me to train as a commercial property solicitor with Feldon Dunsmore. Fast forward six years and I now offer comprehensive advice to individuals and businesses, including landowners and developers, on a wide range of property transactions. I don’t quite get to wear my wellies to the office every day of the week, but they do come in to good use.

So why does a property solicitor need a pair of wellies? The answer is the same as Steven discussed (what seems like) all those years ago; there is no substitute for putting on your wellies and walking around a development site with your client. You can identify a variety of potential issues, which may not be apparent from reviewing the legal documentation at your desk.

A site visit can help to reveal issues with the boundaries themselves. Frequently there are discrepancies between the physical boundaries ‘on the ground’ and the boundaries plotted by the Land Registry on title plans. Even relatively minor discrepancies can cause a minefield of issues for a developer if, for example, they discover later down the line that their proposed scheme doesn’t fit within the boundaries. A topographical survey and an overlay of the title plan on top of the proposed scheme are also essential for this reason.

Another surprisingly common issue we come across is dog walkers! Members of the public who have, for example, used a particular route over land for walking (with or without dogs) or to access their property for at least 20 years may acquire legal rights to use that particular route or access way. This could cause serious problems for a developer, particularly if such issues only become apparent once the developer has purchased the site and is looking to apply for planning permission or build out an approved scheme.

There is a vast array of further issues which could become apparent from a site visit, including:

  • discovering private service apparatus which wouldn’t necessarily be revealed by desktop utilities searches, and even, overhead lines;
  • identifying the current land use which could be relevant to the planning position and impact the likely risk of contamination; and
  • practical problems that may affect a developer’s ability to build out a planning consent such as rights of light infringements, potential disputes, and access issues.

For advice on property development, please contact me on 02476 997718 or another member of the Feldon Dunsmore team – we all have a pair of wellies to hand!

Author: Sophie Read

8th October 2020