Our residential development solicitors act for landowners, private sector developers, promoters and affordable housing providers on all aspects of the development process from land assembly and acquisition through to site set up and plot sales.

Residential development transactions, by their very nature are significant and important financial transactions for both landowner and developer. Specialist legal advice is an essential element to ensure the transaction proceeds smoothly, minimising development risk and effectively protecting  your interests. Our deep understanding of this specialist area allows us to offer practical commercial advice, address your key objectives and/or concerns and carefully prepare good quality, comprehensive documentation.

The ‘very efficient’ Claire Waring is head of the firm’s residential development practice

Chambers UK 2016

Our team of specialist residential development lawyers have a proven track record of consistently delivering a pragmatic, efficient and successful service to our clients. By regularly acting for landowners, housebuilders on schemes (ranging from single plots to large residential developments) and planning promoters, we are ideally placed to offer ranging expertise, technical skills and extensive experience in all types of residential development and strategic land agreements.

We work alongside a number of other teams within the firm including our agricultural team, planning team and construction team to provide a complete holistic service to our clients ensuring that all transactions proceed smoothly and that no aspect of your matter is over-looked.

Residential development – how can we help you?

Assisting land agents

We have built and we continue to develop strong relationships with land agents up and down the country. We believe that, from the very outset of any development transaction we provide an invaluable ‘trusted adviser’ role to each land agent who may be engaged by our landowner clients.

We firmly believe that the key to any transaction progressing smoothly and proceeding to a successful conclusion is to involve us from the beginning. We can offer insightful input into negotiations on heads of commercial terms, practical advice on the implications of any headline terms put forward and we can identify practical and effective solutions to any potential issues which may arise during such negotiations. Our in-depth knowledge of all aspects of the development process and our extensive experience of acting for landowners, developers and promoters allows us to assist land agents to put together a deal which balances the interests of all stakeholders in a transaction and which ensures both parties achieve their key aims from the transaction.

Acting for landowners

Our residential development lawyers regularly act for landowners who have varying degrees of experience of strategic land agreements. For most, the opportunity to sell their land for development purposes is a significant financial transaction which does not arise on more than one occasion. In these circumstances, we appreciate that our landowner clients may feel uneasy when faced with the complex and unfamiliar issues which arise in such transactions, particularly when the other party in the transaction is a national housebuilder or established land promoter who has a number of similar transactions on the go at any point in time. We further appreciate the likely financial and emotional significance of the matter to you.

We have considerable experience in all types of strategic land agreements as well as those relevant to the more imminent disposals of land both of which can be structured in a variety of ways. For example a housebuilder or land promoter’s offer could be conditional on the attainment of a satisfactory planning permission. This will require the disposal contract to include comprehensive obligations on the developer in to detain that planning permission. It is not unusual for the calculation of the purchase price to involve a complex formula which looks to equalise land values and the developer may wish to defer payment of a proportion of the purchase price etc. Further, where the proposed development is of a significant size, it is also possible multiple landowners will need to be involved in the transaction adding another layer of complexity. We are comfortable dealing with these more complex and involved elements of a transaction just as we are comfortable acting on the full range of developments, from one or two unit schemes to those resulting in the creation of whole new settlements.

Our extensive experience in this area and our understanding of the relevant issues allows us to offer you the specialist legal advice you may need to put yourself on an equal footing with the experienced and well-resourced housebuilder or land promoter.

Some of the types of agreements and arrangements which our residential development lawyers can advise you on are:-

  • Lock-out/exclusivity agreements
  • Conditional and unconditional contracts for the sale of  land
  • Option agreements
  • Planning promotion and marketing and sales agreements
  • Hybrid agreements
  • Acquisition and/or granting of rights, easements and covenants over land
  • Release and/or variation of rights, easements and covenants affecting land
  • Overage and clawback arrangements
  • Pre-emption agreements
  • Landowner/Equalisation agreements
  • Land Pool Trusts

We can work closely with your retained accountants and tax advisers. We draw on the particular expertise of our colleagues in our Private Client and Corporate teams to ensure any proposed development land transaction is structured in the most tax efficient method (both in terms of inheritance tax and capital gains tax).

We also have a strong heritage of working with farmers and farming families and a depth of understanding of the particular challenges and opportunities within the agricultural sector. This, combined with our commercial strength and expertise means that we are well placed to advise those in the agricultural sector looking to diversify their portfolio by offering or promoting part of their land for development.

We appreciate that in many instances where an agricultural landowner is disposing of land for development  they will often wish to reinvest the proceeds of sale in a further agricultural holding or holdings. In these circumstances it is important for the landowner to have a strong team of advisers to help facilitate the transition and in doing so mitigate any potential tax liabilities so far as reasonably possible.

Consequently, we also regularly involve colleagues in our agricultural team to advise on the reinvestment. We also seek assistance from our agricultural team on the implications of any farming tenants which may be in occupation of the property, any security of tenure issues which may arise as a consequence, formalising relationships with any farming tenants by way of a Farm Business Tenancy or similar structure, and ensuring delivery of vacant possession of the property on or prior to the successful conclusion of the proposed development  agreement.

Recent examples of where we have assisted landowners in their development transaction are:

  • Acting for a farming family in relation to a large strategic land promotion agreement with a national land promoter. The promotion agreement extended to over 250 acres of land intended as a new settlement and is typical of the sort of strategic land agreements on which we have been advising in recent years. As well as the specialised land promotion agreement itself, the transaction was complicated by the fact that a number of adjoining landowners will need to be involved in the wider planning promotion for the new settlement.
  • Acting for a landowner in both the sale of part of his agricultural landholding to a national housebuilder for the development of up to 150 dwellings and his related purchase of a new agricultural holding/business of approximately 100 hectares of land. This transaction involved a number of our lawyers across multiple disciplines including Residential Development, Agriculture and Corporate to achieve a successful sale and purchase within very tight timescales. The sale and purchase involved a number of complex elements including deferred payment, infrastructure obligations, agricultural tenancies, overage, parent company guarantees and so on.
  • Acting for a landowner in the sale of part of his property with the benefit of outline planning permission for up to 75 dwellings to national housebuilder. The deal was particularly complex and involved liaising with a land promoter, securing deferred payment by way of a legal charge, retention of part of the purchase price and securing a host of post-completion planning and infrastructure obligations.

Acting for developers and land promoters

Developing real estate is a challenging and exciting process. Our residential development team are an experienced safe pair of hands working alongside you to anticipate and resolve legal issues in a pragmatic way. We offer a practical and proactive approach and help to find solutions to any problems which could adversely affect your delivery of a successful and commercially viable residential development.

We recognise that each project is different. Whether you are assembling a development site, acquiring land or rights over land, enhancing the value of land through promotion and/or planning, securing development funding, constructing the buildings or disposing of the plots , each stage has its own challenges but we can assist you to deal with them all. 

Every aspect of each deal is handled with a view to maximising value and minimising developer risk. We pride ourselves on offering a genuinely senior lead service where the lawyers you want are by your side throughout the deal at every step. We want to be there with you from start to finish and do our bit to make the process as smooth as possible for you.

Our residential property team includes lawyers who have the requisite skills to deal with all aspects of residential development: property, planning, construction, site set up and plot sales. We provide a truly end to end service. We talk to you and to each other to make sure that we are working on your behalf in a cost efficient and focussed manner. 

We can can advise and assist you with:

  • Site acquisition and site assembly
  • Conditional and unconditional contracts for the purchase of land
  • Option agreements
  • Planning promotion and marketing and sales agreements
  • Hybrid agreements
  • Joint ventures and collaboration agreements
  • Development agreements
  • Statutory agreements including Section 106 Agreements, Unilateral Undertakings, Section 104 Drainage Agreement, Section 38/278 Highway Agreements
  • Acquisition of rights, easements and covenants in or over third party land necessary for the attainment and subsequent implementation of a planning permission for residential development
  • Release and/or variation of rights, easements and covenants affecting and/or preventing development
  • Overage and clawback agreements
  • Site set up including the production of model plot sale documentation (including restricted and shared ownership leases)
  • Implementation of estate management solutions including the formation of management companies and freehold reversion transfers
  • Quick and efficient plot sales

Our development team has continued to grow at an impressive rate further enhancing our offering. We have extensive experience acting for both private sector house builders and registered providers of affordable housing in connection with a broad range of developments from a single unit through to the creation of new communities in the larger residential/mixed use developments.

Examples of recent projects includes:-

  • Acted for Greywell Properties in acquiring a large former school site in Warwickshire for residential development. Compromising part conversion/refurbishment and part newbuild. 
  • Acted for a national developer in relation to the conditional long leasehold acquisition of a landmark building to be developed as a Private Rent Scheme (“PRS”) for local key workers. The number and nature of the parties involved meant that the legal structure was complex, requiring a raft of legal documentation including a conditional agreement for lease, building lease with full development obligations and provision for collateral warranties, conditional tripartite agreement for surrender and deed of surrender, overage agreement; parent group guarantee, bespoke section 106 agreement; and indemnity agreements.
  • Acted for a regional housebuilder in relation to a number of acquisitions by way of outright purchases, conditional contracts and option agreements and ranging from smaller developments of 20-30 units through to large residential/mixed use developments on circa 175 acres of land.
  • Acted for a regional developer on a multi-site transaction involving the relocation of a town centre bus station to a purpose-built new facility on the other side of town, highly complex multi- party site assembly arrangements and the subsequent residential development of a site which includes the former bus station to comprise of 212 units.

Acting for registered providers of affordable housing

Housing is a key priority sector for us. We have over a considerable number of years built our expertise and national reputation in this sector and we have strong partnerships with our registered provider clients. 

In addition to our services and experience mentioned in the ‘Acting for developers and land promoters’ above, we can also advise and assist you with:-

  • Acquisition of section 106 affordable housing units from volume housebuilders on both a conditional and unconditional basis
  • Shared ownership plot sales
  • Staircasing transactions
  • Preserved right to buy, right to acquire and right to buy sales
  • Surrenders, regrants and assignments of existing leasehold properties.
  • Lease extensions and one-off property sales 
  • Mortgage rescue transactions

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