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  • Writer's pictureNíall Hedderman

Buying a House With Planning Permission

One of the unexpected joys of being a sole-practitioner is meeting so many different people in the course of business. I particularly like to network with other professionals and I met one of my best contacts, a financial advisor, this way. He specialises in mortgages and has been able to find finance for some of my clients when their own banks have said no, or yes, but with ridiculous conditions attached. I have been able to advise some of his clients who are looking to self-build or to buy property with a view to developing it.

Its Not What You Know, Its Who You Know. My contact put me in touch with one such client last week and their storey illustrates a cautionary tale. He and his wife had agreed to purchase a detached, two storey house in an established area of Edinburgh. The house came with an attached, flat roof garage on the side. The owner advertised the property as having Planning Permission to convert the garage into a habitable room. They also indicated to the client that it would be easy to get planning approval to erect another storey of accommodation on top of the garage. The owner even produced drawings of other houses on the street which had approval for similar developments. The client was about to sign on the dotted line and was now in a hurry to appoint an Architect to carry out the work. I was one of several Architects they had spoken to and I was prepared to offer them my usual one hour free consultation because their property was in Edinburgh.

I got the address from the client and checked its planning history on the Edinburgh Planning Portal, something I do with each potential client's property. 

This search turned up some interesting facts.

The owner had tried to get Planning approval for the additional storey over the garage but the application had been withdrawn before the Planners had reached a decision. This can happen for a number of reasons, the one given on the report was that it had been the owners decision to do so. Reading between the lines, it is likely the planning officer had indicated this application stood no chance of approval. By removing the application, they could re-submit another one for free. Which is what they did. This was when they applied to make the garage into a habitable room. This was deemed Non Development, in other words it does not need Planning Permission.

When I told the client this they were shocked. 

It seems they had developed a “trusting” relationship with the owner and he had tried to pull the wool over their eyes. They were also amazed that their solicitors hadn't found this, as the information is publicly available. I explained that most solicitors don't do this as part of their due diligence. In any event the house wasn't advertised as being sold with permission for the extra storey, they simply fell for the owners sales spiel.In the end the client pulled out of the sale and is very grateful for my advice. They couldn't have used the house in its present condition and were relying on getting the extra storey over the garage to make it worth while. If they had bought the house it would have been highly unlikely that would have happened, so asking an Architect saved them a lot of time and money.

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