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How to Unlock the Potential of an Infill Development

27/10/2022

What is an Infill Development? 🤔🤷

Infill refers to the development or adaptive reuse of vacant or underutilised land on otherwise developed sites. Sometimes referred to as 'gap sites', these properties and excess plots of land are typically found within existing settlements and are therefore ideally placed to secure planning. 

Infills offer a world of potential, offering developers or investors significant flexibility with the opportunity to either carve out the land with planning and sell on to drive huge returns on cost for the residual investment, or the opportunity to build out and benefit from the developer’s profit. Local planning authorities that are struggling to meet their housing delivery targets view them as a contribution to their windfall allowance – a win-win for all involved.

With the aim to place new developments near existing resources and infrastructure, and to tidy up the streetscape, they play an essential role in the future supply of residential housing in urban areas across the UK. Question is, where do you start?

📽 Paul Davis and Adam Dainow explored how property developers are scaling up their site-finding and maximising profits with infill developments in a recent webinar. Catch up on-demand here.

 

Navigating Planning Permission 🧭

Before embarking on an infill development project, there are a couple of factors to consider, with some hurdles that developers may face. Although infill sites have environmental and sustainability benefits, as they often utilise existing infrastructure and facilities - they also come with the caveat of being on small and restricted areas of land, requiring thought-out planning permission. 

 

Five Top Tips for Developers ⚡

Adam Dainow, Director of Caswell&Dainow and one of London's most exciting young property developers gave us his top tips and red flags for navigating planning permission for these sites. 

1. Understand the built form and urban grain

Every town and city has patterns, and your scheme should make sense in the urban grain by taking into consideration streetscapes, building height, and open space. 

 

2. Pay attention to the details - rights of lights, trees, access, and PTAL*. 

The difference between gaining planning permission and being refused really is in the detail. Schemes could be unviable if they impose on neighbouring properties or don’t have the required infrastructure. (*PTAL is a measure that rates locations by distance from frequent public transport services in London, we'll touch on this later.)

 

3. Study every Boroughs policy on small sites, backland and infill developments

Every borough has a different approach to small sites. Some are forward-thinking and see the full potential of infill developments, even going as far as to provide developers with clear guidelines and policies on what they should adhere to. 

 

4. Look at recent planning precedents and reasons for refusal

Sometimes the most important part of your research is to look at the sites that have failed, or that have been refused planning permission. You’ll find all the details of why a plan has failed in the planner's report and learn from what they have done. 

 

5. Use the top set of consultants you can afford

As you progress in your career as a property or land developer you'll quickly learn what good design looks like. By using top-set consultants and reputable designers you'll not only be getting the best result from your build but local planning authorities and planners will see you've thought about every small detail of your site. 

 

Five Red Flags That Can Kill an Infill Site 🚩

1. Policy that has changed but isn’t on council documentation

Councils can implement changes to planning policies at any point, but they may not be visible for weeks. It’s crucial to do your due diligence on a site, studying recent planning applications in the area and paying attention to why other developers have had planning applications refused.

 

2. Conservation areas combined with a Borough that has hit its housing target

Sometimes refusals can be plain and simple. If a potential site is in a conservation area and the borough has hit its housing target, they'll quickly refuse permission. 

 

3. Flooding Criteria vs. Part K and Part M Criteria

Even if you don’t live next to a river, your site can be on a floodplain, and although there are often designs around this to achieve permission, it’s not always viable to build your site with too many building regulations (Part K, Part M) and technical specifications in mind. 

 

4. Steep Sites

Level changes on sites can be expensive, sometimes it’s just better to walk away from an opportunity if the small site becomes too expensive on development costs.  

 

5. Low PTAL rating (London)

PTAL is a measure that rates locations by distance from frequent public transport services. To help developers with their planning applications support can be found here. 

 

How can Nimbus Maps help?  🔍📍

Well, we thought you'd never ask. Nimbus has a wealth of tools for developers to help find and assess infill development sites at scale, and then connect with the owners of those sites to establish if they would like to dispose of their site to you. 

In particular, Nimbus users have unlimited use of the OS MasterMap™ which declutters the view of an area to reveal its built form. The integrated google street split-screen view identifies where the streetscape has left space for additional infill development, with how access can be achieved. This is ultimately the trick to finding infill developments. 

OS MasterMap

We offer tools to allow you to build a 360-degree view of what you're working with, using reliable, quality data from the best sources so you can pick up issues early and resolve them, or move on to the next site which can then be used with the ‘my sites’ tool - allowing you to connect with owners of those properties at scale.

 ⏳Gain confidence in your site finding and assessments with the ultimate time-saving tool. What would usually take days to trawl through resources and unnecessary data can now be done in a matter of seconds, alongside a full pipeline of projects with Nimbus Maps. Want to learn more about how Nimbus Maps will help you assess potential land and property opportunities? Request a free trial today

As well as identifying potential sites and allowing you to connect with the owners, Nimbus Maps gives you the unique opportunity to see where others have submitted similar applications and whether they received planning permission the first time, under appeal, or whether they were unsuccessful -  with a shortcut straight to the local authority website so you can see the details of the application. 

Planning Applications

Finally, once you have a scheme and a design team you are confident in, Nimbus also provides you with a wealth of comparable evidence to make sure you get your exit values absolutely right, ensuring you don’t overpay for the opportunity.

The featured image includes the Victorian terrace in South East London, the uniquely narrow ‘Wedge House’ by architecture and design studio Alma-nac

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