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Joined up thinking – practical issues for developers: third party land

Planning and constructing a development can require a cast of thousands: all experts with their own specialisations.

In order to actually construct – and more importantly sell – any units on a development as efficiently as possible, it is important to ensure that there is a level of joined up thinking between everyone involved.

A classic example of this is where there is a need for third party land within the development. If these areas are not identified at an early stage, then dealing with third party land can become an expensive and time consuming delay to development (or at worst prevent development entirely). The following are examples of where issues can arise:


A major concern when it comes to third party land is a ransom strip which, for example, would prevent access into the site or the ability to lay services into the site. To minimise this risk, in addition to the Land Registry searches carried out by your solicitor, you should always arrange:

  • for an overlay between the highways search plan and the registered title plan to show any gaps between the site and the adopted highway; or
  • if you have the benefit of rights over land and are intending to lay services or access via other land, an overlay between the registered title plans for the land subject to the rights and your site.

It may not be clear from a side by side examination of the plans as to whether there is any intervening third party land and an overlay should show this.


When looking at the service solution for a site, you should ensure that you have the ability to implement this. If you are connecting into an existing system and there are rights to use, are these rights sufficient to allow any increase in flow or are there capacity limits? If there are rights to lay services through third party land, does this extend to obligations on the landowner to enter into any infrastructure agreements? If you are constructing an outfall, are there rights to drain into the watercourse? You should ensure that your solicitor is aware of the strategy and where you are intending to lay the services so they can advise you appropriately.

Additional Works

Another point to consider is whether your service strategy would require additional works. For example, on an outfall for surface water drainage into a watercourse it may be that (whether as a planning obligation or as may be required by a consent from the Environment Agency, local flood authority or internal drainage board) you would be required to carry out protective works to the watercourse to prevent erosion or flooding. If you are required to install such erosion protection on the banks of a watercourse in third party land (or need to carry out any other works), you must be sure that you have the appropriate rights to do this.

Construction issues

Where construction of a development would require cranes, you should consider whether it would it be possible to construct the development without any part of the crane oversailing onto third party land. On more constrained sites, would it be possible to – for example – construct a basement or install any pilings while remaining entirely within the boundaries of your own site? Is there any need for temporary construction access over third party land, or would you need to negotiate a construction compound or contractor parking on third party land?

The above is by no means an exhaustive list and there are many more issues which could arise in relation to third party land. The solution is to ensure that everyone – including technical teams, consultants, sales teams and solicitors – are aware of the full extent of the development plans (and any updates and changes) so that if there are any issues arising from third party land then solutions can be found at the earliest possible stage.


Your key contact

Caroline Mortimer


Caroline Mortimer is a partner in the commercial property team. She has extensive experience in acting for housebuilders in all aspects of residential development, including strategic land acquisitions and joint venture arrangements.
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