LETTER: Plagued by developers and land agents

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In recent months and possibly as a relaxation of planning regulations, the Horsham area has been plagued by an influx of residential developers or their land agents, seeking small parcels of land for development, probably for a maximum of ten houses.

This number of dwellings is below the threshold for requirement to provide affordable or social housing.

In the main these are the smaller companies who have targeted the owners of properties on the main artery roads into Horsham, established properties with large plots of land irrespective of whether they are detached or semis and their location. Main or residential roads, it does not matter.

Initial approaches by the developer are either a phone call, knock on the front door or letter expressing an interest in either the property as a whole or a part of the rear garden. Often a number of properties will be targeted in one operation.

If the owners are tempted by the offer and an agreement is reached to sell, it will normally take the form of an ‘option agreement’, apart from one property, which is often purchased with a view to demolishing to form an access to the rear gardens.

In the case of an ‘option agreement’ an additional sweetener is often provided by the developer paying all legal and possibly removal costs.

Beware, as the offer will be to use the developer’s legal team, this may preclude you from employing your own solicitor to check any contract.

This agreement runs for varying periods, but usually for 18 months and on expiry, if planning approval has been granted for a scheme, the developer will purchase the house or land at the originally agreed figure.

One thing that is rarely made clear to the owner is that should he or she wish to move they will be unable to do so until the option agreement has expired. Furthermore the agreed purchase price will not reflect any uplift in land or house values or disruption.

Examples of this kind are too apparent in Horsham.

Sadly not all developers are fully ‘open’ in their approach and may take advantage of certain situations. An example of this is where a developer has purchased various properties and where one garden is currently being ransacked by having the mature trees felled, before an application has been decided! An act that is only too often carried out at the wrong time, weekends and ‘bird nesting season’ by the developer.

What of your neighbour, who may not be involved in the sale of their property or land to a developer? Their outlook may change forever, being overlooked by unwanted new housing in an adjacent rear garden.

Do we really want this type of ‘backland’ development springing up in our historic market town and marring the appearance of established roads, often of a special character?

DAVID GRIFFITHS

Worthing Road, Horsham

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