Delivering sustainable development – A checklist for strategic land acquisitions

In order to meet the needs of future sustainable development, there is now a need to amend strategic land and development agreements.

It is currently a time of great change with the Government’s 2030 target to end new petrol and diesel vehicle sales fast approaching alongside the phased withdrawal of gas for new build developments from 2025 under the proposed Future Homes Standard.

In line with this, most planning authorities are presently reviewing planning policies in order to adapt to their previously declared Climate Emergencies and Zero Carbon strategies.

With these and other changes taking place, developers and landowners would do well to consider whether their strategic land agreements are fit for purpose. Without careful consideration,  the strategic land agreements being entered into today may not secure all necessary land rights and interests required to undertake new development 10-15 years in the future.

To help you to avoid the most common pitfalls we have put together a list of the major areas where current agreements could be found wanting, and new factors to consider when acquiring strategic land:

  • Infrastructure Agreements. There is a need for parties to enter into infrastructure agreements not just with existing utility undertakers but with providers of heat/power and mobility.
  • Service Media. Suitable easement rights should be reserved across any retained land to lay additional service media to service new types of infrastructure.
  • Airspace. Future airspace rights which might be needed should be reserved e.g. as we see further advances in drone technology.
  • Communications. Restrictive covenants need to be secured preventing retained land being used for purposes which might interfere with mobile and satellite communications.
  • Ground source heating. Additional land rights and interests which will be required for this technology depending upon which solution is best suited for the site. Vertical heating systems or those that rely on aquifers may require dealing with the owners of mines and minerals. With greater reliance on underground plant more protections may be required to prevent interference from neighbouring land use.
  • Connection rights. Current agreements reserve rights to connect into roads and adoptable service media on newly developed or retained land. These requirements will continue.  However, it will become attractive to connect into district heating schemes as well as benefit from any sustainable transport hubs approximate to the site.
  • Offsetting. Offsetting schemes are still emerging, but many rely on the ability to provide alternative habitats or offsetting land within the vicinity of the development site. Being able to secure rights to benefit from neighbouring land which is being used in a way that could accommodate offsetting would be advantageous.
  • Locally sourced sustainable energy. Being able to access and support locally sourced sustainable energy could significantly enhance the future planning prospects for the site.

In Conclusion

There is quite a lot that parties can achieve in relation to strategic land agreements which are currently under negotiation in order to anticipate and mitigate these changes.

We are now looking at how some of this "future track" can be incorporated into existing arrangements without upending what may be sensitive commercial relationships between landowners and developers.

With our recent experience of major projects, our multi-disciplinary team is ideally placed to guide you through the processes involved in strategic land acquisitions. Get in touch with our key contacts to see how we can help.

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