RICS consultation on measurement of land for development and planning purposes (closing 17 September 2019)

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has published a consultation on the first edition of a draft guidance note "Measurement of Land for Development and Planning Purposes".  The guidance note is to be read alongside the RICS professional statement, RICS property measurement (2nd edition) and supports and complies with the International Land Measurement Standards 2019.  Aiming to achieve consistency in calculation of land measurement, the guidance will impact development surveyors when it is adopted as global best practice.  

RICS guidance notes set out accepted good practice for RICS members and RICS regulated firms, though RICS recognises that there may be exceptional circumstances in which it is appropriate for a member to depart from the guidance.  

The draft guidance note focusses on measurement of the surface area of land on a horizontal plane.  It sets out five core definitions to assist with standardised land measurement globally: Land Area, Site Area, Net Development Area, Site Coverage and Plot Ratio.  

The guidance looks to address current inconsistencies when measuring development land.  There is potential confusion when using the general term "the site" as this could either mean the development site in a planning application or it could mean the boundary of the legal title (which could be more or less than the extent of the land in a planning application).  To remove this confusion, the guidance distinguishes between the Land Area, as the extent of legal ownership, and the Site Area, as the land required for planning application purposes.  In addition, though the planning permission usually applies to the entire Site Area, the defined term Net Development Area is used to measure the land in the Site Area to which financial value can be attributed. Different measurements will have different levels of importance to different stakeholders: the Land Area will be important in legal terms, the Site Area for planning purposes and the Net Development Area for valuation and viability.

Disputes in relation to boundaries and plans are common. The guidance advises that calculations should state if they are based only on desktop information with no site inspection.  Title plans are not definitive and the exact location and extent of boundaries, rights of way and the existence of other burdens will need to be verified on the ground. Surveyors will need to ensure any assumptions made when calculating measurements are clear. 

The guidance acknowledges that measurements may change during the development and planning process, as they can only be based on what is known or assumed at any given point in time. Ultimately, it is only when a scheme is constructed that the Site Area and Net Development Area can be fixed with absolute certainty.

The consultation closes on 17 September 2019 with formal adoption planned at the end of the year.  Here is the link to the consultation page on the RICS website.

Consistent measurement of land for development purposes should provide a helpful means of more accurately assessing development potential, financial viability and value.