Infill Plots

‘Infill’ is the term commonly used for plots in an urban or village that occupy a gap in the street scene, rather than extending beyond the boundaries of the settlement. Any extension of the settlement boundary is likely to be frowned upon by the planners and referred to as a ‘ribbon development’.

However, just because a plot is infill doesn’t necessarily mean that the planners will agree to its development. There are countless examples of open spaces or even fields that have been encircled by development within a village, and you might think that they are ripe for building upon. The Government at national level is keen to see areas of land within settlement boundaries used up before open land; but often local governments are just as keen to ensure that open spaces within the built-up area are maintained.

Infill plots come in two guises:

Spare Land:

This is land that has no current use and is hidden from view by walls or fences which give the illusion that the street scene is uninterrupted. Land could be spare because:

  • the plot used to be garden or allotment land
  • there was previously an access to land at the rear that has subsequently been sold off or developed
  • the land may well have had a previous use that, in the past, precluded its use for development, such as the local dump
  • owners have half-forgotten that they own this piece of land that they no longer use
  • the land is not registered and has slipped out of ownership.

Garden Plots:

This is the other and more certain type of infill plot, where homeowners with gardens possessing a wide frontage lop off a section adjoining the carriageway.

Garden plots had previously been classed as ‘brownfield’ but they are now ‘greenfield’ again meaning planning permission is more likely to be granted if your development fits local needs.

Nevertheless, most single plots that come onto the market were once part of somebody’s garden. Things to look out for are any restrictive covenants that the vendors might wish to impose, restricting, say, the ability to have windows overlooking the retained house and whether or not one has the right to connect to services or drains within the garden area of that old house.

Backland Development

This is another type of garden plot. Only here, instead of seeking to infill the road frontage, the development is at the rear of the existing house. This only really happens where the original plot is quite large but, in reality, there is often more privacy on such plots than on many modern estates.

Access is usually down the side of the existing house and the terms of that right of way need to be properly laid out. If you share access then it would be preferable to have an obligation for joint maintenance.

Brownfield Land

The term applies to land which has had a previous planning use that may have ceased. It could be factories, an old builders’ yard or even a disused petrol station. The Government is broadly supportive of its use for redevelopment, so long as all other normal planning criteria are established.

Watch out for contamination on sites with an ex-industrial use. This can almost always be dealt with but it can be costly and those costs should be reflected in the price. As previously stated, garden land is also designated as brownfield land.

Greenfield Land

This is land that has not been previously developed. All political parties are against the development of previously undeveloped land in the countryside, unless it fits in with their requirements to provide more housing, infrastructure or new towns.

Green Belt Land

This is an entirely different designation from greenfield land in that its preservation is given legal status. In general, no new development is allowed on green belt land, unless it again fits in with Government requirements.