August 10, 2022



Property Development 101: Site Surveys

Property development is often an incredibly lucrative business to get into. However, there is more to it than simply renovating or building houses. There are a number of pieces of legislation that need following in order to ensure that the development is legally compliant. Failure to do so can result in serious repercussions. One such aspect of property development is conducting site surveys; read on to find out more about why site surveys are important and the different types involved. 

Site Surveys Explained

Site surveys are pretty self-explanatory. They are detailed studies that are designed to provide you with more information on the site that you plan to develop on. It’s common to outsource the task to professionals. 

Existing Building Surveys

If the site has existing buildings on it, then it makes sense to carry out an existing building survey regardless of whether you are keeping the structure or not. Surveyors provide a valuation of the structure. They also assess the condition of the structure and the impact that demolition would make. 

Geographical & Geotechnical Surveys

These surveys are carried out to assess the ground and evaluate the physical conditions, such as the type of soil or whether there are a lot of rocks, et cetera. The subsurface conditions can make or break a development effort which is why they are important. They are needed to identify any potential roadblocks, and they can often help to provide you with solutions that you can use to overcome them. 

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Topographical Surveys

Topographical surveys are somewhat similar, but it is more about the surrounding characteristics of the land, both natural and manmade. It looks for things like slopes, watercourses, boundary lines, roads and paths. For the most part, local authorities won’t sign off on a project without this survey. The features found can have a significant effect on your plans for the site and what you can realistically achieve with it. 

Credit: Shutterstock

Ecological Survey

This form of survey is all about the local wildlife. It aims to identify any habitats and species living onsite, usually reptiles, mammals, birds or bats. They are often a legal requirement. The identification of a species onsite is not necessarily a roadblock, but plans will need to be made to relocate the creatures with as minimum disruption as possible. Ecological surveys can also take into account the botanical aspects of the plot or site too. 

Tree Survey

Tree surveys are as they sound; they provide you with a thorough examination of the trees on your site. You can then make an informed decision about what to do with said trees. The insights gathered from tree surveys can also help you when it comes to applying for planning permission, to identify health and safety risks or minimise the damage to protected trees. For example, some trees will need to be built around and left undisturbed, whereas others might be replanted or removed from the site completely. 

Flood Surveys

Some areas of land simply cannot be built on or developed; it is not always apparent what constitutes a flood risk which is why a flood survey needs to be carried out. Not all flood plains are obvious. They are necessary for planning and development applications. Failing to complete this survey can have legal repercussions as well as cost a lot of money to rectify. Older homes or homes built too closely to bodies of water are at more of a risk thanks to climate change

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Boundary Survey

Boundary surveys are carried out to map out the outer boundary of the plot. It ensures that you don’t go out of your plot or compromise the development by encroaching on someone else’s property or land. Often the old boundary records are used or the sale information. 

House building plans and construction take considerable effort and planning and site surveys are crucial
Image: Shutterstock

Why Carry Out Site Surveys?

Surveys are carried out for a number of reasons. Primarily, they help to ensure that the project goes ahead as smoothly as possible. While they might seem like a hindrance and an extra expense or several, the surveys only seek to weed out potential issues that you would otherwise encounter throughout the development process. 

The surveys also ensure the legal compliance of your project. They make sure that your project is safe both for the local community, wildlife and the people who will eventually live in your property. Failing to carry them out can have a catastrophic effect on those around you. For example, you can damage ecosystems beyond repair, or you could unknowingly be building on an unsuitable substructure, or you could be opening the homeowners up to dangers. 

Finally, think about your reputation if you were to progress through your development without carrying out the proper checks and surveys. You would quickly gain a reputation for cutting corners and producing unsafe properties, and harming the local wildlife. Therefore, ensuring that all of the necessary surveys are conducted makes you more trustworthy and reliable in the eyes of business contacts and customers too. 

How to Tell Which Surveys to Carry Out?

There are a number of surveys that you have to carry out legally in order to get planning permission, but this can vary depending on the local authority that you are dealing with, so be sure to do your research. You can also get a good idea of what surveys you need to carry out from simply looking at the plot. For example, if there are no existing structures, then you probably don’t need to carry out the existing building survey, et cetera. 

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In Conclusion

Carrying out surveys often seems like a tedious extra expense that can delay the start of your project or jeopardise your chances of securing planning permission, but they are important. Failing to do your due diligence when it comes to surveys can have a significant effect on your business. Make sure that you have done your research and consulted the local authority as well as national requirements to ensure that you haven’t missed or forgotten anything.