The topic of infrastructure continues to keep our politicians busy with discussions around the budget for HS2, where and when a new runway should be added in the south and if there should be more projects to improve the economy, but what about homebuyers?
Clearly many of these projects are both high profile and long term, and it would be naïve to suggest that anyone buying a house near an airport or railway line is going to be ignorant of its presence and the fact that it will impact upon the property in some way, for better or for worse. What is challenging is that these issues are usually subjective and the reaction to them will vary from individual to individual but, as a conveyancer, how can you tell unless you can inform them?
In January 2012, the Daily Telegraph ran an article that discussed the potential impact of HS2 on house prices. What it showed was that properties close to an HS2 terminus could see an increase in their value where as those on the fastest, most exposed parts of the route, such as the Chilterns, could be subjected to a fall in value of between 25 to 30%. Will a homebuyer care that HS2 is close to their property but is hidden within a tunnel? Some will care deeply – enough to pull out of a purchase – and others not at all.
Proposed HS2 tunnel: Protesters in 2010 at the point where the line would emerge from the tunnel under Amersham and the Chalfonts. The proposed cutting beyond the tunnel is 100m wide and 20m deep. Copyright Chartridge Photographic
The other challenge is that many infrastructure projects such as fracking, wind and solar farms may have a lower national profile and are on a smaller, local scale but they can still have a significant impact on a property and the enjoyment that is taken from it. With fracking licences already granted in several areas including Kent, Sussex, Staffordshire, Lancashire, Cheshire, Scotland and South Wales – as well as more in the pipeline – the growth in these types of activity is unlikely to be stunted.
To add to the future uncertainty about the impact of these types of the project is the Infrastructure Bill which is currently proceeding through Parliament. Should the Bill pass the various legislative hurdles in front of it then it will introduce measures to not only allow fracking firms to drill under homes without permission but also to put any substance they like under a property. How comfortably will that sit with homebuyers?
Commercial transactions face an additional issue, namely safeguarded areas. Both HS2 and Crossrail have safeguarded areas which means that all new and undecided planning applications will need to go through either HS2 or Crossrail directly. There are already a number of cases where individuals have purchased a property, fully intending to redevelop it, but have had their planning application refused due to the property being situated in a safeguarded area.
This leads onto the question of how to best deal with this emotive and subjective matter in a conveyance. Here are four tips: