Demolishing an unoccupied property

If you are the owner of an unoccupied property that is uninhabitable, or you already have a permanent home of your own – you may be wondering what development opportunities you have? Could you renovate the property so it may be sold for a profit or leased to tenants? Or could you demolish the property and build something new from the ground up?

In this article, we look at what restrictions you could face when considering demolition and re-building from scratch.

Do you need planning permission to demolish an unoccupied property?

In some cases, you do not need to seek planning permission or approval to demolish a building on your property. However, it is important to consider just some of the factors that could prevent you from demolishing your building or that may lead you to acquire planning permission:

  • How long has the property been unoccupied for?
  • Do you intend to demolish part of the property or the entire structure?
  • Will demolishing the property have an environmental impact?
  • Is there a demand for housing in the area?
  • Are there, if any, historic restrictions placed on the building?
  • What is the property made from? Does it contain traces of harmful building materials such as asbestos?
  • What will the vacant land be used for after the building has been demolished? E.g. will it have a different use from what the original building was?

Certain buildings such as pubs or other drinking establishments, listed buildings of historical importance or buildings located in conservation areas, will need consent from either the local council or appropriate authority. Buildings that are in a town or village with ‘character’ may also have to apply for a demolition application as to not spoil the integrity of the historic area.

It is always worth contacting your local council to see what exactly you are legally allowed to do to your property, before any renovations, demolition or
construction work takes place. Further information on the government website can be found here.

Do you need planning permission to re-build on your land?

Just because you may not necessarily need planning permission to demolish your property, does not mean you will automatically have the right to re-build on the now vacant land. Building a new structure may require planning permission or a building application, all of which could be determined again, by the factors listed earlier in this article.

The main constraints you may face when building are:

  • How big is the new structure?
  • Are you changing the use of the building from what the original building was?
  • Or, are you adding a new section to an existing building?

Smaller structures that you plan on building on your property might not necessarily need planning permission such as garden sheds or garages (considered permitted development). However, there are strict government guidelines in place to ensure property owners follow the legal requirements.

Is it easier to demolish an unoccupied property?

Unfortunately, it is not any easier to demolish a building that has been unoccupied for any length of time. Even if the building has been left in disrepair and is beyond renovating, the factors highlighted above still need to be considered.

In some cases, if an unoccupied property has been left in such poor condition, by law, the property owner maybe required to make the building and surrounding property safe by paying professionals to install temporary structural support, fencing or panels to block off access points. If the building is at this point of disrepair, then there is a higher chance that planning permission will be needed.

Demolishing and re-building a property does require a bit of leg-work on the property owners’ part. With so many factors to consider, alongside the potential legal, demolition and building costs, demolishing your building and re-building should never be taken lightly.