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Case study: Land at Duckmoor, Billingshurst, West Sussex

When a compromise offers a way forward 

The site of interest 

This 15-acre land parcel was awarded to Searls Land for their co-operation by Reside Developments as part of another deal.  

In 2018, Senior Land Manager Adam Galbraith approached a landowner in the village of Southwater. After many meetings and conversations, an agreement was reached with the landowners for Reside Developments to acquire the land. 

Due to several unknown costs being identified through the acquisition process, we were asked to compromise on our fee agreement. After a short period of reflection, Adam agreed revised terms with Reside that included a compromise in relation to the Southwater transaction agreement, in return for formal instructions to market another site under their control , when planning consent was granted.  

That site was the land at Duckmoor in Billingshurst, for which they were not tied to any specific agent. 

Planning permission blocked – a solution found 

The site was originally submitted to planning in 2020, but permission was refused due to the impact on the landscape and the lack of a water neutrality solution. 

Water neutrality dictates that a development will not go ahead if it increases the rate of water abstraction for drinking water supplies above the levels that already exist in an area. 

Before the appeal went in, Reside Developments worked closely with a local farmer to secure a simple yet clever water neutrality solution. Essentially, they devised a rainwater harvesting technique to offset the water usage of the new homes. 

The farmer built a new barn on his land – the roof of which had a large surface area. That roof captured all rainwater run-off into a tank storage system. Based on annual rainfall this meant the farm didn’t need to extract as much water from the mains and therefore freed up capacity for the development scheme.  

The planning inspectorate was satisfied, and the appeal was allowed. 

A viable buyer is found 

Upon receiving a positive appeal outcome, Searls Land was asked to prepare an appropriate marketing strategy designed to maximise the site’s value and ensure the incoming purchaser was in a robust position take the deal forward.  

Because of the appended water neutrality solution, the scheme was subject to far more technical due diligence than would normally be the case. 

Searls Land had ‘in principle’ conversations with a select shortlist of buyers to identify who had the appetite to buy the land as well as take on the implementation of the water neutrality scheme without it impacting the land value.  

Bellway Homes was selected due to its recent experiences within the local area and its desire to acquire more land - despite the market being in a tricky place at that time. 

After a year of negotiations between lawyers, the site was successfully sold to Bellway Homes. 

This was a long process but one that proved invaluable to Searls Land as we have since gained extensive experience dealing with all manner of different opportunities where there are water neutrality issues. 

Our experience at Duckmoor has positioned us at the forefront of water neutrality negotiations, enabling us to navigate similar opportunities with confidence and expertise. 

Specifications 

Transaction – Site acquired with planning. 

Client – Reside Developments / Landowners & Reside Developments 

Planning status – Outline planning permission has been granted for 83 units. 

Land parcel – 15 acres. 

Details – We acted on behalf of Reside Developments to acquire the land and had joint instructions from the landowners and Reside Developments when the land was sold to Bellway Homes Southern Counties.