PLOTS OF POTENTIAL
|Property developer Baron Deschauer
A new breed of property
developer has emerged, snapping up huge swathes of farmland, dividing
it up and selling it on. With pressure on housing stocks at their
highest in decades, is this scheme a canny investment, or a big con?
Many of us dream of escaping town and city and owning
a home in the heart of the English countryside.
For residents in the Nottinghamshire village of Collingham
- that dream is a reality.
Collingham is a popular choice amongst commuters for
its excellent connections to nearby towns and cities.
With the property boom of recent years, Collingham is
a popular choice for another resident - the property developer.
New kid on the block
Canadian businessman Baron Deschauer is already a millionaire at the age
In the village of Collingham, he seems set to increase
has all the benefits of country living |
Baron Deschauer is a property developer who buys acres
of farmland, splits it into plots and sells it on at a substantial profit.
Each plot is sold without planning permission.
He has recently acquired 205 acres of land next to the
village of Collingham for between £2,000 and £2,500 an acre.
With the plots divided into 268 half acre and acre plots,
they are sold on for prices upwards of £16,500 each - the most expensive
plot fetching an incredible £35,000.
The sheer scale of the project and the attractive marketing
literature is causing alarm amongst local residents, who meet regularly
to discuss the plans.
"If you're buying land at £2,500 - £3,000
agricultural prices, selling it 'allegedly' as agricultural land at £15,500
- £35,000, then that's a rather large mark-up," observes one
The mark-up may be great but it seems the offer is still
highly attractive to prospective buyers.
According to the website many plots have been sold or
are under offer.
is split into small plots and sold to prospective home builders|
Although plots are sold without planning permission,
Baron Deschauer is confident that he can capitalise on the uncertainty
of the UK housing market.
"There is an inevitability of development,"
he explains, "and in my regard it's not a question of if, but when."
The Barker report published earlier this year would certainly
sustain this belief.
The report recommends the building of 140,000 homes each
year if housing supply is to match demand.
Yet Newark and Sherwood District Council are adamant
there will not be planning permission granted on this land.
"Whilst any application would have to be considered
on its merits, we do not anticipate any need for housing on this land
in the short, medium or long term," explains Council Deputy Leader,
This does little to deter Baron Deschauer who insists,
"as long as they establish what they are objecting to we can address
"We will address then resubmit.
"We will appeal and resubmit.
"We can keep on going until eventually we achieve
Don't fence me in
Deschauer has already acquired agricultural land in the south|
Despite the lack of planning permission, the potential
to a make profit on the land is attracting many speculators.
The buying of agricultural land has proved particularly
common in the south of England where not surprisingly, Baron Deschauer
has already staked his claim.
The village of Groombridge, East Sussex is an area of
outstanding natural beauty making it attractive to house buyers and, of
course, property developers.
Baron Deschauer and his company acquired 40 acres of
agricultural land next to the village.
The village woke to find unsightly fencing marking out
each plot even though planning permission is unlikely to be granted.
This has served as a warning to Newark and Sherwood council
who have taken the step of placing an "article four" direction
on the land.
This prevents any development which would change the
appearance of the land, including fences and laying road surfaces.
What lies beneath?
It is not just the lack of planning permission that could
stand in the way of potential buyers though.
land agent Alasdair Morrison
is bemused by the amount of money plots are selling for|
A solicitor's search reveals the existence of an oil
pipe running beneath a corner of the land.
The pipe carries high octane aviation fuel between RAF
bases in the area making the land an unattractive prospect for potential
Only a handful of buyers have contacted the council for
information or employed solicitors to conduct searches.
Many remain unaware that some of the land is unsuitable
for house building and that it is unlikely that planning permission will
Baron Deschauer remains unapologetic about his business.
"This is an investment in the future. People must
understand that in the worst case scenario, this is a chunk of freehold
land that will always be there
It can always be the basis of growth."
An expensive allotment
Local MP Patrick Mercer is working with the Council to
find ways of changing the law to prevent agricultural land being sold
on in this way.
They are trying to find ways to discourage potential
purchasers from buying the land.
However if they want to put up signs warning buyers of
the pitfalls, they will have to apply for planning permission.
|"Buying land is not a gamble. It
is not likely to increase in value significantly. One should think
twice, maybe even three times about buying any land - especially
- local land agent|
Property developers like Baron Deschauer aren't doing
anything illegal and he stands to make a substantial sum if all plots
Baron Deschauer insists that the scheme's being marketed
as an investment opportunity to own freehold land and purchasers are aware
of the risks involved.
With the council adamant in their resolve to deny planning
permission, investors will have to wait a very long time to see if they
get a return on their money.
In the meantime all investors are left with is a very