FIELD OF DREAMS
|Paul Ross investigates the situation
A new breed of property speculator has emerged,
snapping up huge swathes of Kent and Sussex farmland, dividing them
and selling them off as small building plots. Is
it a good investment, or a big con?
Baron Deschauer is one such developer. At 33 he’s already
a millionaire. Now he intends to become one of the South East’s foremost
|"Innocent people are parting with hard-earned money
that they will not see again."
He has purchased 40 acres of farmland in Groombridge,
East Sussex, which is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Deschauer says, "I would like the individual to have
the opportunity to buy a freehold piece of land, that they can make the
decisions of what they want to do."
Groombridge residents do not share Deschauer enthusiasm.
|This is how
parts of the South East could be carved up
Anne Jenkins, a Groombridge resident, describes when
the land was divided into plots, "We could just see this massive team
of men putting up posts, wheeling out the wire... with tractors, diggers
Resenting the prospect of their peaceful village being
turned into a small town, residents have united to fight a common cause.
They are urging people to think carefully before investing
in such schemes, arguing that the chances that planning permission will
ever be granted are slim.
Andy Joad, a Groombridge resident says, "Remember
this is agricultural land, not development land. You
will not be able to build here."
Deschauer clearly states that his land does not come
with planning permission at present.
He says, "We will put an application in. They may refuse,
but what I'd say is they'd need to refuse on valid grounds.
"As long as they establish what they are objecting
to, we can address those issues.
"We will address them and resubmit, we can appeal,
we can resubmit. We can keep going until eventually we achieve success."
'I'm in this for the long term.'
Deschauer’s land is selling for £12,000 to £24,000
per half acre.
Michael Wooldridge of Cluttons Chartered Surveyors and
Land Agents estimates that Deschauer buys it for substantially less, "The
likelihood is the agricultural land being around £2,000 to £2,500
"An area such as Bluebell Hill [another of Deschauer's
plots], an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, has little hope of getting
any development for the very long term."
A company called UKLI also specialise
in purchasing and reselling farmland at property fairs and online. They
advertise extensively through foreign media.
Patrick Vo decided to invest his savings in land from
UKLI. He says, "He [the UKLI sales person] said that definitely in four
to five years time you will get your planning permission when you can
build or hire contractors to build houses there."
Be suspicious of surprisingly inexpensive land.
Look out for signs of roads and other infrastructure.
Check with the Local District Council’s Local Planning
Authority before purchasing any land.
Read the small print of any documentation carefully.
Consult a solicitor for legal advice.
Source: Rother District Council
Newspaper advertisements claimed that the land was 20
minutes from London.
The land was 70 miles from London,
near the small hamlet of Brede in East Sussex.
When Patrick went to look for himself, he was shocked
to discover that "Buyer beware" notices had been put up by the local council,
which had also obtained Article Four orders to prevent any development
of the land in question, including its being divided up physically into
Paul Charney from UKLI admits that the adverts were misleading
about the proximity of the land to London. He also suggests that UKLI's
salesmen were sometimes over-zealous in indicating the likelihood of planning
permission ever being granted.
He says, "We would like to say we get it right 100%
of the time, but unfortunately we can't.
"When we don't, we will make up to our clients whatever
the loss they feel has been."
Patrick was refunded his money by UKLI.
Frank Rallings from Rother District Council’s Local Planning
Authority says, "We would always advise people to check with their Local
Planning Authority before purchasing land for development.
"Nobody needs to buy land without information as it is
Mr Ralling’s advice for people considering purchasing
land for development is shown above.
There is nothing illegal in what either Deschauer or
UKLI are doing, but potential investors should beware of the potential
pitfalls of investing in such schemes.