For blue light organisations, your estate plays a key role in your day to day activities. Your buildings most likely vary from small rural premises to urban fire, police or ambulance stations, large HQ and major training facilities, and each have differing estate needs.

But the need to keep ahead of the curve in developing innovative solutions to meet your estates challenges and save costs is not easy.

We are seeing a drive across the sector to sell under-utilised buildings and reinvest into building modern, flexible work places and into front-line provision, which can result in a whole range of legal and site issues.

Our work to date has been at the forefront of this trend, and we have utilised the “lessons learned” from these projects to provide top tips in preparing your blue light site for disposal.

1) Plan ahead and ensure you allow enough time to deal with potential issues.

    Have you looked at the legal title to the property? Are you confident that the title is good and marketable?

    All too often this is an afterthought and we’ve seen projects derailed as a result of problematic title or site issues which, with a bit of forward planning, could have been avoided.

    2) Review the registered title and carry out a site inspection.

      Here are the key questions you need to ask:

      • Are there any issues, limitations or restrictions that need to be dealt with prior to disposal or which may affect the valuation?
      • Does the Land Registry plan match the boundary line of the site or are there any discrepancies?
      • Are there any restrictive covenants against the title?

      3) Know your site, especially when it comes to easements.

      Land with easements registered against it is fairly common, and an audit of any easements will tell you what issues, if any, these might cause in practice. This is particularly important when you factor in the current use of the site and what you think the purpose of the land will be post sale – for example, selling land for development will probably need easements to be removed or worked around much more than an already built property.

      If possible, conduct your site inspections with someone who knows the property well. You might find easements have arisen through prescription – for example a neighbouring landowner has always crossed the property to access the public highway or always parked a car on site. Disposals can be held up with these types of easements.

      4) Prepare a summary of title for the sales pack.

        This could be as simple as getting a solicitor to review title and mark any red flags for disposal, but could also extend to undertaking searches to ensure there are no issues.

        The types of searches and surveys you’ll need will depend on the land, but there are a few to keep in mind:

        1. Access to and from the public highway - it may be obvious that the land abuts a public highway but often it’s not so straightforward. It may be that a right of way is needed from the land to be disposed of to the public highway and it’s worth checking that this right is in place formally before preparing for disposal. 
        2. Services and utilities - much will depend here on what the property is being used for, but a utilities search would show much more than the services currently accessible for that property. This will particularly important if you are proposing to sell for redevelopment as this would highlight any issues with building over restrictions.
        3. Historic Planning Agreements and Tree Preservation Orders – these are useful for ensuring they haven’t been breached before sale but also in the context of land being sold for development.

        Once the title has been tidied up or de-risked, it is often helpful to convert a title report to a market-facing summary. It enables bidders to get an overview of legal title and searches at the outset and can save significant time in the long run. This is especially useful if you are looking for a quick sale. 

        5) Remember reliance letters.

          Where you are undertaking certain surveys and investigations (the results of which could impact a purchaser), it is likely that the purchaser will want to rely on the results of those surveys. Request letters of reliance or collateral warranties (say for removal of Japanese Knotweed) at the start, as it is often trickier to get these from the consultants after the fact.

          6) Early engagement is invaluable.

            Planning ahead to understand and address the commercial and legal issues that may affect your disposal programme at the earliest opportunity will reduce likelihood of transaction delay and spend on professional fees.

            How Capsticks can help

            The legal issues facing site disposals can be complex, so you need a reliable partner experienced in the full process of preparing, marketing and selling a site. Our real estate team can help you with any of the above tips, including carrying out a high level review of title and ensuring that any hurdles are overcome ahead of marketing.

            For assistance with a site disposal, please contact Sunita Raja or Daniel Kirk, to find out more about how Capsticks can help.