How developers make money in urban backland sites

Finding a site in the city to self-build your own dream home


If you know an urban site that you think might have potential find out below if its worth investing in urban backland development.


Architect Garry Thomas reveals how he is helping developers and self-builders unlock real value in urban backland development

With soaring house prices and a deepening housing shortage, developers, clients and hopeful self-builders are scouring urban backland development to find new ways to develop property and self-build their own dream home.


Urban garden plots and areas of hard-standing, previously not worth the time, effort or money to develop are now gaining planning permission, providing a huge opportunity for innovation and added value to your self-build.

“Urban infill development is inherently linked to tight control placed on the availability of land at the urban / rural fringes. Clients increasingly look to new ways to build their own home and a-large-garden-plot, or an-underused-storage-shed are the new development opportunity in an urban area.” says Architect Garry Thomas

Traditionally mews houses were built to provide transport in cities, to stable horses and store carriages, yet when the motorcar replaced the horse the mews house became a cheap form of urban-living: not anymore, they are highly sought after homes in the urban jungle. This fashion, which has dominated London has fuelled a national desire to build in odd and awkward urban locations, as they provide an oasis-of-calm, becoming a secure and green-urban-enclave.

A typical garage plot may be worth £15,000 and with residential planning consent this can escalate significantly.

Housebuilding on infill sites comes with its challenges: it can take longer to complete than a conventional build, of the same size, due to access and buildability issues. The greatest challenge is getting planning permission in the first place, and getting the neighbours on board. At Thomas Studio we’ve developed ways of working with local community, to bring neighbours on board, this is invaluable during the planning process. But there are complications: proximity to other properties often means party wall issues can become a headache, if you don’t factor this into the development from day one. Small, confined spaces mean that specialist construction techniques, beyond the expertise of general contractors, are often needed. Even storing building materials on site can be a complication particularly when trying to safeguard trees and historic features nearby.

With such difficulties, infill projects appeal to those looking for a challenge, but the rewards are much greater as exit values, for a well design mews house, are often much higher.

Tight urban sites do mean that you have to do something fairly radical – because they’re not suited to terraced house design, or a conventional build – as overlooking and roof levels have to be considered as part of the designing process.

At Thomas Studio we offer prospective developers a low commitment ‘needs and options review’ of sites to establish early-on if tight urban sites are worth considering and whther they are likely to gain planning permission. The rewards for a new build mewshouse, or conversion, are worth making the effort to gain planning approval.

Why not book a FREE 15-minute call with Architect Garry Thomas and see if your urban site has potential.

To book your call clink on the link and fill-in your details and we will get back to you asap:


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