I am keen to buy some land from our neighbouring farmer so that I can extend our garden. One of my colleagues has told me that I should speak to a solicitor first. I had thought I could just give the farmer a cheque and then fence the land in?
Your colleague is right. You should speak to a solicitor before you approach the farmer. You will also need a surveyor to value to land for you so you know what it is worth. The farmer will need a solicitor too and he may ask you to pay his legal costs. If his land is mortgaged, the bank will have to release the land from their mortgage and there will be a fee for this.
What will I need to tell my solicitor?
Your solicitor will need a plan of the land including measurements, ideally based on his Land Registry plan. You will need to reach agreement with the farmer about fencing the new boundary. The farmer may wish to put a new restrictive covenant on the land prohibiting use other than as garden land. Also, you will need to obtain planning permission for the change of use from agricultural to garden land and you should not proceed with the purchase unless you are confident of this being granted to you.
I had no idea that I would need planning permission! Is it likely to be granted?
In most cases such applications will be acceptable in principle, but the council does have a duty to protect the rural environment and to preserve the character of the countryside. When you make your application, the council will consider the aspect and location of the plot, the presence of landscape features such as trees or a hedge which would form a natural boundary and the extent to which agricultural land is being taken out of production.
Is there anything else I need to consider?
You should consider access to the land (will the farmer need to grant you a right of way over land he is retaining?) and services such as water (if needed).