By Graham Goldspink, Commercial Property Team, Keystone Law

Property owners, developers and tenants are advised to think ‘outside the box' when contemplating their property. Graham Goldspink highlights the pitfalls of ignoring the immediate environment of your property.

At first glance you could be forgiven for associating the strapline of this article with ‘management speak', inviting you to think laterally or creatively. This phrase has been widely used, perhaps overused, in the business world for some time. So given that many of us are not the greatest fans of this phrase, where are we heading?

In a property context, the phrase still holds its meaning well where the "box" is often seen as being something tangible and real, maybe a whole building, a development site, a floor of an office block or a retail unit.

When it comes to dealing with these types of premises or sites, the main focus is usually and quite rightly on the box, the tangible asset. What can sometimes be overlooked is the world outside the box, beyond the obvious. The environment outside or the context of the site or premises can have a significant impact on the asset itself. In many ways external issues should be given equal consideration and attention.

By understanding the nature of your business and the proposed use of your box, after early discussions and with careful consideration, we can help you avoid the pitfalls of only considering the obvious.

To put this into some context, please consider the following examples of boxes and some common external issues which can have significant impact on your property plans;

- Restaurant premises: In order to remove odours and steam from the kitchen you intend to install extraction units at your soon to be rented premises. The landlord will have to agree that you can install extract vents to the side alley of the property. In addition, you will need to establish if you have the right to vent into the air, onto and over any adjoining premises? If you cannot vent, can you run the kitchen?

At the front of the premises, you may wish to have a traditional swinging sign which projects over the pavement. The landlord may be willing to give you consent to fix the sign onto the building. But, will you need to get separate permission to overhang the pavement? This would apply equally to awnings which may extend over the boundary of the premises.

- Development site: You wish to buy parcels of land for residential development purposes which you know will not abut a public highway. You are told that one of the parcels of land has the benefit of a right of way over adjoining land, so you can be relatively certain you can access that part of the site. Does the right of access extend to all parcels of land or just one? Is the right limited to access only? If so, how will you provide the utilities and other services to the development site?

Failure to gain adequate rights of access or rights to service the site may sterilise the site for your development purposes or result in expensive negotiation to acquire the rights in the future when you are invariably in a weaker bargaining position.

- Retail unit: You intend to buy a self-contained retail unit to run your business, where there is a private road to the rear of the property and a main highway to the front. You will require deliveries to made to the unit to operate the business. Will you have rights of access over the rear road to use it for service delivery? Can you stop on the highway (even during restricted times) to make delivery? If you cannot access the unit for deliveries, can you run your business from it?

So to conclude, help us to help you by thinking outside the physical box. To quote the grafitti artist Banksy, we invite you to join us and "Think outside the box, collapse the box, and take a sharp knife to it!"

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date this article was published.

Graham Goldspink is a pragmatic property lawyer who delivers commercial legal advice to businesses and high net worth individuals/entrepreneurs. He has a broad range of experience with particular focus on investment property, property development and landlord and tenant work. He can be contacted at graham.goldspink@keystonelaw.co.uk

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