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Building in Lockdown: How Developers and Landowners Can Lay Foundations For The Future

Barney Hillsdon, Principal and Senior Director, Land and Development, comments

The announcement of lockdown in late-March essentially pressed the pause button for the residential development industry across the UK. Contractors moved off-site and sales offices closed on the majority of construction sites, meaning that houses and apartments were no longer being built or sold. A number of housebuilders, developers and surveying firms subsequently furloughed large numbers of staff, particularly those buying, selling and valuing land for future residential and mixed-use developments.

Thankfully, over recent days some development sites have reopened and building has started once again, albeit in a far more constrained manner. With the end of the lockdown now a more realistic prospect and a gradual phased return to the office for some, consideration is now being given to how we ensure land supply restarts in a practical and appropriate manner.

Opportunities for landowners
Many landowners would have been targeting the early summer period for releasing their development opportunities to the market, to take advantage of the relative economic certainty following the General Election in December. Clearly, now is not the best time to bring these sites to the market, but we are using this period to advise our clients both in the public and private sector; when is the best time, how should future deals be structured and how should opportunities be presented to the market?

In particular, our public sector clients who are experiencing budgetary pressures, are very keen to understand when receipts may be achievable from the disposal of surplus assets and if there may be any affect to previously forecasted values. For many such organisations this may be a way of providing much needed funding for the delivery of key services in the future.

This provides us with a great platform to open dialogue with the housebuilders and developers who, ultimately, the opportunities will target in the future. We are actively encouraging clear and honest soft market testing with these parties, to gauge market sentiment. It’s important to ascertain when developers expect to be in a position to carry out the required due diligence to make considered proposals to landowners.

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