There are a wide range of issues you may want to consider when identifying which asset you want to take ownership of and develop. You need to consider whether the asset will enable you to deliver your project objectives successfully, whether the costs involved in taking on, developing and running the asset are acceptable to you and your funders, and whether the wider community and planning authority will support the development.
The factors to consider will vary depending on the nature and objectives of your project, but some common ones are:
Site conditions and constraints:
- The size and shape (or ‘footprint’) of the site
- The current condition of any existing structures and flexibility for re-developing these
- The history of uses at the site and likelihood of any contamination or mine workings
- Whether or not there are hazardous materials, eg asbestos
- Whether or not there are any invasive species, eg Japanese Knotweed
- Topography / drainage
- Soil quality (if your project involves growing or landscaping) and tree coverage
- The amount of sunlight / shading it receives
- Restrictions on its re-development due to its being listed, within a conservation area or having other designations
- Whether or not the site has key services in place (gas, electricity, mains water, sewerage)
- Any key issues in relation to securing a building warrant (for example are there adequate fire escape routes?)
- The likely environmental impacts associated with re-developing and operating from the site, and potential for reducing these to a minimum
- How easy it will be to ensure site security as required, for example are there neighbouring users who might ‘keep an eye out’ at different times
- The type of asset, ie will more than a building survey be required such as a business valuation?
If there are likely to be environmental issues with the site, eg contaminated land, it is recommended that specialist reports be obtained, along with legal advice, particularly in the context of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, Part 2A (and the Environment Act 1995). Information on this area and on flood risk can be found on SEPA's website.
With regard to asbestos, a survey should be carried out to find out where any asbestos containing materials are, how much is on site and their type and condition. Surveyors should be certified under the Asbestos Builders Inspection Certification Scheme. (There is a duty to manage asbestos and protect anyone using it or working within affected premises).
Advice can be obtained on the likes of Japanese Knotweed which should be thrown up by any survey of the site. We believe that Scottish Natural Heritage can direct parties to a control programme, if one exists in the locality, but cannot control this area themselves.
- Visibility - will people see / find the property easily?
- Is it easy to get to the site by car, public transport, on bicycle or by foot?
- Inclusivity - is the site welcoming and is it easy for people with different levels of mobility to enter and move around? Will it comply with the Equality Act?
Policies and planning:
- The site’s zoning and other relevant planning policies within the Local Development Plan and other policy documents (available from your local authority)
- Whether or not the surrounding uses complement your aspirations for the site? Are neighbours likely to support your proposal?
- Whether or not you know – or can find out – who holds title to the site
- If the site is in use, whether there are any tenants and the terms of their lease(s)
- Whether or not the current owner is likely to give you the tenure you want over the site, and
- Any burdens/title conditions within the title or lease, more information on leases is available in The Law section or click on the RICS link below. A guide to what to consider when checking a property title can be downloaded below.
- The likely costs of acquiring the site
- The likely costs of developing the site for your intended purposes
- The likely ongoing management and maintenance costs
- Whether there is potential to share the site with other organisations to mutual benefit.
Some assets will not lend themselves to a variety of uses. It can be challenging to find viable uses for some heritage assets for example, where they have special historical or architectural features that cannot be changed. Similarly, some kinds of uses will be more expensive to manage and maintain than others. The management and maintenance needs of a warehouse, for example, will be very different to those of a sports hall or swimming pool. Completely vacant land is also a different proposition to an existing building or a space that already has a function (like a woodland or sports ground) as it may allow for a much wider range of possible uses.
A site options appraisal is a tool that can help you identify the best possible site for delivering your project within a given area. To conduct such an appraisal, identify the key criteria that your asset needs to meet, and then assess potential sites against these. Through this process, you should be able to identify one or more site(s) that can become the focus for more detailed feasibility work and negotiations.
Depending on the nature of the asset you are looking to take on, it may be worthwhile asking some of your design team (e.g. architect, quantity surveyor, engineer) or other experts to assist with the process. Part of this might include a study visit to potential sites once you are clear about what you want from the site. Inviting user groups and other stakeholders along on this visit can be a good way of building their involvement at an early stage and getting wider perspectives on the suitability of each site while helping them visualise how the site might look and feel.
The list of key factors above might form the basis of your site options appraisal, but it is likely you will need to tailor this for your specific project. For example, the criteria you might adopt in relation to finding a site for new workspaces will be very different from those for a community garden or allotments project. In developing your own site options appraisal you will want to identify ‘showstoppers’ – those criteria that if not met by a site rule it out altogether. For other criteria there is likely to be some room for compromise, so you may want to develop a scoring system that enables you to compare sites that pass the ‘showstopper’ test against each another.