I received the dodgiest looking brochure in the post recently, advertising 323 plots of freehold land for sale near Chelmsford in Essex. Firstly, I’m not sure how these agents got my name and address. Secondly, the imagery used on the brochure is very odd. There is an image of some unidentified stately home, under which it says “stake your claim”. Elsewhere there is an even stranger image of two construction workers erecting a “sold” property sign, in a pose which clearly copies the American flag-raising image of Iwo Jima.
The site is a large farm, subdivided into 323 plots. Most of the plots are 650 square metres and some are larger, odd-shaped and triangular. A plot of 36 metres by 18 metres costs you £27,500. The 20% deposit can be “conveniently” paid for by credit card. This is all very disturbing.
Really, what use is a freehold plot of land on a site which currently only has planning for agricultural use? How would this ever be developed? Would each freehold owner need to apply for planning permission on each plot individually? If anyone dreamed of developing the community, they would have the task of consulting and reaching agreement with each freehold owner – this is possible which a very patient and coordinated community organising exercise. Although I am very interested in co-operatively structured and developed communities, I wouldn’t start with the land, I would start with the people first. This sale is a free-for-all, demonstrates no coordination or attention to community building, and seems to be appealing to the archaic sense of property ownership (and freedom?)
A further search shows that Chelmsford Borough Council has no intention of granting planning permission to develop this land for anything other than agricultural use. Sadly, the brochure is uninformative and takes advantage of people who do not understand property development or the planning system. It is sad to see that people are motivated to hand their money over to such unsecure, misleading offers.
The brochure closes with a quote by someone named Lou Scott and is meant to describe what real estate is. It is a striking contrast to my thoughts on what real estate or property are. Have a look at my contribution to the Future We Deserve, about a future vision of property.
- This is Total Essex – warning from July 2009
- Chelmsford Borough Council – scroll down to Buyer Beware from July 2010