Surveys

survey for a single-story extension

A self build may require one or more of the following types of survey:

Land survey
A land survey, produced by a qualified land surveyor, will describe the area that is being sold. It indicates the boundaries of the other properties in relation to the target plot, as well as determining where trees, outbuildings, fences etc lie. Where the plot is an irregular shape or is on sloping ground, it is essential to commission a land survey, incorporating levels, to ensure that the designed house will fit on the actual plot.

The land survey also describes whether other people are allowed access onto the land, thus determining legal permits and rights. Deeds to the house can often be outdated and a land survey can also act as an up-to-date deed. It can be used by a solicitor to produce an accurate, contemporary deed.

Structural survey
For a conversion or an extension project, a structural survey will audit the condition of the building. However, even the most thorough of structural surveys will not be able to guarantee that all defects have been discovered. Areas that require further investigation will often be included in such reports, such as removal of lining, digging trial holes and monitoring of suspect cracks in the structural fabric. A chartered building surveyor can be appointed to conduct such surveys.

Tree survey
A tree survey contains all kinds of detailed information about the trees. A professional arborist usually works with the British Standard BS5837. This is a useful guide that everyone can use to make decisions easier. To make full use of this guide, you will need to draw information from the tree survey that has been conducted.

A tree survey will plot the characteristics of trees on and near a target site and it also assesses them according to British Standard BS5837. The Standard helps to determine which trees to be retained, and which trees to be removed. The survey will reveal information such as:

  • Species of the tree based on scientific name
  • Physical measurements of the tree such as height and diameter
  • Age of the tree
  • Overall health of the tree
  • Life expectancy
  • Management recommendations.

If your project is in danger of impacting on any protected trees, you will need a further tree report, an arboricultural impact assessment. This report will usually include a method statement for construction near at-risk trees which details the protection measures required during the build. Specialist arboriculturists are employed to produce such reports.

Soil survey
The simplest form of a soil survey is where a trial pit is dug to a depth of 1 metre or more. This will allow a rudimentary analysis of soil conditions and their implications for foundation design. More sophisticated site tests and laboratory tests can be commissioned if conditions are found to be poor.

Contamination survey
Land that has been previously used for industrial purposes, such as workshops and garages, has a high probability of soil contamination. Where contamination is suspected, the planning authorities will invariably request a preliminary survey. Unless the soil is given a clean bill of health on this preliminary examination, any planning approval will be  subject to further contamination testing. Dependent on the testing, a remediation scheme will need to be submitted and agreed by the Planning Office.

Heritage Statements
A Heritage Statement is often required where proposed development is in a conservation area or it might impact on a listed building or its setting. This statement identifies any heritage asset within the vicinity of the project and describes the likely impact on it from the proposed development. A heritage specialist is used for this type of work.

Ecological surveys
An ecological survey is required where the presence of a protected species is suspected. Examples of protected species are:

  • Bats, a particular hazard for conversion projects
  • Greater Crested and other types of newts and reptiles
  • badgers, owls and other birds
  • rare flora and fauna

Types of survey available are:

  • Habitat & vegetation survey
  • Protected species survey & mitigation
  • Ecological Appraisal
  • Ecological Impact Assessment

Note that the discovery or suspected presence of bats on the site can be highly disruptive to your build schedule, not to mention expensive. Bat surveys are only allowed during the active season (May to September) and this could have an impact on your project completion date.

Archaeological survey
If archaeological remains are suspected on your project site, the Planning Office will require an Archaeological survey to be submitted with any planning application. If there is any danger of your project impacting on the protected remains, the monitoring of excavations might be a condition of planning approval. Consultant archaeologists will produce the survey and conduct the monitoring exercise..

Transport assessment
A transport assessment survey is often required on a new build project where the proposed access to a public road has poor visibility characteristics. The survey will consider the public road type, usage, speed limits etc and will consider the visibility splay for an emerging vehicle. Another use of this type of report is to assess the availability of car parking in a location controlled by local parking policies. A highways engineer can produce this type of report.

Landscape impact assessment
A Landscape Impact Assessment report is required where a new house or a significantly modified exterior is planned in a National Park or an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AOONB). This report evaluates the existing context of the site and how any proposed development might adversely affect it. A specialist landscape architect will produce this type of report