Last edited 25 Apr 2022


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Development, in terms of land, property or real estate, is a complex process of coordinating various activities to transform ideas and plans into physical reality. As a business process, it involves the financing, construction, renovation or refurbishment of buildings and land in order to make a profit.

The key phase in property development is deciding the nature of the development to be undertaken and whether or not to proceed with it. These decisions are based on an evaluation of the market, and financial appraisal of the proposed development, including the likely constraints, risks and profit.

The development process can be summarised as:

Development is a much wider process than construction, which is principally the building of something such as a house, tunnel, bridge, etc. However, developers often manage the construction process as part of the overall development.

Development evaluation requires assessment of a great number of criteria; funding can be difficult to secure, purchases and sales can take considerable time, and developments can require a great deal of management.

Planning permission is the legal process of determining whether proposed developments should be permitted. Responsibility for planning lies with local planning authorities (usually the planning department of the district or borough council). Other than permitted developments, (which are considered to have insignificant impact), all developments require planning permission. This can be one of the most significant risks for developments.

The term 'speculative development' describes a process in which unused land is purchased or a building project is undertaken with no formal commitment from any end users. In other words, the end user of the development is unknown, but the developer is nonetheless confident not only that they will be able to find a one, but that the type of development they are undertaking will be suitable.

A 'committed development' is one that has received full or outline planning permission, or is allocated in an adopted development plan.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) Annex 2: Glossary, published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) in 2012, suggests that: ‘To be considered developable, sites should be in a suitable location for housing development with a reasonable prospect that they will be available and could be viably developed at the point envisaged.’

For more information see: Developer.

Designing Buildings Wiki has a range of articles relating to development, including:

Designing Buildings Anywhere

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