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5 Things to know if you are building in London

Apart from great locations, creative spaces and amazing views over parks and city skylines, there are opportunities to increase value significantly beyond that of the build cost when building in a city. However, careful planning is required to mitigate the pitfalls of building in the city.


Like all projects, there is a pre-construction phase and this involves the co-ordination of a design team, obtaining consents and agreeing prices and in addition, terms of building contracts. This stage is probably even more critical in an urban area.

Forward planning is essential and can be a crucial factor in the start date of your project.

The success of this can largely be down to how proactive you or your project manager is.


1. Have your consents ready for your self build or extension

There may be a multitude of consents that are required. While these will generally not differ from council to council, they will vary in how efficiently the process is managed.

The top three consents that you should consider are:

Party Wall Agreements

These are required for structural work on or adjacent to neighbouring structures. Particular rules apply under the Party Wall Act, depending on the type of work and proximity to adjoining or adjacent structures.

Licence of Alteration

This is needed for remodelling of internal walls within leasehold premises and is obtained through managing agents. It can be time-consuming and will require the project manager to submit specific information to the managing agent.

Licences for many different types of works

These include licences for:

  • Scaffolding on pavements
  • Skips on highways
  • Basement construction bounding highway
  • Build-over agreements for utility services
  • Relocation of bus stops

2. Produce a pre-construction programme for your project

This is the ultimate management tool for anyone preparing projects for building work. This programme should include:

  • The professionals involved
  • The work packages they will fulfil
  • The time required for those tasks
  • How these overlap and whether they can be carried out in parallel or simultaneously to optimise the time it takes to prepare the project for the build phase


3. Manage costs at the tender stage

One of the ways to manage costs is to have a detailed preliminaries section in your project tender documents (Scope of Works or a Bill of Quantities).

The preliminaries will set out restrictions and working conditions that the contractors need to consider with their pricing including:

  • Scaffolding design and arrangements
  • Parking restrictions for skips and vans

It is also important at pre-construction stage to consider the build phase programme; this will be provided (only if requested) at tender stage.

Always review a contractor programme and discuss this with design team professionals, or better still with the project manager who will consider pinch points and make alterations to forecast timelines ahead of work starting.


4. Bring together your team of professionals early on

It would recommended liaising with a project manager with experience of similar projects early in the process to draw on their knowledge. They will steer the project through the maze of requirements on your behalf and set the project up for success during the build phase consequently making the project easier for them.

It is really important to assemble the professional design team at an early stage. You can draw on their experience and contacts and get great recommendations for professionals.

A typical design team would include:

  • Architect
  • Structural Engineer
  • Party Wall Surveyor
  • M&E (mechanical and electrical) consultant.


5. Understand your contractors’ challenges

Your contractors will almost certainly be working under several logistical constraints including:

Rubbish removal

Rubbish is often bagged and held on site in agreed locations while waiting for skips to be loaded. Alternatives also include licensed skips on highways, surrounded in hoarding where conveyors send rubble into skips (used for basement excavation works only).

Skips must have licences to be placed on highways, where they are in parking bays then a permit to suspend the bay is required.

Site offices

This is often a luxury as space is always tight, therefore, where possible we ask contractors to set up space within the building, or create the space in a temporary structure if viable, in addition these can be placed on the first lift of scaffolding, roof tops or even small sheds in back gardens.


In many cases pre-construction agreements that need to be adhered to, like travel routes into site (approved via planning), and in many cases one-way streets with waiting restrictions.