I refer to the story about a piece of land at Elphinstone Road, Tranent, set to go to auction in the March 4 issue.

This story is a real matter of ‘buyer beware’.

The lot at auction last week and for a long time previously is only one of a number of land plots being put up for sale by Future Property Auctions Ltd across Scotland.

Any potential buyer should check the legal position of any plot of land. Many areas of land for sale at the Future Property Auctions sales which have now been moved online are, in fact, areas of open space and amenity land which have to remain as such as part of planning conditions set upon the developers of housing estates. They cannot be built upon.

The residents may be paying factors for the upkeep of the land being marketed.

There have been longstanding issues with some of the plots being auctioned by Future Property Auctions.

In Dunbar, they are trying to sell two plots of land on Middlemass Road as substantial plots of interest to the shrewd investor. In fact, the plots were sold off by a factor, Greenbelt, some years ago to an absent owner in the west of Scotland. The sale went ahead without knowledge of the residents. That owner has been trying to sell what amounts to a couple of flowerbeds for several years without success. The land cannot be built upon. The absent owner has never paid towards maintenance of the land. The local residents pay a gardener for the upkeep.

Future Property Auctions have also tried to market play parks at Kings Meadow in Dunbar which are in a dangerous state. An improvement order was served on an owner in 2020. However, it is believed that another absent owner has now bought them. ELC planning enforcement and legal services have been involved.

The marketing of land by Future Property Auctions has been raised with ELC trading standards, ELC planning and the Advertising Standards Authority, as well as Iain Gray MSP. It is evidence of the need to monitor adherence to planning conditions by developers and the actions of some unscrupulous factoring companies who charge homeowners considerable sums of money for a bit of grass cutting.

It is time that the whole fleecehold (you own your house but pay estate maintenance charges to a factor) system was overhauled. Otherwise, plots that cannot be developed will continue to be marketed as substantial plots by the likes of Future Property Auctions. Always check the small print…

Jacquie Bell