Review of Land and Property Development in Scotland (Gerber)
Land and Property Development in Scotland: Law and Practice
Kenneth S Gerber
PUBLISHER: W GREEN
When introducing students to property law, one of my aims is to raise awareness of the wider context in which property law operates. As a former practitioner, I know that property law in practice is far more than the creation, variation, transfer and extinction of real rights and goes beyond what is covered in classic property law textbooks. For lawyers starting out in commercial property, Kenneth Gerber’s new book, Land and Property Development in Scotland, is essential reading (I certainly wish I could have read this before starting my first seat as a trainee in a commercial property department), but it will also be equally at home on the desks of more experienced practitioners.
The book takes a novel approach by focusing on property development transactions, rather than on a particular area of law. The book does not (and does not aim to) give an exhaustive treatment of any particular area of law – there are textbooks which cover planning, environmental or construction law in depth, for example – but instead aims to highlight the issues which need to be taken into account during a development transaction. The book lends itself to being read as a whole to gain an overall appreciation of the law and practice of property development, or dipped in and out of as and when specific questions arise.
Gerber's text is divided into 16 short chapters followed by an appendix containing some example documents. The first chapter gives an overall introduction to property development, and two things immediately stand out. The first is the user friendly layout with clear headings and short paragraphs, giving a quick an overview of what is contained in the chapter and allowing answers to specific questions (such as who are the parties involved, what consent might be needed and what due diligence is required) to be located easily. The second is the commercial and practical focus of the text, with paragraphs summarising key considerations for the purchaser and for the seller. The chapter is also short, a feature that continues in the rest of the book. Each chapter is around five pages long, and with the substantive part of the book running to only 96 pages in total, even the most time pressed lawyer or student should be able to avoid adding it to the ever growing pile of “things to read if I ever get the time”.
The next 15 chapters cover a host of other topics and aspects that need to be taken into account during a development transaction, including, amongst others, option agreements, planning permission, environmental issues, community right to buy (and other land reform/public access aspects), construction aspects and development agreements. There are also chapters on the financial aspects of development, such as borrowing and lending against development, and tax.
Although the book is short, it is big on content and is one that is likely to be reached for regularly by practitioners, especially when looking for a steer on particular issues. A strength of the book is that it avoids overwhelming the reader with references to case law and other texts, and the use of footnotes is sparing. This format allows the reader to see quickly whether the question is answered. However, as is often the way, in strength there is also weakness: as this text does not aim to be an exhaustive treatment of the myriad areas of law covered, it would be helpful for the reader to be offered some guidance (in footnotes or as “further reading”) towards legislation, case law or practitioner texts where the points identified in this admirable overview can be followed up in more detail.
Sarah King, University of Dundee