Local Search: Things to Remember When Purchasing a Property
The Local Search does not give details of any planning matters likely to affect the property which relate to the neighboring properties or those in the immediate vicinity. As the buyer, you can always inspect the Local Authority planning register.
Unfortunately, the Local Search does not generally give details of any matters affecting adjoining properties. If you have any specific query, this can only be dealt with by way of a specific search undertaken on that property itself or, in turn, your own inquiries with the Local Authority.
A new development may be accessed by an unadopted road. In most cases, the Local Authority will eventually adopt a road and maintain it. If the road is not adopted then the houses in the road will have to pay for its maintenance, in proportion to their frontages.
If a path at the rear or the side of the property is not adopted by the Local Authority, it may be maintainable by all who regularly use it. This operates like road adoption, above.
If there is a smoke control order in force for the area, you must only burn smokeless fuel. If the property still has its chimney then smokeless fuel is the only one that can be used.
Many times the search will reveal the existence of an extension. Check if this is the case. Bring in a surveyor and, more to the point, ask your lawyer to request the Building Regulations or certificate of final completion and planning permissions from the seller’s lawyer.
There may be a Tree Preservation Order in force. You must check with the Local Authority before any trees are lopped or felled in case planning permission is required. These trees cannot be touched and Local Authority permission is required for works on them.
The property may be some distance from pipelines and installations. Check to make sure they do not impinge on your enjoyment of the property.
The search could reveal possible side or rear access or parking restrictions. This cannot be confirmed without a site visit, so always check. What may be on the plans might not be the case in reality. There could be many reasons for this: either inaccurate plans, or because the neighbors have exercised their prescriptive right to use it or that the land has been fenced to become a garden….again, check.
Local searches inform us of what is planned for the area. If schools are nearby or there is a high incidence of accidents in the area, then the Council may introduce traffic calming measures and controlled parking zones.
The search will reveal items that might not be anything to do with the Local Authority—for example, Home Improvement Grants. These are registered against the property, and will continue to be a charge on the property until a specific end date. Alternatively, there might be conditions attached to the Grant.
If the property is in a conservation area then it will be revealed in the search. This is usually an area that has been defined as being of special architectural or historic interest and the Local Authority wishes to maintain its appearance. All planning applications for building within the area will be carefully considered to ensure that they harmonize and reinforce the character of the area. The demolition or partial demolition of a building within a conservation area requires special consent. If you plan to alter the building at any time, then you will be well advised to contact the Local Authority before purchase to ensure that your proposals are likely to fall within the permitted level of development.
It is vital to know if the property is situated on a principal road. For commercial properties or retail outlets, this will give a clue as to passing trade. Many roads are being widened whilst others are incorporating cycle lanes and routes. If a main road has to be widened and there is sufficient pavement space then this space can be used to increase the width of the road at the expense of pedestrians. Such developments are controlled by the Highways Agency. An application to the Highways Agency, as part of the search will reveal any road widening or other schemes. If the seller knows about it, he must disclose it. As the buyer, you should ask the seller to ‘deduce the title’ which means to verify the existence of such schemes.
Parks and areas of common or green land may be in the vicinity. The local search may not reveal all the necessary information. Either a common lands search may be necessary, or the environmental search may suffice.
This is not the same as a green space but it is worth a mention as the Local Authority deem it necessary to protect it. Your search will reveal a statement such as “The property is located approximately 100m from Green Chain Corridor to the South East.”
A site of archaeological significance is worth noting. It may be troublesome to get permission to extend or renovate.
The local search can also reveal if the property is within an area permitting development of market gardens and nursery grounds. This is an area which the Local Authority wishes to maintain for this purpose. As a result, only buildings serving the market garden and nursery industry can be developed there.