Our recent CPD event included a very interesting talk from Jan Boothroyd, the Chief Executive of Land Data, on Local Authority Searches.Jan is acknowledged as the leading Local Land Charges expert in England and Wales and is a long-standing member of The Law Society CON29 Working Party as well as being the author of the highly insightful “Garner’s Local Land Charges” book.
Jan has been developing and delivering training on all LLC1 and CON29 matters since 1986 and is an adviser to local and central government on Local Land Charges and Local Authority Property Enquiries, so it was certainly inspiring to hear her talk. Below is a summary of what Jan covered.
CON29 and CON29O
The CON29 consists of various enquiries including planning applications, building control matters, highway actions and numerous pending matters relevant to the property. The CON29O is an extended search which offers optional enquiries relating to parks and countryside, noise abatement, planning and environment related matters. These enquiries have all been determined by The Law Society (Conveyancing and Land Law Committee), the Local Land Charges Institute, the Local Government Association and Land Data. Both CON29 and CON29O are accepted by all local authorities across England and Wales.
An overview of the CON29 changes in 2016
During 2016 there were several revisions made to the CON29 forms. The Law Society’s reasoning behind the revisions is:
“The aim of the revisions is to improve the quality and consistency of information provided by local authorities. We hope that this will mean that the information provided to people and businesses who are buying, or taking a lease of, property, and those lending money to them, will be more consistent and easier to understand.” – Law Society
There are several specific changes to the CON29 which came into effect during 2016, including:
- The ‘R’ at the end of CON29, which was introduced by the Home Information Packs (HIPS) has now been removed
- Duplicate plans are no longer required for electronic submission
- More clarification regarding Roads and ‘Box C’ requirements has been added
- The ‘public rights of way’ enquiry has been moved to CON29
- All references of ‘Council’ throughout the document have been changed to ‘Local Authority’
The three new enquiries added to CON29
Other than the CON29 changes mentioned above, three new enquiries were added in 2016. Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS), Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and Assets of Community Value have all been added.
Drainage Matters (Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems)
This new drainage search will check if there is a sustainable urban drainage system (SUDS) near the property which disposes of any collected surface water and decreases the volume of water entering the drainage/river network. SUDS are designed to mimic the way that surface water run-off would have occurred if the land had not been developed. Examples of SUDS include soakaways, green roofs, permeable paving or road surfaces, ditches and ponds. This search aims to answer the following questions:
- Is the property served by a sustainable urban drainage system (SUDS)?
- Are there SUDS features within the boundary of the property? If yes, is the owner responsible for maintenance?
- If the property benefits from a SUDS for which there is a charge, who bills the property for the surface water drainage charge?
Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)
The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is designed to be a fairer, faster and more transparent process for agreeing planning obligations than the s.106 (TCPA1990) agreements. Essentially, the CIL is a levy payable on most new developments which is charged on a non-negotiable, £/square metre basis. This search aims to answer the following questions:
- Is there a CIL charging schedule?
- If yes, do any of the following subsist in relation to the property, or has a local authority decided to issue, serve, make or commence any of the following:
- A liability notice?
- A notice of chargeable development?
- A demand notice?
- A default liability notice?
- An assumption of liability notice?
- A commencement notice
- Has any demand notice been suspended?
- Has the Local Authority received full or part payment of any CIL liability?
- Has the Local Authority received any appeal against any of the above?
- Has a decision been taken to apply for a liability order?
- Has a liability order been granted?
- Have any other enforcement measures been taken?
Asset of Community Value (ACV)
An Asset of Community Value (ACV) is land or property which has significant importance to a local community. The Localism Act 2011 outlines how sites can be granted protection from development. Voluntary and/or community organisations can nominate potential ‘assets’ in their area. If those assets become listed, the community will then be given a fair chance to bid to buy the asset if it comes up for sale. This legislation covers England and Wales, however so far it has only been enabled in England. This search aims to answer the following questions:
- Has the property been nominated as an asset of community value? If so:
- Is it listed as an asset of community value?
- Was it excluded and placed on the ‘nominated but not listed’ list?
- Has the listing expired?
- Is the Local Authority reviewing or proposing to review the listing?
- Are there any subsisting appeals against the listing?
- If the property is listed:
- Has the Local Authority decided to apply to the Land Registry for an entry or cancellation of a restriction in respect of listed land affecting the property?
- Has the Local Authority received a notice of disposal?
- Has any community interest group requested to be treated as a bidder?
The changes to the CON29 are now in effect. In addition, changes are also on the horizon for the Local Land Charges Registers held by local authorities. The Infrastructure Act 2015 has given power to HM Land Registry to create one consolidated Local Land Charges Register across England and this will mean solicitors and conveyancers ordering their LLC1 searches in future from HM Land Registry. New Rules are awaited, but concerns already exist about the timing of search submissions in future bearing in mind the inter-dependency between the LLC1 and the CON29.
Finally, knowing where (and possibly when) to submit your searches will become yet another challenge and this is where the Thames Water Property Search partnership with the National Land Information Service (NLIS), which connects electronically to every local authority across England and Wales can help by removing the guesswork and reducing risks.