Mining searches could be an easy way to add value to your client’s home says Tom Backhouse of Terrafirma

Performing mining searches can have real financial benefits to a client according to Tom Backhouse of Terrafirma Mining Searches – even outside of traditional mining areas.

A sinkhole recently swallowed up a car on the streets of Greenwich in London, and while not traditionally associated with mining in the same way as areas like Cornwall, South Wales or parts of Yorkshire are, Tom says the area does have a significant history of chalk and sand mining, with their data showing activity less than 100m away.

Speaking to Today’s Conveyancer at Legalex this week, Tom said he believed mining searches is one way of potentially improving the value of a house, by detecting and fixing potential problems before any such problems occur and rendering a house far more stable than neighbouring properties.

Tom said: “This one in Greenwich, it’s a big old one, it took down a car. Basically, there has been a misguided legacy over the last thirty years where conveyancers don’t understand the risks from mining. They understand coal is a problem, that there are problems in Cornwall, but they have no idea that south east London has just as many problems with mining as Cornwall does. There really needs to be more awareness to that so that conveyancers understand that specialist risk assessment shoudl be undertaken during a property purchase, and once you see it with your own eyes, it’s yes, I need to be doing this. It’s essential. I’ve done sixteen of these so far this year and many don’t know about this until it’s on the news.

“There are 35 mining hazards in the UK and basically conveyancers know about four or five of them, the thigns like coal, tin in Cornwall or limestone in the West Midlands although it’s actually all over. Those aren’t the problems in the news. If a sinkhole opens up in Norwich, it’s not tin mining in Cornwall that’s caused it. it’s the chalk mining. It’s important that them and the lenders understand it more. The lenders are saying it needs to be done, and conveyancers might not know what to do.

“In south east london for example, brick clay was historically extracted, it was used to build all the yellowbrick buildings across London, from the surface quarries although those aren’t what causes the problem. In every good brick there’s 75% clay and 25% chalk, and the chalk was found at the bottom of the clay pits. So they’d take these tiny little bell-pits, ball voids underneatht he pits at the bottom. They had no money to fix the land afterwards, it was a rush job with no foresight,

“Post war as south east london expanded, thousands of properties were built on this very poor land, there are thousands of these small chalk voids under these properties. It was caused by chalk mining, and it’s an issue that affects thousands of proeprties and there’s no awareness about what to do about it. But that’s just chalk, I could go on all week.

“All mining has different hazards and ways of causing problems. Terrafirma was designed to provide a solution to all of them in one place, so you don’t have to order a report for tin, then a report for limestone or coal, it’s all in one place.

“We’ve designed a search platform called Terrasearch, you put details in and it’ll tell you instantly whether there’s a risk or not. Then you cna get an actual report from an expert. If there isn’t a risk you get an indemnity certificate and you’re completely covered for £12.

“We can offer a second stage report, it’s an expert interpretation, and the most important thing we do is we can actually fix those problems all over the UK. If we find something, we don’t just say, unlucky, that’s that. If you catch the problems before they open up they are considereably cheaper to fix compared to if you wait until they open up.

“If you fill the void, it’s cheap to fix and then you’ve got the safest property in the area, it’s built on this big concrete island in an area known for that sort of thing. It provides a professional face tothe problem. Up until now there’s been a reaction not proaction. We can catch them before they happen.

“In the West Midlands there were mine collapses and then they decided to do something about it, so a lot of property was blighted because of that, whereas if we were proactive we could catch them early.”


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