Search industry calls on Land Registry’s new head to take urgent action to address concerns over plans to reform its land charge registers

The Council of Search Organisations (CoPSO) is calling on Ed Lester, the recently appointed new Chief Executive of the Land Registry to urgently address a number of concerns raised over its local land charges prototype. CoPSO, which represents over 90% of the search industry, is requesting a meeting with Mr Lester, where it hopes to outline the many concerns raised by its members and to discuss a way forward that will be of benefit to all involved.
The Land Registry’s prototype for local land charge searches aims to consolidate the land charge registers of all Local Authorities into one central register. While CoPSO welcomes new market entrants and innovations that will serve consumers better, the search body is concerned about the potential negative impact that the prototype may have on the existing search industry, both private and public.
James Sherwood-Rogers, Chairman of CoPSO said: “From the outset we have had a sensible working relationship with the Land Registry and were interested by the prospect of better access to public data. At a presentation to the CoPSO membership in November last year the Land Registry indicated that its intentions were for broad stakeholder engagement in the project, in particular with us as a search body, because of the vast and varied expertise held by our members across property information of all types. However, despite some early promises, it has become apparent that the Land Registry has not upheld this commitment — which is both disappointing and potentially damaging for this project moving forward. We are now calling on Mr Lester for an urgent stakeholder meeting, where we hope to discuss a number of the concerns raised by our members and to ensure the views of the wider search industry are represented.”
Sherwood-Rogers goes on to add: “A big concern among our members is that it is not clear what the driver is behind spending potentially millions of pounds of public money to change an industry supplied by both the public and the private sector, which already serves consumers extremely well. While the Land Registry has a deservedly strong reputation in fulfilling its core role, its record in delivering projects outside its core remit is woeful. We are concerned that the uncertainty, which undertaking the planned prototype in its current state will create, could cause both Local Authorities and private companies to think twice before further investing in the service. While it is true that a decade ago there was inconsistency in terms of cost and the level of service delivered when it comes to the provision of searches, this is no longer the case today. One of our major concerns is that this project looks as if it is designed to solve a problem that no longer exists.”
CoPSO members have also raised a number of concerns about the Land Registry’s lack of consultation with the wider search industry, in relation to this project. As holder of the widely recognised Search Code and with a broad and experienced membership, CoPSO is now calling on the Land Registry to take a more collaborative approach to the prototype’s further development.
CoPSO members supply virtually all conveyancing lawyers in England and Wales with a variety of different types of searches, including Local Authority searches, drainage and water searches, environmental searches, regulated personal searches and flood reports. COPSO represent over 90% of industry in the provision of data and services, and has over 100 members.
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