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Why are searches so important?

Whilst in the process of buying a house, your lawyer will recommend that a number of searches are completed.  This is to ensure that you find out as much about the property as you can.

We recommend a search pack, which includes a local search, water and drainage, environmental and flood searches.

One factor which can be a concern for you is the prospect of development in the area.  However, the local search generally only includes information concerning planning and building regulations specific to the property, and only within its boundaries.  Therefore, proposals for building works due to take place say, 300 metres from your property, will not be revealed.

What do I ask for if development in the area is a concern?

If development in the area is a concern, for example, you may have heard rumours, local gossip or the property may currently have the benefit of a lovely rural location (which you don’t want to see changed), then, it is essential that you ask your lawyer to undertake a Plan Search.  This search will provide information about planning applications in the vicinity.

Why is a Plan Search recommended?

If development in the area is a concern, it is crucial that you make your own investigations.  You cannot rely on the sellers to disclose this information.  In a recent case, (Thorp v Abbotts 2015) the local authority had been undertaking a consultation process to identify sites for residential development, although no final decision had been made and no planning application had been submitted.  The sellers had become aware of the issues, had received communication, and had attended meetings and discussions with local people.  However, the sellers had not disclosed this information during the sale.

The buyers brought an action for misrepresentation against the sellers, which was unsuccessful.  The Judge did not consider that the sellers had to disclose the information or communication regarding future planning.

The sellers complete a Property Form during the course of the transaction, which now includes questions on ‘proposals to redevelop’ in relation to ‘nearby’ land.  However, it is unclear whether the question relates to actual planning applications, and what is the definition of ‘nearby’?

Rather than relying solely on information provided by the sellers, rely on a Plan Search.  However, do specifically request that this is done, as this will not be sent out as a matter of course.