Portsmouth City Council's local land charges department deals with thousands of local authority search enquiries every year – mostly from solicitors acting on behalf of buyers - investigating whether any legal restrictions or future development proposals affect a particular property or piece of land.
A local authority search lets you know any charges or responsibilities you will be taking on with a particular property or piece of land. An example might be a footpath, the maintenance of which is the responsibility of the land owners or leaseholders, not the council. A search can inform you of any planning applications that may affect the property in the future, such as new roads being proposed close to your property.
A local authority search is usually required by your bank or building society as a condition of securing a mortgage.
The basic local authority search comprises the official certificate of search (also known as LLC1) and a CON29 enquiries form:
- LLC1 reveals all entries listed in the local land charges register
- CON29 is a series of nationally agreed questions, including many 'warning' questions, the answers to which are not in any of the statutory registers. To find the answers, the council searches other local government records, such as planning, the environment and rights of way.
The CON29 enquiry form provides information not only on what is already in existence, but also developments in the pipeline, being considered or awaiting approval.
This form has a number of optional enquiries that your solicitor or conveyancer may specifically request (and for which an additional fee is payable), for example any planning proposals for adjacent land or property, such as a new housing development on the field behind.
Here are some of the questions you could choose to have answered on a CON29O form:
- is there a pipeline within 100 metres?
- is the property affected by any hazardous substances?
- is it in an area of outstanding natural beauty/in a noise abatement zone/in an urban development area?
The Land Registry has more information on different types of searches.