It is very important to consider the type of search information you will receive for your property purchase and to understand the scope and limitation of the usual property purchase conveyancing searches used by solicitors as they relate to the property you are buying.

You should note that the search undertaken at the local authority only relates to the purchase property. Whilst it will give information about any highways development proposals within 200 metres of the purchase property it will not give any information whatsoever about planning applications and development proposals made in respect of any adjoining property or land in the vicinity of the purchase property. This is one of the reasons why it is now possible for buyers to ask for a separate planning review search to be undertaken before exchange of contracts for the property they are buying.

Planning Review

The Planning Review simply gives details of recent planning applications made in the vicinity of the property you are buying – it will generally contain information from the local government registers that may be a few weeks old at the date of the enquiry i.e. we cannot guarantee that it will be up to date – as the search provider does not get real time information from the local authority as to ongoing applications. Nonetheless it will generally provide a good overview about what planning applications have been made in the vicinity of the purchase property in the recent past as well as giving some more general information about services and facilities in the locality of the property you are buying.

Environmental Matters

Home buyers should be aware of the potential liabilities of property purchasers under government legislation. Local authorities are obliged to inspect contaminated sites and may require property owners to rectify problems. Unfortunately the information provided by the local authority in its search replies will not necessarily be definitive in stating whether or not the land you wish to purchase is contaminated.

While the probability of contamination in a normal property purchase transaction may be relatively low, because the cost of rectifying any problem can be high, and may even exceed the value of the property you are buying, it is always prudent to consider having an independent Environmental Search carried out on the property you are buying before you exchange contracts for your purchase.

We can arrange a desktop Environmental Search on your purchase property. Please note that the information provided is for guidance only based on a range of statutory and public records and that the search provider therefore seeks to exclude liability for any inaccuracies contained in the search reply. Note that the search provider does not physically inspect the purchase property before providing the report on the property you are buying which is compiled electronically.

The search should give an overview as to whether there are any historical land uses associated with the purchase property or the locality which might give rise to risks in the property purchase – if so further enquiries and specific tests may be necessary.

Drainage and water

The search which will give information about the nearest public sewer and mains water connections to the property you are buying. This information is important from the legal point of view in order that we can check that the purchase property has the benefit of any necessary legal rights to connect into the mains across any intervening private land. If the purchase property has private drainage we will want to try to establish the age and type of system and whether it is working satisfactorily – usually by asking the property seller questions. It is always a good idea to consider whether to have a private drainage system independently checked by a specialist drainage expert before you exchange contracts for the purchase of the property.


In some parts of the country it is necessary to check whether there is any history of mining which might have an adverse impact on the purchase property. The Coal Authority keeps records of coal mining areas, and there are specialists in other areas – such as Cornish Tin Mining – who can generally provide reports as necessary for any particular risk area in relation to your property purchase. Particular care needs to be taken in North Devon and North Cornwall.

Guide to Searches