Infrastructure Bill [HL]

Written evidence submitted by Gravesham Borough Council (IB 42)

The Infrastructure Bill- Clause 29 and Schedule 4 H. M. Land Registry and Local Land Charges

Summary

1.1 Gravesham Borough Council is based in North West Kent and covers Gravesend, Northfleet, Shorne, Higham, Meopham, Luddesdown, Cobham, Istead Rise and Harvel. In an average year the Local Land Charges section turns around approximately 2500 (LLC1/ Con29) searches. From 1st April 2014 to 31st October 2014 the Council received 1246 search requests and achieved an average turnaround of 1.36 days. The authority opposes the takeover of the Local Land Charges function by H. M. Land Registry.

Reasons for objecting to the Proposal

2.1 The feedback received from local Solicitors, Conveyancers and Personal Search

Agents has been extremely positive and in favour of the service remaining the responsibility of the Authority. Solicitors have expressed concern regarding the takeover of the Local Land Charges function. The following is taken from an email sent to the Council by Hatten Wyatt incorporating Morlings Solicitors, Gravesham’s largest local applicant of full searches.

Thank you for your email of the 19th June. Our main concern would be as to how the new procedure will impact on the timescale for dealing with searches. At the present time we are more than happy with the service that is provided by Gravesham Borough Council and in particular the speed in which they can turn around searches. If search information is going to be delayed due to the involvement of the Land Registry, this will only slow down the conveyancing procedure which is contrary to other procedures that have been introduced over the last few years. We cannot see that this would be in anyone’s interest to delay search information.

We would also have concern as to how this will impact on the fee for the Local Search’.

The consultation backed up Hatten Wyatt’s view and proved no real rational for the change nor demand for it. 82% of conveyancers in the consultation found Land Registry’s proposal unappealing or very unappealing.

2.2 The Council is concerned that the Authority will retain the workload it has now without financial recompense. It will fall on the Council to supply Land Registry with details of registrations. The Local Authority will remain the responsible for determining what is registerable, storing the originating documents and answering the queries which arise from the supply of the LLC1.

Land charges and associated documents remain with local authorities. Local authorities have the responsibility for ensuring the LLC register is current’

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/349463/LLC_Supplier_Day_Pack_AUG14.pdf

2.3 The largest part of the search application is known as the Con29 (this involves questions such as non-registerable planning applications, Local Plan designations, rail and road schemes and any prospective notices likely to be served on the property). Without the income and the Statutory Obligation to maintain the Local Land Charges Register, Authorities may choose to close down the Local Land Charge Sections placing further burdens on the various Departments to carry out the Con29. This would inevitably slow down the service and cause a knock on effect to the conveyancing process.

2.4 By only taking the LLCR and not the Con29 Land Registry will introduce a more disjointed service which will require any search applicant to apply to two sources for their search response instead of one as is currently the case.

2.5 Local Authorities will continue to request a fee for the provision of the Con29 search which will not address the uniform fee that Land Registry are proclaiming it will.

2.6 The Authority believes that an adequate costing exercise has not been carried out and assessed. The impact on the Housing Market or Local Authorities has not been considered sufficiently.

2.7 Any failings or shortcomings (which have been overestimated in the Council’s opinion) could be dealt with through the Local Government Association e.g. further help with digitisation. In fact, in the past, Performance Indicators and a Statutory fee were in place to create the uniformity which the Land Registry states as two of its targets.

Additional Information

3.1 The Authority is that the Local Land Charges Institute has submitted evidence on this proposal and supports its submission

January 2015

Prepared 15th January 2015