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Search digitisation speeds up after sluggish start, claims Land Registry

A government aim to improve the home buying process by making Local Land Charge search results instantly available is well underway, it’s been claimed.

Alison Bradbury - the head of the Local Land Charges Programme for HM Land Registry - says the plans to get all 331 local authorities in England and Wales on board with the changes are progressing well.

The Registry says it has plans to digitally migrate all local authorities by 2025. 


Speaking at the second Annual Local Government Event 2022 - put together by the Institute of Government & Public Policy, held at the Kia Oval in London - Bradbury said that only 40 local authorities have been migrated since July 2018, when the scheme went live.

But Bradbury said the body was confident of meeting its target by creating regional clusters of between five and 14 local authorities to deliver the changes quickly.

“Neighbouring authorities are working closely together to speed things up, supporting each other to roll things out quicker” she told the audience.

Bradbury said the benefits to the new system were three-fold. 

For local authorities, it means data can be shared more effectively and transparently. What’s more, that data is all spatial, and data verification is improved.

The benefits to UK PLC, meanwhile, are in making it quicker and easier for developers, buyers, sellers and tenants to make fast, accurate decisions. 

There were also positives from an innovation perspective, Bradbury added, arguing that digitalising and standardising the LLC data will promote further innovations across the UK property sector.

For the customer, she said, there was a cheaper service – the average cost per search was now only £9.22 – as well as faster results, and a simpler, more consistent offering. 

Since 2019, over 1.6m charges have been placed on the LLC register, with HM Land Registry now having an increased capacity and capability to roll this out to more local authorities, Bradbury said.

“We now have 238 people working on the programme, as well as significant investment in data and partnerships with software suppliers.”

“At the same time, supply remains well below normal levels in virtually all prime locations creating the conditions for continued price growth.  However, we would expect to see increasing price sensitivity creep into the market over the remainder of the year given the economic backdrop.”

A prototype has also been created with a major lender to test out how the new system improves the homebuying process.

LLCs are restrictions on the use of property – for example planning permissions or tree preservation. A search of the local land charges register is required when buying a property, but this can be time-consuming – taking anywhere from one day up to 76 days – with much of the data still kept in paper form or microfiche.

“I thought microfiche was outdated in the 1980s, but you’d be surprised by how many local councils have data available in this format,” Bradbury told delegates.

LLCs enable buyers and lenders to see the restrictions before they buy and lend, but the process has long been dogged by slowness and delays. The Registry took the bold move of saying it could take on this service and both standardise and digitalise it.


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