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Property searches to be centralised despite overwhelming opposition



The process of taking registers of local "land charges" under the wing of Land Registry will begin next April, the registry said today, despite admitting to overwhelming opposition from local authorities and conveyancers.

Responding to a public consultation entitled "Wider Powers and Local Land Charges" the registry announced plans to to become the sole registering authority for local land charges (LLCs). Land charges, a crucial element in searches when buying a property, are currently collected and maintained by local authorities.

Ed Lester, chief land registrar, said the new 'one stop shop' digital LLC search service  'will improve and standardise the service through faster turnaround times. This is consistent with government's digital by default agenda and will ease the process of buying property'.

However the small print of the consultation response admits to strong opposition to the scheme, especially from councils. "The majority of respondents [to a question about changing LLC services] felt that the reasons given in the consultation... were not supported by the evidence produced. An overwhelming majority stated that the services should all remain with local authorities."

On the question of whether Land Registry should take over the local land charges registration functions, only 5% of respondents were in favour.

Several respondents commented on the practical difficulties of creating a national system. One council commented: "At the moment we have a local land charges IT system that is linked to each department's information... Unless Land Registry is going to have a local land charges system that is capable of being linked to every differing council central system, they will need to rely on the individual departments sending information when it is available. This will lead to many complications and many opportunities for human error."

Despite these misgivings, the registry said it plans to go ahead with the centralisation, to fulfil the government's desire "to transform it into a leader in digitising land and property services and in the management and re-use of land and property data."

"This will be for the benefit of customers, the property market and the wider economy."

Work will begin on a 'phased migration' to the new register in April next year.

The registry's parent body, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, is expected to respond shortly to a consultation on converting the bulk of Land Registry into a "service delivery company".


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