May 2022
Standard Searches NOT revealing New Road Schemes

Our property expert Cindy Van Graan writes about standard searches on properties not revealing new road schemes in another “Avoid Property Pitfalls” blog. It’s hotting up to be quite a series!

Bob wakes up on Monday morning to find a new roadway being dug up by construction vehicles just a few metres away from his house. He had only completed the purchase of his new home the month before. How on earth was this missed in the conveyancing process?! Turns out it would not have been revealed by standard searches…

This issue has been highlighted thanks to the diligence and investigation by Kate Bould, the managing director of Index West Midlands Property Information. Kate describes her detective work as revealing “an alarming, unbelievable and very concerning trend…”.

Unseen road schemes that are planned but not yet under construction, within 200 metres of a buyer’s chosen property, are being missed because local authorities are classifying the new road schemes as planning consent for ‘private bodies’.

The planning permission by a ‘private body’, which can be any third-party developer, may not yet have been granted but the new roadway has already been approved under an outline planning permission. As this is not a road scheme to be undertaken by the local authority it will not be revealed in standard enquiries- the local authority search includes questions in relation to road schemes but it does not cover road schemes by private bodies or developers as standard. This would require additional searches and costs and is not ordered for residential purchases as standard.

These road schemes can be quite significant as they are often built to give access to huge developments in the nearby locality. The development that Kate Bould came across was a mixed-use development less than a mile away from a new luxury, a semi-rural property just purchased by the buyers. The development would include 2,670 houses, a large hotel, railway station, sports facilities, offices, supermarket, schools, nurseries and doctor’s surgery, and offices.

This was clearly a major housing development that would mean years of construction and increased traffic. The conveyancers in this instance had conducted all necessary searches with no road schemes being revealed within the results. However, the Optional Enquiry Question 4, which costs £20 – £45 would have revealed that the road scheme was approved in an outline application back in 2012, but work only commenced in 2021. This means that road schemes that are planned but not yet started will only show up when raising this optional enquiry.

It doesn’t quite stop there though, because not all local authorities actually answer the Optional Enquiry Question 4. It means looking at other options which include a GroundSure Planning Interpretive report, which plots any development of schemes surrounding the property.

Consideration needs to be given to the locality and surroundings near the property. I would generally recommend a planning report to clients where a property is located in a rural area, particularly where there is open land nearby. It will not only reveal road schemes by private bodies but also provide information about other granted planning permissions and gives an opinion on the development potential of the surrounding area.

Kate has urged conveyancers and solicitors to select Optional Enquiry 4 on every residential property transaction from now on. The cost for this was stated above at just £20 – 45 (depending on the local authority). It is not costly given the overall investment by the buyer, and even further emotional and cost implications if the search is skipped only to save a small amount of money.

Are you buying a property right now and worried about what Cindi has raised above? 

If you are considering buying a property, Cindi runs a free 15-minute Avoid Property Pitfalls session to find out about the property you want to purchase, identify the pitfalls and recommend the next steps to avoid them. Email her on to schedule a time.

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