Ask the expert: Why can highways be tricky?

In a property transaction, information concerning a property’s relationship with local Highways has not always been readily available for conveyancers to pass on to their clients but serious problems can arise if they aren’t identified early on in the transaction.

Recent research conducted by tmgroup revealed that 1 in 10 conveyancers never order a Highways Search, so we sat down with Rebecca Hickey Head of Legal Product at Landmark Information Group to learn more about why it’s necessary to obtain this information.

Highways, why can they be tricky?
For residential and commercial conveyancing transactions, it is critical to investigate the precise extent of the adoption status of highways in and around the perimeter of the site. For example, you may believe that the footpath in front of the building is indeed publically owned and adopted but in reality it might not be.

What if the path hasn’t been adopted?
There could be potential issues with access to the property and it could have implications for the property owner regarding responsibility for its future upkeep; it could even affect the potential for redevelopment.

And if this wasn’t identified during the transaction?
Failure to identify developments where adoption procedures have not been dealt with adequately can cause delays to transactions as well as pose a risk to the purchaser’s future plans for the site.

So conveyancers should investigate?
Absolutely. If you were to imagine a typical scenario where a purchaser is looking to buy a property and the surrounding land which abuts a neighbouring property and there is a shared access onto the land.  As part of the due diligence the purchaser’s solicitor would need to identify the exact status of the access and the ownership of the area. 

Is it publicly adopted by the local authority, therefore they are responsible for maintenance and granting access or is it privately owned?  In order for the transaction to proceed the status of the access way would need to be confirmed.

What implications could it have for the purchaser?
Well, the purchaser may need to purchase additional pieces of land, negotiate shared access or at least negotiate a regular payment towards repairs.  This will undoubtedly add time and complexity to the transaction, which is not what either party want.

Vital information then – so, what sort of barriers would one normally face when attempting to source Highways data from Local Authorities?

With each Local Authority, the turnaround times for gathering this Highways data can vary widely. The same goes for the cost of the information and the level of detail provided.

How can you have the peace of mind that you have considered all the necessary aspects regarding the highways around the site?
A Highways report is the best way to obtain peace of mind for yourself and your client on this matter. For example, the Argyll SiteSolutions Highways report provides answers on the adoption status of highways surrounding the site; details of any road improvement schemes as well as rights of way. The report is manually assembled by a team dedicated to the production of this report with years of experience in the collation and analysis of Local Authority data and all data is sourced from the relevant Local Authority, Highways Agency or the Ordnance Survey. The report is backed by £10 million professional indemnity cover and has a fixed price of £120 +VAT.

About Rebecca
Rebecca Hickey joined Landmark Information Group in 2006 and fulfilled a number of different roles, including Project Manager and Senior Product Manager before taking the role of Head of Product (Legal Division) in 2015.