Since July 2001 the Law Society issued a warning card to all solicitors setting out the action they should take in all conveyance transactions to highlight contaminated land issues to clients. As a result of this it is commonplace to have an environmental search carried out when buying or selling a property.
The information on the commercially available environmental searches is compiled by a company from its own records; it does not necessarily obtain information from the local council. These reports give a variety of information about the surrounds of the property including the coincidence of it with a previous land use that had potential to cause contamination. There are a number of commercial organisations that sell datasets to the companies that provide environmental searches.
Where the standard report indicates that the property may be located on or near to a piece of land that was subject to a former use that may have caused contamination, then some companies offer additional services such as a professional view on the likelihood of contamination and risk. It is common for this additional report to suggest that additional enquiries are made of the council.
The council can provide a summary letter of the information that it holds on land when it receives a request made in accordance with the Environmental Information Regulations. Other than on an individual request basis, the council does not supply this to the commercial companies.
Requesting an Environmental Search
The Council's Health & Wellbeing Team regularly receives requests for information about the condition of land. Any request in connection with the condition of land must be formulated so that it is clear as to what is being requested. If it is not then there may be a delay in providing the information or it may be refused.
Requests must be
- made in writing (letter or email)
- sent to 'Contaminated Land Officer, Housing & Pollution Team, Reigate & Banstead Borough Council, Town Hall, Castlefield Road, Reigate RH2 0SH or emailed to email@example.com
- headed "Environmental Information Request"
- include a plan, of an appropriate scale, with the boundary of the land that is subject to the request clearly marked, preferably in red
- have questions that are unambiguous.
Charges are levied on an hourly basis for the cost of searching, retrieving, reviewing, processing and preparing your information request. Our Hourly charge is £60, with residential searches typically taking between 1-2 hours and larger industrial commerical premises potentially taking longer to complete, dependent on the amount and complexity of the information requested. VAT is not chargeable on our searches.
Prior to proceeding with the request the cost will be provided to the applicant and no work will commence until confirmation has been received that the fees will be paid. Under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 an allowance of 20 working days to respond to your request is given to local authorities, however we will endeavour to respond with our search findings as soon as we can.
Planning Conditions & Environmental Searches
It is common place for contaminated land conditions that are attached to a planning permission within our borough to require an investigation into the contamination status of a site in a phased manner. Therefore, the first port of call is often to undertake a Phase 1 Desktop Study. One of the usual requirements of this is to seek regulatory consultation with the Environmental Health Department. This process would be the same as described above.