At our monthly team meeting last week we were given news of the startling prospect that, in order to compete with the anticipated venture of supermarkets into the provision of conveyancing services later this year, some larger ‘bulk’ conveyancing firms are proposing to outsource their conveyancing work to teams of Indian Lawyers now fully trained in English Law.
This seems to reinforce the frequently held view that conveyancing is simply an administration paper exercise which can be provided at a minimal cost. However, as a client remarked to me recently, when I had explained the ‘ins and outs’ of the title problem delaying her matter “It’s not that straightforward, thank goodness I used you”.
The first stages of the conveyancing process are the searches and enquiries once the draft contract is received. Under the umbrella of checking the title and searches your conveyancer will actually be considering numerous issues some based on law, others on planning and building control and some on local knowledge. Many of these will never need to be reported to you the client, but others when they are may come as a surprise.
One such issue is the Government Oil Pipeline and Storage System (GPSS), which in this area runs adjacent to the A4 corridor heading west to storage depots at Bristol. Another branch runs south from the A4 to the Hamble passing through Micheldever. The pipeline was built in the Second World War to supply fuel to airbases and other strategic installations including public airports. It extended to the South Coast, where as part of Operation Pluto it supplied the underwater pipes to Northern France for the D Day operations and subsequent invasion of Europe.
Whilst this is an interesting historical fact you may not realise that it continues to have relevance today. Amazingly the system is still operational and it comprises of 2,500 Kilometres of pipeline and 46 depots and storage facilities for defence purposes. The system is also interlinked with a number of private systems to provide a huge network across the country and locations served include the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston and RAF Mildenhall in Norfolk.
On the ground the system is marked by white posts with a bright yellow roof on top and black strip running across the roof however despite this, workmen still managed to cut into the highly pressurised pipe in the Derbyshire in 2000.
If the Local search or title deeds indicate that the pipeline is in the area of a proposed purchase property we will firstly undertake a search with Linesearch which will confirm, based on the postcode of the property, if the property is within the “Zone of Interest of the Pipeline”. If it is confirmed, a detailed plan of the zone will be obtained. This may of course be of vital importance to your decision to buy, as building and other works including fencing in close proximity to the pipeline may be prohibited and certainly a formal consent will be required. Your plans for a detached granny annex, swimming pool or even a simple extension to the property may well be set back by this discovery and influence your decision to proceed.
A strip extending to 3 metres either side of the pipeline known as a wayleave is protected by legislation. Consent is required from the Secretary of State for any works within the wayleave (except agricultural operations) and the construction of any building or other obstruction within the wayleave is generally not permitted. Whilst one might assume that the pipeline does not run near to housing the demand for houses in the past 30 years means there are a number of developments in the area constructed along the A4 corridor where the pipeline runs through not only communal areas of the estate but also the gardens of some properties.
The existence of the pipeline in your back garden is unlikely to affect your day to day living, after all numerous pipes and cables belonging to other statutory bodies may well also run through the garden. It is however helpful to be fully aware of its existence and mindful of the possible need to obtain consent for operations in the future.
The issue of course also highlights the need for good communication between your self and your Solicitor. We are fortunate through the high level of personal contact we have with our clients to be able to understand your needs in the transaction and to offer sound advice based on good local knowledge. We fear that this will be lost if larger firms begin to outsource their conveyancing work . The personal touch that can be vital with such a large decision like buying a house will no longer be apparent.
For more information regarding this issue or any other conveyancing requirements please contact Fiona Tighe at Gardner Leader on: 01635 508 107.