HM Land Registry is to become the sole registering authority for Local Land Charges (LLC) in England and Wales and the sole provider of official search results.

We will hold and maintain a single digital LLC register and offer a standardised search service.

Under the existing local authority-based system fees vary between £3 and £96 and turnaround times can be anything between 1 and 20+ days.

Preparatory work on the new service will begin from April 2015 with a phased migration to HM Land Registry beginning later that year.

The go-ahead from the Government followed a public consultation from 16 January to 9 March on widening our powers and taking on the LLC service.

We made a number of changes to our original proposals as a result of the consultation, such as dropping a 15-year limit on searches.

Changes to the Land Registration Act 2002 and Local Land Charges Act 1975 necessary to offer the service will form part of the proposed Infrastructure Bill which is expected to complete its passage through Parliament by March 2015.

A pilot for CON29 searches will be developed with a number of local authorities and the private sector this year.

Local Land Charges professional Moira Livesey is advising HM Land Registry on the new service

Moira Livesey has long experience of persuading local authority colleagues of the virtues of digitising Local Land Charges.

Her authority, Bolton Council, has been through two phases of computerising its service, putting it at the forefront of digital providers.

Now working as a part-time adviser on HM Land Registry’s programme, Moira knows both individuals and their employers will have concerns about digitisation and centralisation.

“There was internal opposition at Bolton,” Moira recalls. “I had people saying: ‘You can’t take my records away’.

“But once they had got over the initial shock of records leaving the building it was fine.”

Bolton’s second and more comprehensive computerisation project was funded by the Local Authority Modernisation Programme at a cost of £1.4 million.

“We have been operational with a live service since 2009,” said Moira. “There is more modern technology out there now but our system is still fairly robust.

“We wanted an end-to-end process where every customer has the same experience and that is what we now offer.”

Bolton promises a same-day response for searches submitted before 3pm and makes a single terminal available for personal searches on weekdays and Saturdays. A full search of both the Local Land Charges register and CON29 costs £135.

“We wrote to the solicitors to tell them what was happening,” said Moira. “They were reasonably happy with it. They can’t believe it’s a same-day service!”

Bolton doesn’t check the searches but instead deals with queries by exception.

“You have to make sure there’s a good quality assurance process before a system goes live,” said Moira. “It’s not about data cleansing. The term should be data preparation – ensuring it’s accessible for customers.

“Staff must think of themselves as data custodians.”

Moira worked in Local Land Charges with Bury Council from 1979 and Bolton from 1985. In 2002 she became Local Land & Property Gazetteer Manager responsible for addressing, managing Local Land Charges as well from 2007.

Two years later Moria became Manager of the Spatial Data Team, which incorporated Local Land Charges into a much broader role of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) work.

“It’s all about information and making it fit for purpose,” she said.

Her advice to local authorities is to approach HM Land Registry’s plans in a positive frame of mind. “I would embrace the change,” said Moira. “It’s a phased approach and it’s going to improve things.”

Each council will provide updated entries to the Local Land Charges register to an agreed service level agreement and continue to provide CON29R and CON29O answers, working in partnership with HM Land Registry.

“There will still be plenty of work to do for local authorities,” said Moira.

Gavin Curry
By Gavin Curry,
Digital Communications and Editorial Officer at HM Land Registry