What is a Local Property Search?

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A local authority search tells you about planning and building regulations, adopted highways, tree preservation orders and conservation areas.

Those of us that have bought property will remember our solicitor obtaining a ‘local search’. What are they? And why bother?

Purpose of the search

A local authority search tells you about:-

  • planning and building regulations
  • adopted highways
  • tree preservation orders
  • conservation areas

It’s specific to the property that you’re buying.

Planning and building regulations

This part of the search should reveal details on things like:-

  •  extensions and alterations
  • window/door replacements
  • installing new gas boilers
  • flat conversions

If it appears that work has been done to the property (extensions/alterations), then it’s imperative to establish that the necessary planning permissions/building regulations consents have been granted.

So, if it appears that work has been done on a property you intend buying – tell your solicitor!


The search confirms that the road fronting your property is maintained at the public expense – ie by the Highways Agency. If it’s not, then the road may be private, and you may have to contribute towards the maintenance and repair of that road. There may also be issues on the legal access to your property from that road.

Tree preservation order (TPO)

 If any trees at the property have TPO’s then you will be bound to comply with the details of any such orders. Failure to do so can result in the local authority bringing legal action against you!

Conservation area

Properties in these areas should have no material alterations carried out without the approval of the local planning authority. Examples are

  • re-roofing, removal of chimney pots and stacks, installation of satellite antennae
  • exterior painting
  • replacement of windows and doors
  • extensions and porches

What the search doesn’t reveal

The search is usually specific to the property. So, it won’t reveal anything about the surrounding area.

If you’re aware of any planning/highways issues relating to the surrounding area that you’re concerned about, you must let your solicitor know!

Why bother?

A local search is an essential tool that helps your solicitor establish the ‘legal title’ of a property. It is a term of most mortgages that your solicitor must carry out a local (and other) search(es). So, for most of us, we don’t have any choice but to commit to the expense of a search.

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