One of the property searches usually carried out by Conveyancing Solicitors in Stoke-on-Trent acting for house-buyers is an environmental search. Although Stoke-on-Trent is well-known as the centre of the pottery industry, and is sometimes known as ‘the Potteries’, it was the home to many other industries, as well as coal mining. Although mining has now ceased and much of the old industry has vanished, it may have left traces which will not be good news for home-owners.
The risk of old industry in Stoke on Trent
Older industrial processes often created substantial pollution, which went unchecked in the days before modern legislation. Although airborne pollution will have ceased to be a problem, the waste products of many industries were often allowed to run off into streams and rivers, polluting land downstream. Some industries also used chemicals or heavy metals which will have worked their way into the sub-soil.
If a home owner were to discover some contamination in their property that could have serious consequences. Cases have been reported where home-owners were advised not eat vegetables grown in their gardens because heavy metals in the soil could get into them, with potential health risks. Property owners will be liable for the cost of any clear-up, which could be substantial.
When old industries have ceased, land is often redeveloped for other uses including housing. One well-known such area in Stoke-on-Trent is Festival Park, which was the site of a former steel works and coal mining area. The developers are reputed to have spent £5 million on remedial work, including removing contaminated soil. The Park was the site of a garden festival in 1986, and parts of the area were then redeveloped to include offices shops and leisure facilities. While that was a high-profile redevelopment, other former industrial areas in and around Stoke-on-Trent have also been used for housing.
Developments on contaminated or industrial land
When developing former industrial sites, Developers will have to have specialist geophysical surveys carried out to determine what contamination is in the ground, and what remedial works would be required. These surveys should also reveal the presence of any features such as old mine pits which have been back-filled, a common problem in areas such as Stoke-on-Trent where coal was mined from early times. Buyers' Conveyancing Solicitors will be supplied with a copy of any such survey, and it is normally expected that the local authority will inspect the development and check that all remedial works have been properly carried out.
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Soil contamination can still be a concern, and can affect older houses which were next to former industrial areas. Buyers' Conveyancing Solicitors therefore arrange for environmental searches to be carried out by specialist companies, which will show if there was any industry or other source of potential pollution known to have existed in the vicinity of the property. If the surveyors are satisfied that there is no problem they will issue a certificate to that effect with the search result, which will be a re-assurance to the buyer. In the few cases where they consider that there is a possible problem, it may be possible for an insurance policy to be obtained which would provide cover for buyers.
Coal-mining searches in Stoke
A coal-mining search will also usually be carried out on house purchases in Stoke-on-Trent. This will show if there are coal measures beneath the property and whether mine-workings are recorded in the area. It will also indicate if there are any records of the property having been damaged by subsidence in the past. It should be noted that records do not usually exist of very old mine-workings. It is generally considered that as these were usually shallow pits which would have been filled-in many years back, they would not now be a problem.
Conveyancing Solicitors in Stoke-on-Trent carry out these searches for the benefit of their clients, to help protect them against possible future problems. They are not surveyors, and they cannot give any detailed advice on the search results. It is therefore sensible for house buyers to ask for copies of the searches for their own information, and if they have any queries the search providers should be able to offer assistance.
If you need advice for Conveyancing in Stoke on Trent, get a Quote Online or speak to our specialist team on 0330 660 0286.