You will be aware that on 8th December 2004, the OFT launched a market study into the supply of property searches pursuant to S.5 Enterprise Act 2002 (“EA”). The conclusions of the market study were published in a document entitled “Property Searches: A Market Study”, OFT 810 (September 2005) (“the Market Study”). The OFT’s findings, conclusions and recommendations in the Market Study made clear that local authorities act unlawfully if they restrict or deny access to information necessary to compile a property search.
Further, if access is denied or restricted to personal searchers then the same restrictions need to be applied to the Councils or NLIS as otherwise there would be a contravention of section 18(2)(c) CA. i.e. “applying dissimilar conditions to equivalent transactions with other trading parties, thereby placing them at a competitive disadvantage”
Schedules of Councils with appointment systems were submitted to the OFT in May 2003, September 2003, December 2003, May 2005 and July 2006. By July 2006 almost every Council was restricting access to information
Request for information
Please A. Could I have a copy of all the Council policies on personal searchers accessing the Land Charges Register post September 2005?
B. Could you advise me of the date when the policies above were first applied to Council staff and NLIS?
This request is being handled under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) and the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). As far as the Council can establish from the information contained in your letter, none of the information requested is environmental information. I am therefore writing to inform you that the Council do not consider that this request is a request for information under the provisions of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR).
I enclose herewith a copy of the EIR and would draw you attention to the wording of Regulation 2(1) of the EIR, which contains the definition of “environmental information” which defines the meaning of what is environmental information. It is the Council’s opinion that the information which you seek does not fall within any of definitions contained in Regulation 2(1)(a) – (d) inclusive, as the information requested is not “Environmental Information” as defined under Regulation 2(1)(a) – (d) under the EIR. This is acknowledged as a request for information under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. I respond to your questions, as follows, using the same lettering as
(A) I confirm that the Council does not have policies relating to access by personal searchers of the local land charges register. In practice, since 29 July 2010, personal searchers can access the local land charges register freely via
computer terminals provided at the Town Hall during the Council’s opening hours. Prior to this practice, personal searchers would make an appointment to come and view the information on the local land charges register.
(B) I confirm that the Council do not hold this information.