Thursday, 25 July 2013

Impact of Law Society Practice Note on Flooding upon consultants & engineers advising property professionals

Law Society Practice Note on Flooding makes reference to Specialist Flood Surveys for land and property transactions helping to drive opportunities for Consultants and Engineers providing advice in Commercial Transactions, says David Mole of Landmark Information Group  

  • Law Society Practice Note instructs  property professionals to ‘mention’ the issue of flooding and if appropriate make further investigations
  • For commercial properties, the Commercial Property Standard Enquiries Form (CPSE 1) requires the seller to provide details of any flooding of which it is aware and asks whether the seller has had any difficulty in obtaining insurance at normal rates, excesses and exclusions
  • David Mole, Business Development Director at Landmark Information Group says the Practice Note is a useful driver for  environmental consultants and engineers advising property professionals with regard to flood risk appraisals for commercial transactions and new developments
  • 5.2 million properties, including 185,000 commercial properties, in England and Wales are at risk of flooding[1]
  • Landmark’s Envirocheck Flood Screening Report and digital flood data, part of the Envirocheck range, contain flooding information from several sources, including the British Geological Survey and the Environment Agency, enabling consultants and engineers to  evaluate flood risk

Following the publication of The Law Society’s Practice Note on Flood Risk, David Mole Business Development Director at Landmark Information Group said this should help drive business for consultants & engineers advising property professionals on flood risk associated with commercial property transactions and new developments.

The Practice Note advises that in all residential and conveyancing transactions, lawyers should mention the issue of flood risk to the client, and when appropriate, make further enquiries.  Lawyers now need to routinely seek flood risk advice from their professional advisors and this is an ideal opportunity for consultants & engineers to extend their services as part of property due diligence.

David Mole, , said: “The Practice Note has been a long time coming and,  it is a step in the right direction, which should drive lawyers to seek advice from environmental consultants and engineers who need to obtain comprehensive flood risk information when undertaking flood risk appraisals for  commercial transactions and new developments.

“The Practice Note states that solicitors only need ‘mention’ the issue of flood risk to clients. As we have seen in recent years, however, flooding is becoming ever more prevalent and widespread throughout the UK and is striking in areas that have never flooded before. 2012, for example, started with warnings of drought but ended as the wettest year in England since records began. Despite this however, the vast majority of Britons may be unaware of the risks they face.

“Whilst it is vital that legal professionals provide the most comprehensive information possible, covering all types of flood risk, including pluvial (ground water) flooding, environmental consultants and engineers need to also ensure that they make appropriate enquiries relating to the flood risk on and adjacent to sites. This needn’t however, be a difficult and arduous task. Landmark has worked closely with the industry in developing its Envirocheck flood screening report and digital flood data services.

“Our Envirocheck Flood Screening Report and digital flood data, which utilises information from several sources including the Environment Agency, the British Geological Survey and flood modelling specialists, provides environmental consultants and engineers with information on flood risks from surface water, groundwater, rivers and seas.”

The Envirocheck Flood Screening Report and digital flood data, enables environmental consultants and engineers to carry out flood risk assessments and advise their clients of the impact of flooding to their site.  At a time when surface water flooding (pluvial flooding) is increasing and 1.9 million residential and commercial properties are at risk from surface water flooding, [2] it is important to note that the Flood Practice Note is a useful market driver for environmental consultants and engineers providing flood risk appraisal advice and signals the increased importance of carrying our flood risk assessments.

David Mole concludes: “The Statement of Principles, which commits insurers to continue to provide flood insurance for most homes and small business premises, comes to an end in July this year. The announcement at the end of June that there will be a new agreement that will cap flood insurance premiums, linking them to council tax bands so that people will know the maximum they will have to pay is good news for homeowners in flood risk areas.  For business it’s critical to be able to obtain flood insurance at competitive rates to maintain continuity & sustainability for their operations. 
It is, therefore, absolutely vital that conveyancers are taking all necessary steps to ensure that clients are fully apprised of any all types of flood risk affecting a property transaction by seeking advice from their consulting & engineering professional advisors in all instances.”

[1] Environment Agency
[2] Environment Agency

Monday, 22 July 2013

Valuation – capacity and fraud control

Having focused last month on lenders’ use of property data to manage valuation selection and therefore capacity issues, it has been interesting to see the media focus on the issue as mortgage brokers and consumers feel the effects of longer turn-around times in areas of peak demand.

Peter Bolton-King, Residential Director of RICS, last month commissioned an enquiry to consider the challenges facing property valuation, and a BBC radio programme focused on supply and demand fluctuations driving valuation fees downwards.  It is clear that this trend will reverse in today’s environment of raised professional indemnity costs and rising demand as the heat is felt of a market on the rise.

In the same BBC programme, Richard Sexton, Business Development Director at e.surv was keen to place matters in context, rightly pointing out that the large panel managers who service the majority of mortgage lenders still have average valuation turn-around times measured in days not weeks, which in the overall framework of a home move likely to take several months, will only impact consumers in a small minority of exceptional cases.

Surveyors are particularly focused on process improvements, and recent experience of rolling out our mobile technology platform amongst over 1000 of the country’s busiest valuers has shown that efficiency improvements are achievable, which combined with an industry wide recruitment drive is growing overall capacity.

So, whilst industry capacity is a concern, and something the lending community is particularly live to, it’s clear that between data driven decision making and technology driven efficiency in the surveying process itself, this is an issue which can be managed effectively.

Landmark Quest, part of Landmark Information Group, continues to work with both lenders and panel managers to ensure that whilst solutions are targeted at assisting with capacity concerns, they also have a keen eye to ensuring a risk-based approach can be demonstrated to regulators.  In addition to this we find ourselves applying a wider range fraud detection and control to all of our clients’ solutions as it becomes key to show that whilst some of the market excesses of the noughties appear to be returning, systems and controls are now available to ensure risk is absolutely minimised.

Richard Groom
Product Development Director, Landmark Information Group

Thursday, 18 July 2013

July Weather Trigger for Increased Subsidence

Whilst many throughout the country are enjoying the July heat wave, the sunshine does not only bring good news, warns Landmark Information Group. The risk of a full blown subsidence event has been upgraded to ‘moderate’ according to a new report from leading UK arboriculturist OCA UK Ltd**. 

Despite this, thorough checks of a property’s subsidence risk may not always be carried out as standard during the conveyancing process; as a result, many homebuyers may be purchasing a property without realising the dangers or understanding the impact upon value, insurability and saleability.

Chris Taylor, Product Development Director for Environmental – Legal, Landmark Information Group, explains: “A lack of moisture in the soil is one of the main causes of subsidence.  As we are currently experiencing a heat wave which follows a very dry June and is set to continue throughout July, we could expect to see an increase in the number of subsidence claims in the coming months.

“We saw a similar pattern of dry weather in 2003 and 2006, during which time the number of subsidence claims increased significantly.  Furthermore, 2013 has so far has been drier than 2006 and follows a very wet year so we have an unprecedented situation.

  “1 in 5 homes in the UK* (approximately 6.5 million properties) are at risk of subsidence with an average estimated £200-250 million spent on subsidence claims every year. If we see similar claims to those experienced in 2003 and 2006, subsidence could cost the industry as much as – if not more than - £400m. Subsidence is not an issue that is going to go away; in fact, research predicts a more than 50% increase in subsidence over the next 30 years alone***.  It is crucial that buyers know up-front the potential risks of a property they are considering purchasing.”

Andy Lucas, Managing Director of Property Assure, said: “The 2003 subsidence volume was the equivalent of the properties affected by devastating floods in 2007 in Sheffield, Hull and Tewkesbury****. It is not all bad news however; subsidence risk can be mitigated by some simple cost effective steps – the first step is to be aware of a property’s subsidence risk.”

Chris Taylor continues: “In partnership with Property Assure, we have developed our Subsidence Risk Services to remove the burden from solicitors. The reports ensure providing a comprehensive service for clients is very straightforward and provides both solicitors and their clients with peace of mind that all necessary checks have been carried out and that no hidden surprises will be uncovered once the buyers have moved in.

“With a turnaround of just 24 hours for the initial opinion and 10 days for any follow-on site work, Subsidence Risk Services is a quick and convenient method of obtaining the right information, which ensures that the purchase process won’t be delayed by lengthy enquiries or hidden surprises. The report has been designed with both property professionals and homebuyers in mind to ensure that a clear answer is provided and additional services are available for those wishing to investigate further.”

The Subsidence Risk Certificate can be purchased for just £15 + VAT.

For more information on Landmark Information Group, visit or call 0844 844 9966. For further information on Subsidence Risk Services visit

*British Geological Survey
** Source: OCA Climate News & Newsletter  July13
*** ‘The hidden risks of climate change: An increase in property damage from soil subsidence in Europe’, Swiss RE 2011
****The Pitt Review

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The Big Debate: Creative ways to inspire and motivate talented employees

In May 2013 DMGT hosted the first debate in the classic British Parliamentary Debate format at Cambridge Union Society as part of the DMGT Leadership Development program.  The feedback from the initial event was extremely positive as a way to develop core skills for individuals within the business.  In July 2013 I was requested to take part along with another 15 employees from different roles within businesses in Europe and USA, continuing motion discussions on entrepreneurship and innovation.

When the request arrived in my mailbox my initial feelings were anxiety, excitement and recognition.  I had never taken part in any kind of structured debate before so had no idea what to expect, fortunately we were coached through the two weeks leading up to the debate by colleagues that had attended the first session.  At an early stage it was clear everyone selected was in the same boat and the leadership selected us knowing we had the determination and skills to succeed.

On the morning of the debate we were given further coaching from AGL which provided an intense crash course to develop the key skills needed for a successful debate.  These skills in the main are common sense that some of us take for granted, be knowledgeable on the chosen topic with facts and not assumptions, deliver a confident coherent argument whilst building trust with the audience by being authentic and honest.  This all seems quite straight forward as an individual but debates are dynamic and it needs a well formed team to be successful in countering the competition.

Once the training was complete the teams were taken to the debate chambers to become familiar with the surroundings we were about to perform in and we were advised which teams were for or against the motion.  Now it was time for our team of people who had never met until that morning to formulate our argument and plan a strategy.  We rushed off to a break out area where in the next few hours we very rapidly started to Form, Storm and Norm before we stopped for a welcomed head clearing break and networking reception prior to the debate starting.   

The debate started and as a team we had built confidence in each other that we were ready to engage, making sure we guided the audience through our argument whilst listening to points of information from the counter team and audience.  The surroundings provided a level of drama with both serious and humorous performances.  The ability for individuals to listen, formulate a counter response and combine it with the key points they needed to get across whilst delivering it with confidence in a timed slot was very impressive.   The most valuable skills to any negotiator and coach are the ability to listen and persuade, these are also valuable skills to have within a business environment.  The most inspiring part for me was being around other very talented and successful individuals with such passion to encourage and coach people.

Would I do it again?  Just try and stop me, it’s as exciting as skydiving or bungee jumping and you get to meet amazing individuals whilst developing skills to take back into the business.

So why are DMGT doing this?  To remain a High Performance Organisation you need to attract and retain people that have an incurable curiosity, want to be challenged and want to excel in life.  DMGT is a place that offers variety, support and continual personal development to help individuals realise their dreams.

Colin Blears
Business Development Manager

The Big Debate

The Cambridge Debating Society was founded almost 200 years ago and is arguably the world’s oldest such society. The Society is drenched in history and has hosted a myriad of world leaders, religious leaders, scientific minds and Olympic legends. The debating chamber echoes this rich history with opposing rows of leather chairs arranged expectantly and assorted photographs of previous debaters adorning the walls.
It is here then that I find myself, my debating team having just been grilled with questions from the house, coiled to deliver a rousing summary of my team’s argument and carefully preparing rebuttals to the opposition.
However, five days previously, I would have answered honestly that I knew little of serious debating other than small meeting room melees. Here began my introduction to the DMGT Big Debate. In which sixteen participants were selected from across the organisation and provided a motion around which to research and prepare.
After a desperate week of frantic research, the debate day began with an introduction to debating format and etiquette. The first realisation being, how important team work would be in presenting an argument: as the first speaker outlines the argument after which the following speakers present points in support before the final speaker summarises and refutes any countering points.
The team work element provided an excellent opportunity for delegates to share knowledge, ideas and experiences from within their respective business units. Given the nature of my entry to DMGT as an acquisition, for me personally this provided a fresh insight and perspective into the diversity and operations of DMGT. Meanwhile, I hope influencing others own perceptions.
Late in the day each team was informed which side of the motion they were to argue. This presented a unique challenge; in developing an argument potentially conflicting with personal views. However, again the quality and diversity of colleagues within my team enabled a broad range of experiences to be analysed, in order to develop a succinct and persuasive argument.
As we developed our arguments in anticipation of the final showdown, we were further coached in delivering our arguments. Personally, I found this to be the most informative and interesting process. Similar to presentation and sales skills each speaker was encouraged to present information in a manner the audience could engage with. However, given the particulars of debating; developing atmosphere and applying persuasion through movement, theatrics and engagement were essential in winning the audience.
In addition, each speaker must listen intently to previous arguments in order to refute the opposition’s points, which can only be achieved through flexibility and adaptability of one’s own argument. Furthermore, the audience and opposition are able to present points of information during each speaker’s time. The ultimate combination of which is a true test of knowledge, logic and presentation, requiring fast thinking.
The coaching, preparation and team support all provided me with the confidence and ability to finally deliver the closing statement I imagined. Leaving only the final unnerving experience of observing the audience filter out of the chamber through two door labelled ‘yay’ and ‘nay’.
The event and experience exposed me to the diversity and individuals within DMGT, stimulating innovative ideas and potential collaborations. In addition, the skills gained have provided further confidence in presenting under pressure and in new environments. Desmond Tutu is quoted as having said “Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument”, sensible advice, although my personal touch would be to throw in a dash of theatrics.
Ben Furlong
Environmental Consultant

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Landmark Information Group donates £3,250 to humanitarian aid charity MapAction

Landmark Information Group has donated a prize pot of more than £3,250 to humanitarian aid charity MapAction.

Presenting the cheque to MapAction’s Head of Fundraising Mim Wright [pictured below], Mark Milner, CEO of Landmark Information Group said: “MapAction provides invaluable and truly unique services by identifying which disaster-struck areas are in need of vital support and where relief sources are.  We are delighted to present them with this cheque which will help make sure aid gets to the people in greatest need.”

MapAction is a charity that maps life-saving information about disaster situations so that aid agencies can target relief efforts effectively. It is the only non-governmental organisation (NGO) anywhere in the world with a capacity to deploy a fully trained and equipped humanitarian mapping and information management team, often within a few hours of an alert. 

In 2012, due to the synergies in mapping and geospatial data, Landmark launched its partnership with the charity by pledging a corporate donation of £2,500 as well as organising a range of fund-raising activities to help MapAction get aid.

Mim Wright, Head of Fundraising at MapAction says: "MapAction volunteers are on standby 24/7 to respond to any humanitarian emergency anywhere in the world, so it's very reassuring to know that Landmark is committed to supporting us. Their energy and enthusiasm will help MapAction to save lives and minimise suffering when a disaster strikes."

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Energy & Infrastructure Report launched

House prices and saleability could be hit by aftershock from High-Speed 2 Rail and fracking, warns Landmark Information Group

Following reports that around 350,000 homes affected by the proposed new high speed rail network (HS2) yet receive no compensation, many more homes across the UK face a further potential threat of which solicitors need to be aware and investigate during the conveyancing process: fracking.

Fracking – which is also known as hydraulic fracturing - is caused whilst extracting gas from rock during on-shore energy exploration and production. It results in earth tremors which can affect a property’s structural viability and therefore have a major impact on the value of a home. Small earthquakes have already occurred in the North West, where recent reports indicate that property values could drop by as much as 30%[1].

Chris Taylor, Product Development Director, Landmark Information Group, said:Fracking is a very real threat. As fracking will become far more widespread over coming years, it is essential that homeowners and potential homeowners are made aware by their solicitor of any plans for shale gas extraction and the impact that fracking could have on their property.

“With regards to the HS2, at present, local authorities have only identified properties within 200 metres of the proposed rail link as likely to be affected, but this isn’t a true representation. Homes a long way outside this boundary could incur increased noise and environmental nuisance during the construction period and beyond.

“It is not, however, necessarily all bad news for every homeowner living near the HS2. Many of the segments of the rail link will be underground and will, therefore, cause little or no harm at all to the nearby properties; trains will generally not be heard above ground. Many homeowners may even be considering selling their home due to a lack of detailed information. Equally, potential buyers may be discouraged from purchasing a particular home due to concerns that it will affected by HS2.

“Furthermore, homes near stations on the proposed route may in fact benefit and see their property increase in value thanks to the new and vastly improved transport links. This is why it is so important for solicitors to investigate the impact of the HS2 on a particular property in order to obtain the facts, rather than homeowners and potential homeowners assuming the worst and worrying unnecessarily.”

Clive Read, Partner, Real Estate Group of SGH Martineau LLP said: “I am aware of one homeowner whose property is within 200 metres of the proposed route and who saw the value of their home plummet following the announcement of the HS2 project. Sadly, this was not an isolated case - when the proposed HS2 route was announced in 2010/11 the value of many of my clients’ properties fell by up to 30 per cent. Many existing clients are unable to sell their properties at true market values due to the blighting effect of HS2. I have advised a number of clients on applications under the HS2 Exceptional Hardship Scheme and such applications are proving difficult - HS2 Limited has only approved approximately 20 per cent of all claims it has received.”

Chris adds: “There is still a huge amount of uncertainty for property owners who are still waiting to find out if their property will be devalued or bulldozed. While the Exceptional Hardship compensation scheme is available to people living on the proposed route of the London to Birmingham and covers all types of property, it is not available to those over the tunnelled sections of the proposed route or to those affected by fracking.”

To relieve the burden from solicitors, Landmark has launched a brand new service: The Energy and Infrastructure Report. Designed to enable homeowners or potential purchasers to make informed decisions during property transactions, the report identifies whether or not a property is likely to be affected by environmental or noise pollution caused by the proposed link and/or fracking.

Chris concludes: “Unlike the local authorities’ reports we search up to 5km from the property. The report also clarifies if the property is affected by fracking or is near the proposed new route, as well as how the route affects the property, such as by noise pollution. The report shows if the home in question lies directly in the path of the route, and whether the line is in a tunnel, in a cutting, at ground level or on a viaduct.”

Landmark’s Energy and Infrastructure Report is priced at £15 + VAT.  For more information, visit

Monday, 1 July 2013

Spending Review Focus: Government’s planned increased expenditure on infrastructure

The Government’s announcement is clearly excellent news for the industry. Following the double dip recession and the near-miss of a triple dip, this cash injection is exactly what we need to get Britain building again to help ensure we continue to compete on the world stage.

At present, our rail system falls woefully behind those on the continent and if Britain is to continue to be at the forefront of business then we simply must have the infrastructure in place to facilitate this. The investment in High Speed Two (HS2) and the commitment to shale gas extraction on a large scale will result in a tremendous boost to construction and the country’s economy.

Of course, there will be very valid concerns regarding the impact of the construction of HS2 and the potential for fracking to nearby properties and potential building sites. At present, local authorities have only identified properties within 200 metres of the proposed rail link as likely to be affected, but this isn’t a true representation. Properties a long way outside this boundary – including commercial buildings - could incur increased noise and environmental nuisance during the construction period and beyond, as well as potentially being rendered unstable due to fracking.

George Osborne has claimed that fracking is ‘environmentally safe’ and could provide ‘cheap energy’ for many years to come, however, small earthquakes have already occurred in the North West, where recent reports indicate that property values could drop by as much as 30%[1].

With the latest figures form the British Geological Survey revealing that shale gas deposits are far more widespread than previously thought, it’s clear that fracking could affect thousands of households across the country in the very near future.

Equally, a site may be considered at risk when in actual fact, it isn’t. As a result, transactions may be cancelled unnecessarily.

It is therefore vital, in order to remove the risks from property transactions, the proper checks are carried out prior to a land purchase.

Landmark’s Envirocheck Report is the industry standard desk study information service, providing professionals with fast and highly accurate environmental site assessments. Envirocheck delivers site-specific information with access to comprehensive Ordnance Survey current and historical mapping. The historical maps in the Landmark database exceed 1 million map files from 1840 to present day sourced from Ordnance Survey, Trinity College (Dublin) and the Royal Geographical Society.  The collection of Ordnance Survey maps is supplemented with RAF historical aerial photos and Russian Military Cold War mapping of the UK.  The Envirocheck Report offers a flexible solution by allowing professionals to choose the detail they need depending on their project requirements.

David Mole
Business Development Director, Environment – Land & Property
Landmark Information Group 

Information about Landmark Information Group and its Envirocheck range of services is available at