Following a ruling that Bird & Bird had acted negligently over their clients purchase of a £26m property in Camden, London, they have lost their efforts to set aside a ruling.
I really do sympathise with 2Birds enormously and feel this is unfair. You might think it is strange that I say that, and suggest that my business has an interest in them losing. It does, but that does not change the fact that I feel 2Birds attempted to be diligent and thorough and yet have been hung out (I will tell you how this can be avoided later). I applaud every solicitor that wants to do a thorough and proper job on every case, and I really resent cheap conveyancing that does the bare minimum. This judgment punishes the former approach. I still maintain that the expansion of the school in question would not have made a jot of difference to the value of this investment property. This is proved by the fact that Elizabeth Murdoch paid £3 million more for the same property after Orientfield Holdings served a notice of rescission before completion.
This whole case hangs on the responsibility of the solicitor providing a Plansearch report to also produce a summary of its contents.
“It would not have been difficult for any non-negligent solicitor to have prepared a very brief summary of the features of the development, together with a recommendation as to what further steps were necessary to ascertain what the impact of such a development might be.”
(Extract from appeal decision)
In London, and other central locations, this can require scanning through 100 pages, or more, of planning data, the majority of which will be completely irrelevant. There may be a needle in that haystack of information and the solicitor must find it. This is made even harder when answers to pre-purchase enquires have been misleading or disingenuous.
You are a lawyer not a development expert. I don’t want my dentist advising me on legal matters. Likewise, I don’t want my solicitor to be let loose with a drill in my mouth! This is why we preach that planning data, whether it be Landmark’s Plansearch Plus or Groundsure Planning, are great but must be read by experts without interpretation.
Why should the solicitor be responsible for everything? Is that fair? No, it is not but let’s face facts, you are, so either accept it and evolve, or get out. A London client of ours said ‘I don’t practice law any more, I practice risk.’ He has nailed it.
So, let me spell out the difference between DevAssist and planning data
- Planning data is included in the cost of our reports, and we expertly go through it, not you.
- Whilst planning data is harvested DevAssist have real experts going through that data.
- Planning data reports do not investigate local policy, and SHLAA’s, HELA’s and SHELA’s (do you know what these are? you should).
- Planning data does not look to the future and expose sites with no planning history.
- Devassist will also attach evidence and images in our report of sites that may impact the property being purchased.
- Devassist will give you that vital summary and conclusion that was consistently referred to in the 2Birds appeal.
So, it’s abundantly clear for diligent solicitors that stand by their service levels that planning risk is on the agenda, so get in touch with us or contact your search provider.
Read the decision here: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2017/348.html