What is an Environmental Search?

In property transactions, we will carry out numerous searches to reveal information about the land which is important for a buyer to know. One of the searches we carry out is called an Environmental Search.

This search can reveal information about many aspects of the land but focuses on the following points:

  • Contaminated land;
  • Flooding;
  • Energy and infrastructure;
  • Ground stability;
  • Radon.

Contaminated land

This section of the search informs you as to whether or not the land shows a risk of contamination. Contaminated land would have substances which are or are capable of causing harm to the property or living beings nearby. This can be a result of pollution, waste or contaminative activity. The results of this are very important as if the land is contaminated, it will need to be determined who must remedy the issue.

There are two groups of people responsible for remediation, Class A and Class B.

Class A persons are those who caused/permitted the relevant contaminations, however, situations will arise where the Class A person cannot be found. In these circumstances, liability lies with Class B, the current owner of the land. Hence why we carry the search out prior to you purchasing the land – if an issue is found, we can ask the seller to resolve this or take out an appropriate insurance policy.


This section will let you know if there is any risk of river, canal and/or surface level flooding. Most of the time, the results of this section are not of major concern. This is because most properties in the UK have drainage systems in place and in more serious situations, local authorities will send a team to drain the water.

If any risk is identified, we will ask the seller to confirm whether or not they have experienced any such issues or any difficulties with obtaining insurance.

Energy and Infrastructure

This section identifies whether within the vicinity of the property there are any major railway works, energy exploration, wind farms, solar farms, etc…

The most common factor identified under this section will be that HS2, Crossrail 1 or Crossrail 2 are within the vicinity. Very rarely do the results of this section result in concerns – it is more for your knowledge and understanding.

Ground Stability

Ground stability essentially explains how ‘strong’ the ground is in the area. This section highlights any man-made or natural stability concerns. Man-made factors would relate to whether or not any areas within the vicinity is or have been subject to things such as mining rights. Natural concerns relate to geological factors such as what material the ground is made of and any plate movements.
As a potential buyer, when visiting the property you should look out for any signs of property damage (such as cracking) as this would indicate poor natural conditions.
If any risks are identified, we will ask the seller’s to confirm whether or not they have experienced any such issues or any difficulties with obtaining insurance.


Radon is a gas which occurs naturally in rocks and soil. As there is no taste, colour or smell associated with the gas, you will not be aware to exposure without investigation. Many gases are harmless, however, Radon is radioactive and therefore exposure in high levels increases the risk of developing lung cancer.
This section will notify you if the property is within a Radon affected area and whether any protection measures need to be taken. You will also have the option of investigating the property further yourself and obtaining a report with recommendations for the property and then discuss any recommendations with the seller before purchasing the property.

As legal advisors we are not qualified to interpret or express an opinion on the outcome of the Search but for lending purposes we are required to ensure that the Search has been endorsed “Certificate” by an environmental consultant.

What next?

These searches will usually be carried out prior to exchanging contracts. This means that when you receive the results, you are under no obligation to complete the purchase.

You have the option to:

  • Purchase the property subject to any risks identified (you can remedy these once you have become the owner);
  • Discuss with the seller how you would like for these to be remedied and purchase the property after any necessary works have been actioned;
  • Abort the purchase.

Get in touch