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Posted by: dezrezsysadmin - Wednesday, October 11th, 2017
You might not think that the mining of shale gas is something you need to be worried about if you are moving home, but if the property you are buying is in an area where fracking has been authorised, there are a number of things you should think about before proceeding, as fracking can have an impact on house prices and on the saleability of your new home in future.
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as ‘fracking’ is a process that is used to extract natural gas and oil from shale rock. It involves injecting a combination of water, sand and chemicals into the ground at high pressure. This breaks the shale rocks underground and allows the gas and oil to be released to flow to the head of a well.
Not only does fracking involve the injection of chemicals into the ground, it uses huge amounts of water. Both of these have potentially significant environmental consequences. For the home buyer, the main concerns are the release of chemicals – often toxic – into the ground and water courses, and the creation of contaminated waste water reservoirs close to fracking sites. Anecdotal evidence from the USA, where fracking has been happening since the 1990s, suggests that fracking can result in dust settling inside homes, and of the strong chemical smells which cause headaches and nausea. Whether there are other health risks remains to be seen. It’s also worth mentioning that a test fracking operation in Blackpool was suspended in 2011 after earth tremors occurred during drilling.
Given these mounting concerns, it’s easy to see how house prices can be affected if a fracking operation is planned in the vicinity of a residential area. If future searches show up fracking in the area, it will also affect the saleability of property should you wish to move on in future.
In theory, an energy company would be trespassing if it ‘fracked’ the land directly below your home. However, the UK Government owns the shale gas wherever it is, and grants licenses for companies to explore and extract it. If it comes to it and you do not consent to fracking under your property, the energy company can apply for rights of access to the land under your home. You are compensated on the same basis as in a compulsory purchase – but while compensation is available, it amounts to very little. The fracking takes place below ground and you are not expected to use this part of the land. This is reflected in any compensation you might receive.
Your conveyancer will carry out searches in respect of the property you are planning to buy. These are a vital part of the conveyancing process, and an important aspect of the job your conveyancer will do for you. These include environmental and mining searches and will reveal if the property you are buying is in an area where fracking is taking place – or may take place in the future. The government has already licensed applications for exploration of 37,000 square metres of land. While planning permission is needed for operations to start, it would be unwise to assume that permission won’t be granted. Here at Dezrezlegal, we take the possibility of fracking very seriously, and always commission environmental and mining searches to establish the position relating to every property we are instructed to purchase.
If you do go ahead with a purchase in an area where fracking has been licensed – or is licensed in future, and your property drops in value, you are unlikely to receive compensation for this. Aside from the limited compensation you might receive if fracking is to take place directly below your property, it will simply be a matter of waiting to see what happens. It may be that the fracking does not bring with it the problems that are anticipated. Those involved in the UK have suggested that they will adopt a more stringent approach than in the USA and will make sure operations are safe and don’t impact on those living in the area. If this is the case, any dip in property prices may recover – but you may not want to take that risk.
Purchasing a house is a big investment and you need to be sure, as far as possible, that you are putting your money into a property that won’t be blighted by activities such as fracking. The legal aspects of buying a home can be confusing, but it’s vital to get it right. Searches are an important part of this – as is a comprehensive structural survey. While you are responsible for instructing a surveyor, your conveyancer should carry out a comprehensive set of searches on your behalf, so that you can buy with confidence.
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