As land boundary mapping specialists, we’re often asked how our services tie with the Registers of Scotland (RoS) procedures and requirements.
In Scotland, solicitors and estate agents are responsible for the submission of suitable plans to the Register of Scotland.
But what makes a plan "suitable"?
As a professional mapping firm, Aura are regularly asked whether we can produce title deed plans that clearly represent the described legal extent of a deed in its relative location to ensure that the plan is "suitable" for registration.
In this article, we address some questions that have arisen, linking them directly with common issues encountered during first registration of plans through the Land Registration etc (Scotland) Act 2012.
Defined Boundaries: imaginary or invisible lines.
Q: Defined boundaries alluded to in historical plans can sometimes be imaginary or invisible lines that were agreed at some time between concerned parties. These do not follow features or boundary lines and are not shown on Ordnance Survey mapping. How can you map these boundaries if you cannot see where they physically lie?
A: Provided there is at least some reference to the position of defined boundary lines in historic title deeds or that they are shown on the title plan (even if it is not precise), we will use our software to investigate positioning with reasonable confidence, marking our understanding of where they should lie clearly on a professional plan. Invariably with older titles, determination of boundaries involves close examination and plotting of natural features such as burns, marshes or hills that may have been in common opinion, boundaries. Where uncertainties still exist, evidence of possession is the next point-of-call for us. We will map artificial features - such as boundary stones or fences - to ensure that all possibilities are captured in order for a conclusion to be drawn.
Physical boundaries that do not coincide with the Legally Defined Extent.
Q: Physical boundaries that denote the “occupied” extent are not always coincident with described boundaries. In many cases, boundary structures can suffer movement: for example, if a hedge is left untended it might take root where it touches the ground and become very wide, making its original line hard to discern. So even if it is clear that the boundary once ran along the hedge, identifying this boundary on the ground may become very difficult. How can Aura discern the position of these boundaries?
A: We use the latest in measurement technology. So, when we measure a boundary - be it a hedge, wall or fence – we will plot the outer, inner, and centre of the feature on our maps. This means that in the office we can investigate and plot all possibilities to determine the most likely legal position of the boundary in question. So if the extent of a property is "bounded by" or "enclosed with" the a described feature, we'll be sure to depict the legal position accurately.
Our mapping and investigation services also mean that we can quickly identify if, and how far, the boundary has moved - this methodology being used to resolve numerous disputes or to submit an accurate plan to the Registers of Scotland.
In the case of dispute, professional survey involvement might be the effective means to identify boundary locations from existing legal documentation. When a wall or fence is to be constructed on, or even nearby, the boundary line, the consent of both proprietors is necessary to prevent the structure being considered an encroachment. Aura can physically mark out the true position of legal boundaries on the ground, enabling a physical boundary to be re-positioned or constructed in the right place when a dispute is resolved.
Registration of plans on Ordnance Survey maps.
Q: We often find that the boundaries shown on Ordnance Survey maps differ to those shown in historical plans meaning that first registration can be rejected due to overlap, discrepancies, or inaccuracies. How does Aura deal with inaccuracies in Ordnance Survey data that cause issues during registration?
A: In our experience, features shown on Ordnance Survey maps are rarely depicted accurately. This is a concern as many plans are currently being submitted with errors in what they show, leading to rejections or potential issues in the future. If there is a discrepancy, the first step should be an on-site comparison between occupational boundaries described on the Ordnance Map and those that actually exist on site.
When we map the physical boundaries around a property (usually the occupied extent) to millimetre accuracy, we often find that the extent depicted by Ordnance Survey data is a long way from matching what actually exists on the ground. Our aim is to then produce a plan that enables rectification of Ordnance Survey data for unobstructed registration of the plan.
In cases where Plans Reports have been requested or issued, we can quickly and efficiently address reported discrepancies or inaccuracies. We then work directly with solicitors – coming to the firms office - to lead the way to a solution. In cases, we have enabled halted sales to be concluded within days: proceeding without professional survey involvement could have led to weeks or even months of delay.
Positioning of legal boundaries when historical plans are unclear.
Q: Can you determine the position of legal boundaries if historical plans are insufficiently clear?
A: Once we have been appointed, we conduct a measured survey of all existing physical boundaries denoting "occupied extent" and all areas indicated to be the legal extent. Our state of the art mapping equipment that enables us to determine the Global Position of any point along a boundary. We will then digitally re-create historic legal title plans and overlay them upon our accurate map. This enables us to assess the accuracy of existing plans, the position of existing features, and the exact position of the legal boundaries that have not been marked by a fence, wall, or hedge. If discrepancies between the occupied extent and the legal extent exist, our report will describe where these have stemmed from so that solicitors and legal parties can proceed with confidence.
Plan Production for Boundary Agreements.
Q: Most of the plans we submit show the general position of boundaries according to the Ordnance Survey. On occasions where an owner might require something more precise, perhaps in the case of dispute, can your plans be used for a boundary agreement application?
A: Yes. We take accuracy very seriously and the equipment we use means that we can report the global coordinate of every point around a boundary so that there is no ambiguity surrounding its position. Our plans clearly show the agreed legal extent of a property and include the precise coordinates of all boundaries.
In sum, land boundary matters can be challenging for all parties involved. Because we treat boundary matters as an on-site investigation, drawing information from all resources available and bringing them together, we can reach informed conclusions quickly. We act on appointment of solicitors as support to resolving difficult boundary matters. Our findings are always presented as a concise report to enable sales to conclude or boundary matters to be resolved as effectively as possible.