Introducing: The Ground Report

11th September 2018

Terrafirma launches pioneering new report to improve understanding and management of the risks the ground poses.

Terrafirma, an expert provider of environmental information and data intelligence, today launched The Ground Report, a risk and liabilities report designed to enable property professionals to better identify, manage and resolve ground and environmental hazards. The Ground Report satisfies recent new best practice guidance on mining and natural ground perils, published by The Law Society in the 25th Edition Conveyancing Law Handbook.

A turning point for environmental reports

Terrafirma has grown into one of the UK's most trusted providers of mining, ground and environmental information. Now undertaking several hundred property risk assessments a day, Terrafirma has been at the forefront of positively disrupting, advancing and enabling the innovation of environmental and mining reports in the property sector. The businesses deep-rooted ambition to enable change and innovation has allowed Terrafirma to forge strong relationships and collaborate with the best of the best across the UK's business, data and legal sectors, working together to advance professionals and the public's understanding of our environment. In the last 12 months, Terrafirma has achieved the CON29M status, becoming the first 'Report Producer' of the official CON29M Coal Mining Report in the process.

The achievement of becoming the first commercial company in England and Wales to produce an official CON29M legal form was born from Terrafirma's unique view on environmental risk assessment. Data is not a response, but an ingredient within our advanced technology-driven processes. The team of geologists, environmental and computer scientists, supported by our expert Advisory Panel and industry partners focuses on the understanding of the data, applying intelligent hazard models and risk analysis to produce our unique logic-based rules engine. It is this innovative rules engine that drives the generation of the official Terrafirma CON29M and now, the flagship product, the Ground Report.

Introducing: The Ground Report

Including expert professional opinion, risk assessment and risk transfer, the Ground Report uses data-driven technology solutions to model and intelligently analyse the potential impact of all man-made and natural ground perils on property and land purchases, mortgage lending and development activity.

Using the unique UserKey, the Ground Report translates the risk from all mining activity, subsidence, sinkholes, radon, fracking, mineral planning activity and many more ground perils to enable property purchasers and property professionals alike to better understand the ground. Additionally, and following Terrafirma becoming the first commercial company to be licensed to produce the CON29M legal form, the Ground Report includes an integrated official Terrafirma CON29M (2018).

Furthermore, in an industry first, the Ground Report includes expert evidence-based modelling, not only assessing the risk of a potential hazard, but intelligently analysing a ‘proof of movement’ database, that includes over 120,000 investigated subsidence claims and almost 10,000 sinkholes. The unique ‘Ground Movement’ module also includes ‘never seen before’ space data from our partner CGG’s InSAR data from Sentinel-1 satellite.

“The many and varied physical, financial and legal risks associated with the ground have now been recognised as an environmental issue, comparable to the problems posed by contaminated land and flood. This is reflected in the recent new changes to best practice, which Terrafirma were able to support the development of. Natural and man-made ground perils present a very potent threat to properties and it’s essential that property purchasers and property professionals alike are armed with all of the information in order to make an informed decision,” explains Tom Backhouse, CEO and Founder of Terrafirma. “Using innovative data-driven and satellite-based technology, the Ground Report translate complex environmental issues into dynamic next steps and a now market-recognised and trusted expert professional opinion to ensure the necessary parties are fully informed and are supported by terms and conditions containing £10 million professional indemnity per report, ensuring that all liabilities are transferred from the solicitor or purchaser to Terrafirma.”

The Ground Report includes all of the below:

  • An integrated official Terrafirma CON29M (2018), as licensed by The Law Society

Integrated seamlessly into the overall report, the official CON29M is clearly summarised on the front page and uses the the Ground Reports unique UserKey to easily translate the 11 questions into next steps, where necessary. The CON29M (2018) includes the full question set and expert interpretation and professional opinion also found within the standalone report. For an additional £10, property professionals can upgrade from a standalone official CON29M to The Ground Report, which includes in full, the Terrafirma CON29M.

  • All other mining searches (e.g. metals, limestone, chalk, gypsum, clay, brine)

The Ground Report removes any doubt and ensures comprehensive due diligence by providing all known mining searches in one single report. As an example, there is no longer a requirement to order a Limestone, Brine, Coal and Metal Mining Search in the West Midlands (all recommended under best practice), instead purchasing the Ground Report to cover all mining hazards. Utilising a database of over 10 million data points, the report identifies the historical mining activity of over 60 minerals in every county in England, Wales and Scotland.

New best practice on mining and ground perils in the Conveyancing Handbook now recognises additional mining activities that should be investigated in the property purchase process, all of which are covered expertly in The Ground Report.

  • An advanced Tin mining Search in Cornwall

In Cornwall, the Ground Report represents the best of both worlds, mixing class-leading digital mapping and data analysis with on-the-ground experience and expertise from Cornwall Consultants Ltd.

128000 mining searches over the last 27 years (more than any other mining search provider in existence), a formidable mining archive of historic plans and records and observations from over 6000 on-site investigations have been expertly modelled and translated into the unique Ground Report rules engine. Terrafirma and Cornwall Consultants have analysed this vast amount of information and formulated a delivery process that is rapid and reliable, providing the highest quality information possible on each and every property and surpassing all existing locally or nationally produced mining searches in terms of precision, interpretation and coverage for both detail and professional liability.

  • Expert professional opinion on natural clay-related subsidence, assessing not only British Geological Survey data but pioneering university soil models

Until now, natural subsidence (often associated with the seasonal shrinking and swelling of clay soils) has been limited to the reproduction of British Geological Survey (BGS) GeoSure. The GeoSure dataset has historically been well recognised as the only available risk matrix for natural ground hazards, however, this has now changed. And with the increasing risk of natural subsidence, in a changing climate with more extreme weather patterns, it is now essential to obtain the full picture from an expert.

Terrafirma have collaborated with Cranfield University to model and process not only the GeoSure dataset but the pioneering soil and Natural Peril data that the university holds. The NPD is already a trusted source of information for many of the UK's largest insurance companies, however, up until now has not been used in property purchase or mortgage lending. The data is complex and requires expert interpretation that only the geologists at Terrafirma and Cranfield can apply effectively.

The Ground Report models not only the full licensed BGS GeoSure dataset but also the Cranfield NPD, ensuring that a property professional cannot obtain a more accurate or more comprehensive subsidence risk assessment from any other environmental search. By combining the two datasets and applying our rules engine and professional opinion, Terrafirma have been able to significantly increase the pass rate from 50% to greater than 80% for property transactions across England and Wales.

  • State of the Art and 'Never seen before' satellite-derived Surface Deformation data analysed in our expert evidence-based models.

Evidence is key. Environmental searches have historically been focused on the assessment of a potential risk, a hypothesis that is very rarely based on proof or the querying of data, which if not interpreted can provide untold issues for property purchase and development. The same could also be said for historical Terrafirma reports and although the assessment was based on expertise and interpretative data analysis, there was a missing piece of the puzzle.

Terrafirma have forged relationships with the companies and data providers that through their business activities, have obtained a vast database of ground movement evidence. One of these companies is CGG NPA, who Terrafirma have worked relentlessly with to model and process Sentinel Satellite-1 Surface Deformation (InSAR) data. Terrafirma are proud to to be the worlds first company to commercialise this data in property risk reports, simplifying and presenting the data in the new Ground Report.

  • All known Natural Ground Perils, including slope stability, running sands, sinkholes and erosion

Natural Ground Perils are diverse and numerous, however, the extent of their impact is often small. Certain locations can be at risk from soluble rock (such as Ripon) or from slope stability (such as Ystradfellte) and where the risk is great enough, can significantly impact both the value and enjoyment of a property.

The Ground Report ensures the purchaser and the lender are fully informed by covering all known and potential natural ground perils, across the whole of England, Wales and Scotland. The unique SinkholeALERT, the largest independent sinkhole database in the UK now contains over 9000 records and is updated weekly.

  • Mineral planning and oil and gas extraction activity (including Fracking)

The physical risk of ground instability, posed by historical mining is not the only potential impact of the re-emerging industry. Current and future extraction activities can pose a threat to the enjoyment of the property and increasingly, to its value. Studies by our partner university (Bristol) have shown that properties within 1km of active Fracking can decrease in price by up to 14% and with the industry an increasing unknown, it is important to gain an accurate representation of mineral extraction in the area.

The Ground Report utilises a vast database of property, land and mineral extraction information to provide the purchaser with an up-to-date and reliable report on the nearest activity and guidance on next steps or further investigation.

Comprehensive information on the risk of radon exposure

Radon is well known but very poorly understood environmental issue. Guidance on the natural ground gas has existed within Conveyancing Handbook for over 20 years, however, assessment of the risk of radon exposure has not changed, despite the potential new data and technologies available.

Using the teams expertise on environmental issues, The Ground Report simplifies the information provided on Radon, providing dynamic next steps and reliable advice for the purchaser.

  • Assure (2018)

To coincide with the release of the Ground Report, the Terrafirma Assure is being enhanced and updated to reflect the addition of more granular mining areas and all natural ground perils. Assure is the direct opposite of the Ground Report and is made available to property professionals when a property or Site is located outside of 'Affected Areas'. These 'Affected Areas' are defined in the 25th Edition Conveyancing Handbook and were created by Terrafirma using licensed British Geological Survey and Coal Authority datasets.

The Assure (2018) has been re-designed and now clearly presents the type of hazard identified and whether a Ground Report is required. If no hazards are found, Assure includes Terrafirma's Terms and Conditions, carrying £10 million per claim per Assure and ensures 100% risk transfer from the property professional to Terrafirma.

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Terrafirma Ground Report Features

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Terrafirma Ground Report Headers

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Blog written by Danny Powell-Thomas

Contact the team for more information and advice

Tel: 0330 900 7500