Some solicitors will have become aware of ‘land banking’ operations over recent years. For those who are not aware, these involve a company buying a plot of agricultural land, setting up a scheme to make it look as though it has development potential, and then selling ‘plots’ at a huge premium to gullible investors who are tricked into thinking the land might gain planning permission.
According to the latest government figures, the victims of such schemes have been ‘scammed’ out of around £200m. Some of the operators have gained a degree of apparent legitimacy by quoting the name of their solicitors in marketing material, and the companies will almost invariably offer the services of their solicitor to register the victim’s title (which raises an interesting question of whether the victim thereby becomes a client of the firm, with a possible cause of action against them).
As the government seems too supine to tackle the problem, I would suggest that the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Council for Licensed Conveyancers make it a disciplinary offence to act for any individual or company that is involved in such a scheme.
Michael Loveridge, solicitor, Clitheroe