As the Harrow Land Registry office shuts, the nearest over-the-counter services are in Stevenage and Croydon. IAN PROCTOR discovers the history of the branch and what people can expect to face in the years to come
HARROW'S Land Registry office shut last Friday after serving the public for 45 years and providing hundreds of jobs for local residents.
The branch, in Lyon Road, once had 750 employees at its peak but as a result of retirement, redundancies and relocation in the run-up to the closure, just 80 remained on its last day.
Four years ago, the Land Registry revealed its plan to scrap the location as part of a 'planned programme to reduce our office space'.
Will Stoodley, branch chairman for the Public and Commercial Services union between 2007 and 2009, said he and his colleagues had fought to try to prevent that happening right up to the end.
He said: "It's a very sad day for Harrow. It has served the community since 1965."
The Harrow District Land Registry started business in the middle of a snowstorm in April of that year with the purpose of serving the boroughs north of the River Thames. Its equivalent for south London was, and remains for the time being, in Croydon.
One hundred and twenty tons of furniture and records were brought from other departmental sites - largely Lincoln Inn's Fields in central London - comprising a total of
453,000 individual files.
In a letter to Hume Boggis-Rolfe in the Lord Chancellor's Office, Chief Land Registrar Theodore Ruoff wrote: "There were one or two snags,
the principal one being that there was failure, probably attributable to the manufacturers, to supply the uprights to hold the horizontal parts of all the racking.
"The consequence of the failure is that we have tens of thousands of files stacked on the floor so that the constant daily access thereto is a most inconvenient and difficult operation."
By the time the Land Registry's newsletter threw the spotlight on the Harrow office in 1988, some of the boroughs lying in its geographical remit had been transferred to Swansea or Stevenage offices. The workload, however, was reportedly the same as almost 25 years earlier, despite looking after files for an area only a third of the size.
As a precursor to Friday's closure, customers were blocked from submitting new applications for things like leaseholds at Harrow from April 1, 2008, while administrative functions continued.
But the impact now is much greater, with the complete absence of a north London regional HQ, said Mr Stoodley.
"If you want over-the-counter services, the nearest place will be Stevenage or Croydon."
He said former Harrow staff who were asked to transfer to Stevenage and Croydon to save their jobs felt deceived when, in October last year, the Land Registry said it was proposing to close its Croydon office by March 2011 and the sister site in Stevenage by September 2011.
"If the Land Registry close them, the closest office will be Coventry," Mr Stoodley explained.
"The Land Registry argues that the DVLA is able to process records in Swansea and the Inland Revenue processes stuff in the north-east but we would say if you have a problem with title deeds, have a fence boundary enquiry or want to put children on a leasehold, you'll have to go to see someone personally at Coventry.
"If there's a problem with property ownership, you can't just complete a form.
"The union is fighting tooth and nail to get this decision reversed."