What next for land market transparency?

As regular readers of this blog will know, Shelter has been campaigning for several years now for the Government to bring together and open up the huge amount of data collected on land and property. The Housing White Paper signalled the Government’s intention to take this further, with aims such as completing the Land Registry and releasing key datasets on corporate and commercial ownership and foreign ownership. And both the Conservative and Labour Party manifestos committed to greater transparency, with Labour promising to ‘make ownership of land more transparent’, and the Conservatives proposing the creation of ‘a comprehensive geospatial data body … the largest repository of open land data in the world’.

As the dust settles from an unexpected election result, it was encouraging to hear that these ideas are still alive at an event last week on ‘Digitising our Land’, hosted by the Future Cities Catapult and addressed by Mark Prisk MP.

Mr Prisk described a ‘true repository’ of open land data as bringing together information on location, ownership, rights, restraints, and values, all in one place. If we get this right – with his definition of ‘right’ as making the data available, accessible, and comparable – the opportunities are immeasurable. This is exactly what Shelter argued in our 2016 briefing, ‘The case for greater land market transparency’. From enabling technological innovation to helping SME builders find sites to build new homes, improving the homebuying experience for consumers to helping local authorities plan more proactively – there are myriad benefits to be had, as long as the data is released in the right way.

It’s clear that there’s real appetite to make progress on this – and cross-party support will hopefully aid the passage of any legislation which may be needed to make this vision a reality. The first steps are already being taken: last week, the Land Registry released its Annual Report and Accounts, setting out its plans and priorities for its upcoming digital overhaul. It was also announced that the Land Registry would join Ordnance Survey at the Geovation Hub, a London based location-data lab. This strategic partnership will support the wide range of organisations currently making use of the Hub’s resources.

There will of course be various interests who are less supportive of these proposals – but disruption is already on its way, as is evidenced by the numerous exciting new organisations who have built their businesses around filling in the gaps that have existed thus far. It’s now time for the Government to take the lead in enabling this transformation of our national approach to land and property data, and Shelter looks forward to supporting this exciting new work.