News &
opinion

5 reasons everyone needs better information on land use

Tom Kenny

Information on land is crucial to ensure transparency, understand power structures, ensure good land use, and support a 21st Century economy. We want to make sure land data is accessible to everyone.

The first version of Land Explorer was primarily designed for people involved in managing land for the common good. Quality information on land is particularly important for these individuals since it can make or break their nascent projects. However, information on land is also important for a far wider range of users, including the general public.

So why is information on land so important? Here are five of the most important reasons:

  1. Transparency: Land data can play a crucial role in helping the public identify the misuse of land and property. It makes it easier to uncover improper use of land, such as where land ownership is associated with dodgy tax dealings or even outright corruption. Private Eye’s map of land owned by companies registered abroad is a great example of this, bringing to light a number of examples of land being registered in tax havens. The government recently pledged to collect information on land options and beneficial ownership. This could add to an increasing body of data allowing the public to hold landowners to account.
  2. Illuminating power structures: Land ownership and control has been the main source of power, wealth and influence in the UK for the last 1000 years. Increasing access to information on who owns our country will give the public a clearer understanding of where power lies today. Previous attempts to record and communicate patterns of land ownership have led to major public demand for land reform. The excellent Who Owns England blog is making a new attempt, and we are planning to incorporate more ownership data into Land Explorer.
  3. Enriching and protecting the environment: Flood and drainage data can help us understand where natural flood management is needed. Climate data can help us understand changing weather patterns, and project how conditions will change for particular areas. Biodiversity data can inform people about the endangered species in their area. All of this data can inspire people to take positive actions to improve their local environment.
  4. Planning land use: Our research found that land-based social enterprises need land data to inform planning applications. However this information is also important for communities engaging in land use planning on a larger scale. The planning system provides several opportunities for communities to feed into policy directly, especially through Neighbourhood Planning Forums. Land data could play a key role in making sure these opportunities can be taken, to shape the land use communities desire.
  5. Contributing to data infrastructure: Data makes up a key part of 21st Century infrastructure, and land data is a key part of this. This information plays an important role in tackling the housing crisis, facilitating productive land-based business and enabling the public to make informed decisions. The Open Data Institute argues that data infrastructure must be trustworthy, and directed towards meeting the needs of society. All our campaigning, and work on Land Explorer is aimed at encouraging this.

We’ve collected some of the most interesting information on land in an open spreadsheet (new submissions welcome), and are exploring turning this into a wiki. We also set up Land Explorer, to increase access to information on land. We have many plans for incorporating more information and reaching a wider range of people. We also want to make Land Explorer a common resource for other social mapping projects. If you have any comments or suggestions, please get in touch.

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