Policy areas

Access to Information on Land

More and more information about land is being produced and released, and a range of valuable new applications are being found for it. Yet whilst the potential economic value of such data is well recognised, there is inadequate attention being given to how it can facilitate improved social and environmental outcomes. We think that increasing access to information on land is an achievable goal in the immediate future that is crucial to supporting common good land users.

Our new website Land Explorer displays key information on land in a simple and engaging way. Try it now for free at www.landexplorer.cc

Key issues:

  • Common good land users need a wide range of information from many sources. This includes land ownership, environmental characteristics, location, existing infrastructure, local markets, and planning processes.
  • Information on land can be expensive to access, or is not open to access at all.  Many common good land users are not aware of what free data are available, or how to access them.
  • Open datasets on land can be difficult to download and use. Websites are often complex and data is not supplied with information on how to use it.
  • Existing platforms for using data do not take into account the specific needs of common good land users.
Quality information on land is crucial to making good decisions about it. It is particularly vital to get information to groups who can use it to support social and environmental missions.

What needs to change:

Information about who owns land, where and for what purpose should be available to the public for transparency and accountability purposes.

This means government should:

  1. Follow an ‘open-by-default’ policy of making all their data open and accessible, especially to common good users.
  2. Investing in the time and resources necessary to audit and improve past open data releases
  3. Build on data release projects like #OpenDefra and build on them by creating and supporting ways of accessing the data
  4. Actively engaging users who will use data for public benefit.
  5. In particular the Land Registry should be opened up, meaning free and transparent information on land ownership.

Related projects

Further resources

  • Private Eye created an online map of land owned by companies registered abroad
  • Who Owns England is a blog by Guy Shrubsole investigating land ownership in England
  • The Ordnance Survey’s Geovation Hub, supports innovative map-based projects

Scroll down to the posts below to read the latest updates on our work in this policy area.

Want to keep up to date?

If so you can sign up to the Shared Assets newsletter for free and we'll send you an email once a month with our latest news and thoughts. Don't worry though - we'll never clog up your inbox with spam or pass your details onto other companies - we hate that stuff too.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Related publications

Research reports and publications written by the Shared Assets team

Related news and opinion

Blog articles, news and opinion pieces from the Shared Assets team

Land Explorer – our journey so far.

We’re very excited about the progress of Land Explorer; our software platform that helps you find, access and manage land.

With development continuing to go from strength to strength and our first minimum viable product (MVP) soon to be launched, our Digital Coordinator, Julian Thompson talks about his story and that of Land Explorer.

Read more

Land Explorer update launches in 2018

After a successful trial of a prototype in 2017 using DEFRA data to map land types, agricultural classification, soil, flood risk and sites of special scientific interest, Land Explorer is being expanded and updated for 2018.

Read more

Launching Land Explorer

We’re delighted to introduce you to our new website, Land Explorer. Land Explorer uses maps and open data to help you find the information you need to understand the land around you. Try it now for free at www.landexplorer.uk.

Read more

Opening up the Land Registry – a letter to Greg Clark

Accessible information on ownership is crucial to making land work for everyone. We recently brought together a broad coalition of organisations interested in opening up the Land Registry. There was a real thirst for change, and as the first step we have sent a joint letter to the Minister responsible for the Land Registry.

Read more

(Data)diving for land data treasure

Shared Assets and DataKind got together 20 volunteer data scientists to explore how land data could help Ecological Land Coop find a new site. Here’s the story of the day

Read more

What information do land-based social pioneers need?

Is it possible for a single platform to give land-based projects the key information they need about the land around them? Our latest project aims to answer this question, and to find a way to increase access to data for common good land users.

Read more

Democratising Land Data

“If we want people to play a bigger part in our society, we need to give them the information.” Despite these words from David Cameron in 2010, lack of accessible data about land remains a problem. In this blog we explain why we think access to land data is such an important issue for land based social enterprise and explore some ways in which it might be improved. Let us know what you think.

Read more

We love to explore and discuss land-use topics, so don't be shy - join us online and let us know all about your ideas and issues!