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Shared Assets’ response to consultation on privatising the Land Registry

Tom Kenny

We argued that the Land Registry should remain in public ownership and be made an open and accessible resource for understanding ownership. You can download our full response here.

Our response argued that privatisation was neither advantageous, nor popular:

“In summary the Land Registry is successful, popular and trusted; it is crucial to the property market and self-financing; the uncertainty of the outcomes of privatisation with regard to access to data and the functioning of the service, for which there is no mandate either with the public or with the property professions, put at risk a sensitive area of state registration of land.”

We also argued that much greater value could be secured by opening up the Land Registry:

“The Government should retain public ownership and management of the registers, and continue the work that has already begun to remove the barriers to making as much of the data held by the Land Registry open data as possible. It could retain charges for registration and other fees, but remove them for searches. This would retain the existing benefits of a popular service, whilst greatly increasing accessibility at the expense of a very small proportion of the total revenue. Search fees are estimated to provide only 6% of the Land Registry’s income, so these could be dropped and the service would still make a profit.

Opening up, rather than privatising access to Land Registry data would:

Drive third party innovation – both in data use and land use:

The data could be used in a whole new way if it was further opened up. Currently use is generally restricted to individual record accesses due to cost concerns. Developers licenses are extremely expensive. If access to the data is opened it would allow whole new ways of analysing and building on it.

Address the housing and access to land crises by making it easier to identify, acquire and develop land. This is especially true for new entrants without the resources to commit to building up their own information sources.

Enable new, community led and common good land uses to develop, driving innovation in land use that creates local social, economic and environmental benefits.

Promote economic growth:

The Government’s own Open Data Strategystates that: “Economic Growth is the priority of the Department and we recognise that open data has an important role to play. Open data contributes directly through the economic opportunities it creates and through its role in delivering the reforms we are introducing. Whilst it is difficult to cite an exact figure because this is an emerging market, there have been a number of reports published on the value of open data to the economy. A Deloitte report (published May 2013) for example cites £1.8bn of direct benefits, £6.8bn of indirect benefits and a clear potential for significant development.”

Further research from the ODI recently suggested that open data could contribute 0.5% of GDP a year in economic value.

New community and social enterprise land uses (including the management of woodlands, parks and farmland) are creating jobs and training opportunities and creating local markets and supply chains for produce and renewable resources such as woodfuel. Improved access to land data will drive the new and emerging forms of common good land use and support the development of sustainable local economies.

Give more power to communities:

Communities have a right to know who owns the land around them, and the application of this right shouldn’t be dependent on ability to pay. We are seeing a rapid growth in interest from communities in the management of their woodlands, parks and food growing land. Frequently they are being asked to undertake new responsibilities by local authorities who are no longer able to manage these important assets themselves. However creating long term viable community land management businesses requires more than just taking over existing Council services. They frequently need to be delivering other services, and managing additional land and buildings in order to develop a sustainable business model. Easier access to land and property ownership data would make it easier for new and developing community enterprises working on limited resources to develop new sustainable management models for local land and assets.”

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