Michael CrossEditorWednesday 8 February 2017

Open data foundation of housing master plan

Government proposals to tackle the housing crisis include a commitment to 100% registration - and for data on ownership to be open to all

Long awaited Government proposals to tackle England’s housing crisis arre underpinned by a commitment to 100% registration - and for data on ownership to be open to all.

The idea, set out in the white paper Fixing our broken housing market, is to combat the problem of “land banking” and enable communities to find out who is likely to benefit from a development.

Necessary legislation will be introduced “at the earliest opportunity”.

The white paper, published by the Department for Communities and Local Government, proposes obliging local authorities to produce up-to-date plans on how they propose to cater for housing demand. Other proposals cover planning law, leasehold reform and making renting a home more “family friendly”.

There is also a heavy emphasis on making land ownership and interests more transparent.

Digital plan-making

At the moment, the paper states: “It can be difficult to establish the identity of all persons with an interest in land. The Government would like to make data about land ownership, control and interests more readily available to all. This will help identify land that may be suitable for housing, allow communities to play a more active role in developing plans, support digital plan-making, help new entrants to the market and offer wider benefits.”

HM Land Registry - last year spared from privatisation - is aiming to achieve comprehensive land registration by 2030, the paper states. “This will include all publicly held land in the areas of greatest housing need being registered by 2020, with the rest to follow by 2025.”

Registration “will aid better data sharing across government for the purposes of supporting development, ensuring financial stability, tax collection, law enforcement and the protection of national security”.

Alongside the improved registration of land, the Government proposes to improve the availability of data about wider interests in land. Because agreements about these interests are not recorded in a way that is transparent to the public, local communities are unable to know who stands to benefit fully from a planning permission, the paper states.

“There is the additional risk that this land may sit in a ‘land bank’ once an option has been acquired without the prospect of development," it adds.

Earliest opportunity

To open up this information, the Government will consult on improving the transparency of contractual arrangements used to control land. “Following consultation, any necessary legislation will be introduced at the earliest opportunity.”

The paper also proposes the release, free of charge, of the commercial and corporate ownership dataset, and the overseas ownership dataset.