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Land Registry commits to autumn open data expansion

Neil Merrett Published 17 February 2017

Information sets for commercial, corporate and oversees property ownership to be opened up later in 2017 as efforts continue to set out new five year data and digital strategy for organisation

 

As it prepares to publish two new sets of information later this year as open data, the Land Registry has said it reviewing where else it can broaden access to its data as it moves to finalise a new five year business strategy.

Serving as a non-ministerial department that records property owners in England and Wales, the Land Registry is committed to releasing two data sets relating to commercial and corporate ownership, as well as overseas ownership information as open data by autumn 2017.  Further sets could then follow.

“We will be looking at our portfolio of data assets to determine which additional datasets we could make available as open data in the future,” said a spokesperson for the organisation.

The organisation is also looking to set out a new five year strategy with a focus on digital and data reforms.  Last year’s Autumn Statement committed to modernise the Land Registry in order to maximise its value to the UK economy without the need for significant Treasury investment.

Expansion of its open data commitments is expected to be part of these ongoing aims.

The commitments have been made after the government opted to keep the Land Registry as a public sector body following a consultation looking at potential models for its privatisation.  The privatisation plans came under criticism at the time from MPs, the Open Data Institute (ODI) and campaign groups over concerns about the potential restrictions of vital information from wider public access and use.

However, after pledging to keep the non-ministerial department in the public sector, the organisation is now looking at further expanding open data commitments , while also undertaking a consultation - launched this month - focused around developing digital alternatives for registration and conveyancing services.

Open for responses until April 5, the consultation will focus on proposals including linking Land Registry services with the GOV.UK Verify identity assurance platform, while also committing to building and sharing application programming interfaces (APIs).  This plan is intended to allow stakeholders to feed data directly into electronic mortgage documents, while allowing systems to access and use Land Registry data to inform their own documentation.

Responding to the Land Registry’s plans to open up two new data sets later this year, the Open Data Institute (ODI) said it welcomed the commitments that would support key objectives of a recent white paper focused on housing policy.

Peter Wells, policy associate for the ODI, said that any efforts to open up further information held by the Land Registry, albeit it with respect to wider privacy commitments, would serve to inform better policy making around housing.

This would include planning for offices, schools and hospitals, as well as issues such as choosing a conveyancing agent when buying or selling homes or deciding if a leasehold offered good value,

“This innovation and improved services will continue to unlock the economic value of open data,” said Wells. “It will be a significant boost to GDP. Making the data open could help Land Registry explore new methods of maintaining it, making it easier to deliver the vision of a comprehensive, and accurate, registry.”

Wells noted that the Land Registry has previously published a data set on overseas ownership last year, albeit it with a restrictive licence due to its use of Ordnance Survey data, a potential challenge that could hamper future efforts.

“Government needs to overcome these silos and old business models to make the data open," he added.

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