The DCLG call for evidence: 'Transparency and competition: a call for evidence on data on land control' may have a much wider impact than intended if its proposals are implemented.  The closing date for responses has just been extended until 6 November 2020.  Landowners and occupiers, as well as those involved in property development, may find it worthwhile to check what is being suggested and consider if they should respond.

The Government is concerned that local communities cannot fully understand the likely pattern of development in their area and that small builders and new market participants are disadvantaged by a lack of transparency about who has an interest in, or some form of contractual control over, land in their locality.  

The proposed solution is to require options and contracts which fit certain criteria to be noted at the Land Registry using a procedure which involves producing specific data about that contract, along with a full copy of the document which will be made publicly available on the Land Register. So neighbours, landowners, interest groups or business competitors would be able to see confidential or commercially sensitive information contained in such options, pre-emption agreements or contracts conditional on planning, in addition to the specific data the Government is seeking to extract from them. The result will be increased administration and legal costs in:

  • ascertaining if the contract is caught by the new rules and if so
  • extracting the required data and 
  • applying the Land Registry process to exempt commercially confidential parts of the contract from public inspection.

The proposed rules are widely drawn and might catch provisions in standard land contracts, easements, transfers and business leases, along with the targeted options or contracts conditional on planning for new development.  As such they could affect a wide range of landowners and occupiers and the real estate industry as a whole would be well advised to take a look.