Government launches consultation over land control transparency measures

land control agreements across England

Government proposals to improve transparency over land control agreements across England and Wales have been put to the public for their views as part of a new consultation.

The “Contractual controls on land” consultation, which was launched by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in late-January, brings forward plans to create a more transparent picture of contractual arrangements relating to land through the collection of data on land agreements via the Land Registry. In turn this will enable the  construction and distribution of datasets to government and private organisations.

This will be made possible from the mandatory registration of key terms from land control agreements such as parties, agreement-types, expiry dates and extension terms.

The main aim of the proposals is stated to be the provision of standardised data to reduce the time and cost of site identification and assessment by both local planning teams and developers, as well as helping communities to better understand the likely path of development in their area.

A further main driver will be the enabling of software companies to develop spatial mapping products and search products for developers, promoters and other end-users.

It does, however, create several areas for discussion for the development industry, as the proposals in their present form would result in previously confidential  and commercially sensitive information entering the public realm.

In addition, the consultation refers to criminal liabilities being imposed for failures to provide timely or accurate information to the Land Registry and retrospective application of the regulations requiring promoters and developers to review and register all agreements exchanged since 2021.

The consultation is as interesting for what it does not seek to include in the proposed transparency measures: it specifically does not include overage agreements which are likely to have significant impacts on the costs of acquisition and land prices and which are similarly lacking in transparency and traceability as land contracts at the present time.

Rebecca Dixon, Legal Director in the Thrings Development of Land team, said: “The proposals address the perceived problems surrounding land-banking and a lack of information as to the land under the control of developers.

“However, the consultation paper itself asks consultees to point out unintended consequences that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has not considered, and we would strongly encourage those involved in land ownership or the development industry to read the consultation paper and respond.

“We would encourage those concerned with the plans outlined in the consultation to have their say and to keep an active eye on how policy and controls could change in the coming months and years off the back of this consultation. By taking legal advice on the changes, it will also help them keep up-to-date on how it could impact their businesses.”

To find out more about the consultation and to make a submission, visit the consultation page.

The Thrings Development of Land team are experienced specialists in all aspects of the built environment, working with landowners, developers and businesses. To find out how they can assist in the success of your development project, please get in touch.

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