4 top trends to watch in land and property data

09 May 2023

Fiona Barron, Chief Executive at Land Data, looks at the top trends impacting Local Land Charges Officers, Planners and other local authority teams handling land and property data, as highlighted at the 2023 Local Land Charges conference.  
1. UPRN’s really are coming! 

The momentum behind Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRNs) is building, following the mandate in July 2020 for them to be used by central government in all new systems. UPRNs and USRNs (Unique Street Reference Numbers) are authoritative, trusted and far more precise than postcodes, staying in place from the planning of a structure to the end of its use. They are allocated by Local Authorities and Ordnance Survey (OS) from a range provided by GeoPlace.  

Juliet Whitworth, Head of Research and Information at The Local Government Association called UPRNs “the Golden Thread” - easily and quickly matched to identify a property. They can save time and money by reducing duplication, aiding the identification and transfer of documents and enabling data to be easily linked across systems. A 2022 study showed that widespread adoption and use of address and street data by local authorities could generate £384m savings over the period 2022-2026, with an enhanced return on investment of 6:1. 

What can you do? Champion the use of UPRNs! While it isn’t mandated for local government to use them, pressure will build for councils to do so, given their huge efficiency-saving potential.  

2. More upfront data is needed by the home buying and selling community 

More upfront data must become available to quicken and de-stress the home buying and selling process. That was the call from Andrew Simpson at The Coal Authority and Diane Latter from the Law Society 

Diane raised how the work of Trading Standards to improve the material information supplied by estate agents when properties are listed online is gaining ground, with information on unavoidable costs such as Council Tax already being required in listings. The publication of further information on parking arrangements, building safety, outstanding works and many other areas is still in the pipeline. The aim is to help buyers decide if they even want to view a property and reduce the number of sales falling through. 

Adjacent to this, Andrew highlighted the work the Home Buying and Selling Group is currently working towards a Property Data Trust Framework which will aim to ensure that data is recorded in a standardised way and is FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable), enabling the creation of the digital, Buying and Selling Property Information (BASPI) pack. 

What can you do? Remain flexible. Expect change over the coming five years to the way data is formatted, utilised and shared. Seek out opportunities to discuss efficiencies within your council in the wake of greater digitisation and data sharing. 

3. Struggling conveyancers call for as much data as possible, as early as possible 

Nick Dyoss from the National Land Information service (NLIS) Hub raised how a lack of upfront data impacts conveyancers, who often make a loss as they are unaware of the complexity involved in a purchase, and unable to assign a conveyancer with appropriate experience. An upfront screening report would help conveyancers cost a new conveyance more accurately, improving profitability and productivity (it currently takes a conveyancer an average of 20 weeks to purchase a property, double what it was 20 years ago) 

If the work by Trading Standards is successful, it could be the seller’s conveyancer who conducts the searches to provide the information to the estate agent, not the buyer’s - reducing costs for the consumer and reducing inefficiency for the conveyancer. 

What can you do? Before upfront screening reports become a reality, keeping conveyancers aware of the likely turnaround time for a search is extremely helpful. 

4. Migration to HM Land Registry is a bonding experience! 

The migration of Local Land Charges registers from Local Authorities to HM Land Registry’s national digital service is the most significant change to local land charges since the move to electronic searches 22 years ago with the launch of the National Land Information Service. To date, 66 local authorities have migrated their registers, 99 are migrating, and 166 are yet to migrate. 

While migration to the national register is a consuming experience for the Local Authorities involved, it has also proven to be a powerful driving force for renewing and establishing relationships between neighbouring LLC teams, bringing together teams within the same council, and forging supportive partnerships with HM Land Registry delivery managers. Not to mention seriously reducing the volume of paper and microfiche!  

What can you do? For those preparing to migrate, reach out and learn from other LLC teams, talk to HM Land Registry and ask questions. Don’t hold back! 

The overarching theme? The way land and property data are used and accessed is changing, leading to greater efficiencies for local authorities and better outcomes for the consumer. Championing and steering the adoption and scope of these changes is key for Local Land Charges Officers, Planners, and other teams.  


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