Land Insight ready for lift off

Of the 250 businesses that applied, only 5 were selected to participate in Europe’s first property technology accelerator, Pi Labs. We were really pleased to be accepted and now we’re over the moon to announce that we’re the first to receive follow on funding. The funding allows us to grow our business faster, as well as having access to a wealth of experience with our investors having made early stage investments in Zoopla, Lovefilm and, recently, eMoov among many others.

Our company is tackling one of fundamental problems holding back the UK housing market: transparency of land information. It is simply too hard to find and assess land with the potential for housing and this slows down development. So we built Land Insight, which provides easy access to land and property data as well as providing a suite of features to extract the value. Currently, the data we use is spread all around the web, locked up in silos; it is difficult to extract and interpret. We use cutting edge technology to aggregate it, making sense of the patterns we find within it and serving it up in a way that anyone can understand.

The result is the ability to assess any piece of land for its viability for housing; the ability to locate new sites and, ultimately, create competitive advantage and huge business efficiencies.

If you’re not already on our mailing list, sign-up now. We’re inviting more people onto the platform as we expand our data coverage. Make sure you are on the list to wait inline for an invite.

Land Insight is hiring a Senior Back-End Engineer in London

Land Insight is a new web app for kick-starting property developments by tackling one of the biggest problems house builders have – buying land. The app was made in direct response to the UK housing crisis where unaffordable housing is having a real impact on the cost of living, especially in the South East of England.

The graphs below highlight just how serious the housing situation is.

2 Graphs - House prices Vs earnings, supply & demandsource: UK housing: The £24bn property puzzle

Due to the potential impact our product can make in bringing transparency, equality and land(!) to the home building industry, the company is gaining momentum with a growing customer base, recent investment and staff recruitment. It is as simple as this: to enable a new generation of house builders, we need great tech to help make decisions on what land to buy. We crunch huge datasets to provide the best information and we serve it up on beautifully made maps.

We’re currently hiring a senior back-end developer and an intern/graduate to be based in Central London. Our tech stack is predominantly JavaScript (Node.js) and MongoDB.

If this sounds interesting to you, tell us about yourself and why you’d like to join our mission. Email jobs@landinsight.io

We’re part of Pi Labs!

Pi Labs logoWe’ve just recently joined the Pi Labs accelerator. A property and technology focused start-up accelerator in London. Over the course of 13 weeks, Land Technologies will be joining 4 other companies to rapidly grow with the support of the accelerator. We’re pleased to be part of it and looking forward to the journey!

Read on to hear why we’re doing this and what we’re working on.


 

Land Technologies started its life when Andrew Moist, a software developer, started researching how to build his own home in London. It didn’t take him long to discover that finding a plot of land was the first major obstacle. Looking around online he couldn’t find good information on how to find a site and set about understanding the issues. Following this line of enquiry past the roadsigns of ‘industry wide problem’, ‘antiquated planning system’ and ‘lack of good centralised datasets’, he decided that he would set up a business to try and tackle it.

He reached out for a co-founder on Twitter, where a mutual acquaintance connected him with a software developer with a background in Land Management and Planning, Jonny Britton. Having experienced the lack of good software in the development industry first hand, Jonny was enthused with the idea of improving access to good information – within a couple of days the business had a core team and set about working out what to build.

The goal was to make a product that made it faster and easier to work out whether a piece of land was suitable for building on – but what exactly that product looked like was not yet known. Speaking to as many industry players as possible, they spent timing shaping the product. What they found was that the data needed to assess a piece of land for its potential for housing is difficult to find, expensive, and technical to make good use of in a systematic way. Land Insight solves these problems by bringing together key information about any piece of land or property. Building the product has been a real challenge not only due the massive amount of the data involved, but being able to provide that at an affordable price.

Screen shot of Land Insight
Screen shot of Land Insight

In the longer run, the aim of the company is to create a more open and connected land industry accessible through light and easy to use interfaces. The enabling power of linked data on land could be seen in a whole range of situations from enabling development through to the design of infrastructure or more accessible planning. One of their founders, Jonny Britton, says “it is clear that better access to date is empowering. Our platform aims to unlock data about land, anywhere, anytime, so that it can provide answers to questions and enable development”.

The team see Pi Labs as a great opportunity to access a wide range of industry experience through the mentors and support network, as well as being a great platform to build their launch into the property development sector.

The software is now available to trial. Sign-up here.

Beta testers wanted for Land Insight

We’ve been a little quiet recently since we’ve been working hard on our new product, Land Insight.

We’re focusing on helping those that are looking for land to build homes. The web application helps you uncover basic information about land such as ownership, planning history and land valuation. It’s designed to aid you when assessing and comparing sites.

See some preview screenshots below.

Planned New Homes Street level Add your own site

We’ve recognised when talking to our users that often when doing research on land, a lot of good information about places is being gathered. We want to enable contributions to the stock of information we provide for ever improving information.

A free and paid version of the app will be released. Please sign-up if you are interested in being a beta tester.

The Public Land Map Discussion

We held an online event earlier in the week with the Community Land Advisory Service. We got together a group of charities, non-profit organisations and businesses to discuss the benefits of mapping public land. Here are main issues raised and the conclusion by Land Technologies.

Not all land is registered – mapping it all will be hard
Councils have lists of their own land holding, but often their list is not accurate since land ownership hasn’t changed hands in a long time and title deeds documents go missing. Let’s get the known land published first.

Greater community involvement needed
There needs to be more efforts from councils to support communities that want to improve land to develop their neighbourhoods. They need to find ways to identify problem/unused bits of land and reach out to the community to see how it can be used better for temporary or long term uses. How can they reach the community better? Who do individuals talk to understand what can be changed and co-ordinate action?

Case studies
Case studies are an excellent way to demonstrate communities coming together to change places for their needs. It’s a powerful way to get across the impact of new projects. Locality and My Community Rights have some good case studies.

Highlighting the economic benefits for community engagement
Councils would be encouraged to work more with community groups if there was clear economic evidence that the co-operation could bring. Perhaps Locality and the LGA could help with funding projects that help communities across the country.

Working together
Councils need to work together to provide new services that are more affordable than just commissioning new services themselves.  New start-ups and social enterprises should help connect councils and other organisations to bring about change. For a national project such as mapping public land, this would need to happen to make it possible.

Connecting to research in this area
We’re not aware of related research projects. Organisations such as the Sustainable Places Research Institute at Cardiff University might be able to help. If you’re aware of any related research, please contact us.

Conclusion

Whilst it’s extremely useful to see the location of public land on a map, it’s more important to provide information that helps people achieve their specific goals. Local authorities don’t have the finance to provide additional services to help with land needs. Some councils provide support for finding land for allotments, housing land and temporary use but it seems like most do not.

Freedom of Information requests directly help people with their specific goals, but are so costly that government wants to reduce the power of FOI requests. Having open information about land would not only reduce council officers work, but enable new websites to provide new services.

The need for benchmarking

Councils already can be compared in many ways, from how quickly they process planning applications to how they are spending their money. We should have benchmarks for how transparent they are about assets that they own and their process for managing and selling these assets. This would make it easy to compare councils in terms of their asset holdings and efficiencies.

The local government transparency agenda is key to this so individuals and organisations can compare local authorities and highlight ones that are failing. According to the Local government transparency code 2014, all local authorities must publish their land and property assets. This is new requirement, so councils should currently be working to make this happen.

We hope we can work with organisations to deliver a national map, not just for a sake for a new map, but for all of the other projects it can help inspire or enhance.

Get in touch if you’d like to help us with this project.

Where is our public land?

Who owns our land? Public land makes 19% of it according to research
Who owns our land? Public land makes up 19% of it according to research.

Back in 2011, a demo map was released that mapped public land and property. Councils “could save billions” was the headline.

We don’t know if it would save billions, but we know this map is very important for two key reasons.

  1. Scrutiny of public land use. Can it be used in a better way?
  2. It allows us to use our community and citizen rights

But what happened to the map? Why has nothing been done since?

At Land Technologies, we’ve been on the trail of why nothing has been done and what problems are involved. There are 4 key problems:

  • Getting the data
  • Making the map
  • Keeping the map up-to-date
  • Funding the build and maintenance of the map

Getting the data

The Land Registry sit on the most of this data. Some land isn’t registered with them, but most of it is. They won’t release it because they don’t have any reason to. They make money from people looking up ownership information, so it’s not in their interest to release it all.

The other source of data is contacting all public bodies. It’s an enormous task.

Making the map

Having a list is one thing, putting a pin on a map is another. The Ordnance Survey hold intellectual property on where public land is. They won’t give that information away for free, since they are a trading fund and want to be paid to keep their business sustainable.

Keeping it up to date

So if we get the data from all public bodies, how will they keep their own data up to date? There are over 400 councils in the UK, how would you get all of them to update their information when an asset is bought or sold?

Funding

We assume that the previous map of public land must have been very costly. Important projects like this don’t get axed unless spending / resources were too high.

The way forward

What is the way forward? We’d like to make it easy for public sector organisations to upload their own information. Many are already publishing their list of assets because of the new transparency code for councils. If the Land Registry will not supply this information (we tried), then we would like to work with them to make the process of verifying contributed data easier.

An open data map would have huge impact for many organisations and individuals.

 

We have a question for you. If this map was launched tomorrow, how would you use it?

Join in the discussion on Twitter or post below. #ukpublicland

5 Open Datasets for a Better Built Environment

We usually leave town planning and new developments to the professionals and have little say in our future homes and work environments. But if citizens were given new digital tools to understand neighbourhood planning and actively contribute, what would happen?

Here’s our top 5 list of open datasets that could enable a new wave of digital tools to shape the future spaces where we live, work and spend our leisure time.

Continue reading

Land near me

We’ve just set-up a new blog to collect stories about land near you that is under-utilised and could be changed.

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Read stories about these pieces of land.

Everyone can identify with bits of land like this. Usually there is a story why land has been abandoned. It’s easy to blame the land-owner and forget about it. We want to help people take some action as a community and change land for their own benefit.

We’re inspired to hear stories such as the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden. Once that site was derelict railway land. Now it’s a garden with a cafe and pavilion.

If you’ve got a story about some land near you, please tell us on the blog.

What is the Land Registry INSPIRE Index Polygon dataset and why should I care?

Official information about land ownership is crucial when searching for a suitable plot of land. That’s where the Land Registry comes in.

In September, the Land Registry released open data relating to boundaries of freehold land and property. This is what is known as the INSPIRE Index polygon data.

The map below shows what this index data (in red) looks like when overlaid on-top of Open Street Map data (in green).

Land boundaries in Hackney, London
Land Registry land boundaries overlaid on-top of Open Street Map data. Region is Hackney, London.

This open data provides valuable information that we never had access to before. The Land Registry will be releasing a free tool so anyone can search a map to identify registered and unregistered land. Let’s hope the all the data behind the free tool will be available as open data.

At Land Wiki we’re going to show land boundaries as part of our open and editable map, so identifying and discussing land is much easier. We’ll be combining this with our large database of plots of land.

Update (17/01/2014 ):
Unfortunately due to license restrictions by Ordnance Survey, the Land Registry INSPIRE data is not truly open. This means it would be too costly to pay royalties to Ordnance Survey for a free website, so Land Wiki cannot use this data. Some details are available on the INSPIRE FAQ page. We’ll be campaigning to get Ordnance Survey to change their license.


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