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 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.
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.
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.