Land Registry to take on Local Land Charges

The legislation enabling Land Registry to provide its proposed digital Local Land Charges service was given Royal Assent earlier this month.

The Infrastructure Act will:

  • allow Land Registry to create a digitised Local Land Charges register that will improve access to data, standardise fees and improve turnaround times for property professionals and citizens
  • enable Land Registry to undertake new services that would further improve the conveyancing process or benefit the wider property sector.

Chief Land Registrar and Chief Executive Ed Lester said: “Land Registry is extremely well placed to be able to deliver the necessary changes to the existing Local Land Charges service.

“We currently play a central role in the conveyancing process and handle large volumes of applications and searches on a daily basis.

“Whilst our primary function will remain land registration, Wider Powers provides us with an opportunity to build on the existing service that we already provide.”

The mechanics of how the system will operate will be covered by rules contained in secondary legislation.

Local authorities urged to get involved

Pete Flynn

One of Land Registry’s local authority advocates for a digital Local Land Charges service has urged his counterparts to play an active part in its creation.

“Land Registry is keen to talk to every local authority,” said Pete Flynn (pictured), Technical Support Manager at Liverpool City Council and one of the first council officers to be consulted on the proposals. “The knowledge we can provide will shape how the project develops.

“You don’t have to wholeheartedly agree with something to be involved in it. The best way forward is for local authorities to talk to Land Registry.”

Pete was first contacted by Land Registry in 2012 as the proposals were taking shape. He was conveniently based across the Mersey from our Birkenhead Office – but was also at the forefront of local authority digitisation of Local Land Charges records.

Liverpool had funded its own transformation to a digital system in 2004. More than 150,000 paper records were converted by a mixture of council staff and outside agencies.

“It took a long time and we had to be really dedicated,” Pete recalled. “There was some pain involved but it was quite enjoyable as well. Once you have done all the hard work you can then put your trust in the data.”

Having seen the benefits a digital system had brought to the council and its customers, Pete was very willing to give a hearing to Land Registry’s proposals.

“They wanted to see how local authorities dealt with Local Land Charges so I showed them our system,” said Pete. “A few weeks later they came back to talk through their proposals and asked whether I would like to be involved with the prototype.

“I said yes straight away. I’ve never been resistant to change – if I think something is going to happen I’d rather be involved early on and have some influence on how things are shaped.”

Liverpool was one of seven authorities which took part in the prototype from May to November 2013, along with Sefton, Denbighshire, Newark and Sherwood, Swindon, Havant and Watford.

“We carried on processing our searches as normal while Land Registry did its parallel processing,” said Pete. “At no time did it affect our business or our customers.”

Following the successful conclusion of the prototype Land Registry launched its public consultation. Pete was asked to continue his involvement as a source of local authority knowledge and expertise.

“I was keen to stay involved in the project because I knew it was most likely to move forward,” he said. “I wanted to stay involved and keep in touch with it because I could then help shape the way it developed.”

For Pete it’s been a two-way process as he’s also learned about how Land Registry has created its digital services and how they have been received.

“It’s interesting to see how Land Registry has done it,” he said. “It has proved some of the concepts and as Land Registry has a very high customer satisfaction rate it doesn’t want to see that fall.”

Pete says he feels that the local authority advocates are genuinely listened to and appreciated.

“I would like to think that the relationship is of value both to Land Registry and the advocates,” he said. “It helps to break down the barriers between them and us. This is a good example of government departments working collaboratively.

“Personally it’s very rewarding. You are helping to shape the future of something.”

Gavin Curry
By Gavin Curry,
Digital Communications and Editorial Officer at HM Land Registry