Benefits await public sector bodies who voluntarily register their property

Public sector organisations may be able to save significant fees and administration by proactively registering their property assets with the Land Registry.

The public sector can take advantage of an ongoing Land Registry project which aims to register all public sector land in England and Wales by the end of 2025. This can help public bodies manage their estate more efficiently, and achieve on-going disposal strategies.

Comprehensive land registration

The Land Registry has a strategic aim to achieve the registration of all freehold land, known as comprehensive land registration, by 2030. As at September 2019, 87% of all land in England and Wales was registered. The vast majority of unregistered land belongs to the public sector.

Importance of public sector land in achieving comprehensive registration

Two important steps on the way to achieving comprehensive land registration by 2030 are to register:

  • all public land in areas of highest housing need by the end of 2020; and
  • the rest of public sector land by the end of 2025.

Resourcing and budgeting constraints can push voluntary registration projects down the agenda within public sector organisations. Being, by their nature, often large and diverse, it is not always straightforward for such organisations to keep track of all parcels of land ownership and property rights.

Based on these considerations the Land Registry believes there are significant areas of public sector land likely to remain unregistered indefinitely unless proactive steps are taken, hence this project.

Benefits to public sector bodies of registering their land

All owners of registered land benefit from:

  • a streamlined conveyancing process, making it easier to buy and sell property;
  • state-guaranteed proof of ownership; and
  • greater protection from the growing threat of property fraud and other threats such as adverse possession.

In addition to these advantages, there are the following potential benefits for public bodies:

  • increased transparency, making it easier to identify where there may be surplus public land which could be available for housing development;
  • more efficient asset management; and
  • making forgotten-about or neglected land holdings saleable once more. In one instance, the Land Registry was able to assist a local authority in lodging statutory declarations in respect of its ownership of a row of garages to which the title deeds had been lost. The garages were then sold for a significant sum.

How can the Land Registry assist the public sector?

The Land Registry is adopting a flexible approach for local authorities and is prepared to work with them on a project basis rather than charging separate fees for each parcel of land being registered, as would usually be the case. The Land Registry will work with public sector bodies to determine the extent of their unregistered property portfolio, and develop a registration plan going forward.

The Land Registry claims to be able to assist the public sector to register their land by:

  • helping to analyse data to understand what’s left to register. In some cases we can offer practical help, such as deed retrieval and lodgement;
  • assigning a project manager to work with each public sector organisation who will be a single point of contact throughout the process; and
  • updating ownership details in existing registration data.

How we can help

When embarking on a voluntary registration project it’s important that you ensure you obtain good and marketable title to all of assets you own. It is imperative that you get the right advice.

We can help guide you through the voluntary registration project and be on hand to help with any estate management or disposals that arise as a result.

TLT has been advising the public sector for over 20 years. Our team work with central government, local government, blue light services and a diverse mix of other public bodies across the UK, advising across the full range of legal services from day-to-day business as usual matters through to supporting on the most complex of public projects.

We are also one of the UK's largest real estate groups and many of our real estate partners are independently recognised as leading individuals in the field by the legal industry's annual directory rankings.

Contributor: Matt Battensby

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at January 2020. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms and conditions.


Date published

15 January 2020



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