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Collaborating on the future of digital land registration


My first job was for a large engineering company. Lots of people had a cartoon on the wall of ‘a rowing eight’, except with eight coxes and one rower. Underneath it said, ‘the art of management’.

I soon changed to law and started work as a commercial property solicitor. Before too long we were awash with new technology – a computer on every desk, no less. Some were used for more than putting post-it notes on. And there was much talk of transforming the way we did business.

Some of the technology was not all it was cracked up to be. Automatic dictation had a definite false dawn. But the slowness to adopt new ways of working in the conveyancing sector wasn’t just down to duff software. Digitisation took off in other sectors in the UK and in conveyancing in other countries. So maybe the reason for the future being deferred was partly due to a lack of shared vision. Maybe we weren’t all in the same boat.

Now it feels different – very different. Before coronavirus (COVID-19) it felt like we were all the same crew, pointing in the same direction and even wearing the same colours. Right now, it feels like everyone is pulling together and hard. There is a strong sense of purpose and urgency to make an efficient and resilient digital conveyancing process. I’m highly optimistic about the potential for good and secure change, because of a sense of shared endeavour. What is vital is that we nurture and maintain that collaboration.

We have always been listening to our customers. Their feedback has led to the development of several successful services that meet specific market demands, such as View My Applications, Sign your mortgage deeds, electronic signature and our Pre-submission Enquiry and Application Management services to name a few. But we needed to go further and develop more of a partnership arrangement in which we work on problems together.

Harnessing technology

In April 2020, at the start of the lockdown we invited a cross-section of experienced representatives from the property sector, to help us explore how we could better support customers. That invitation resulted in the HM Land Registry Industry Forum launch on 17 April, formalising plans for more two-way discussions. The forum compliments our wider engagement work with the property sector and our Land Registry Advisory Council (LRAC), who represent the regulatory and professional bodies. Our forum members represent a cross-section of industry voices and provide an essential rounded view of all customer experiences.

Rob Hailstone, Bold Legal Group said:

It is really beneficial to be part of the HM Land Registry Industry Forum. Not only am I updated (and can update my members) on current HM Land Registry projects and initiatives etc, but I can also raise any queries on behalf of my members. The creation of the forum could not have been better timed!

Together we are looking at the keys that will unlock a digital conveyancing future in the residential and commercial property markets. To date we have been working collectively on electronic signatures and digital identity checks. We’re discussing possible benefits and exploring how we can successfully harness the technology for our customers and the wider market.

Kathryn Oie, counsel at Herbert Smith Freehills, said:

These areas are imperatives for all organisations, particularly those who provide or support the delivery of legal services.

The technologies that organisations are looking to benefit from, come with novel issues and give rise to a range of challenges. While the complexities involved in navigating our way through the evolving digital landscape should not be underestimated, the potential rewards on offer if we are able to do so successfully could be truly transformative.

Getting feedback from a broader group of customers via the forum, while working across other engagement channels, is helping to guide and shape our policy and development plans. Some highly experienced practitioners are giving their valuable time to discuss the principles that underpin digitisation and guide the detailed proposals. This is invaluable. And here lies the difference between a good idea in principle and one that meets conveyancers’ needs today and therefore can expect to see broad take up and deliver real change.

Stephen Ward, Council of Licenced Conveyancers said:

The HM Land Registry Industry Forum is extremely valuable in bringing together the key organisations that are able to examine closely HM land Registry’s proposals for change and help promote agreed solutions. The kinds of challenges that abound in the sector; the impact of the pandemic, the prospect of major change driven by technology, and the volatile property market, require concerted leadership by the Land Registry and the Forum.

New member suggestions

It is vital that the forum reflects the market. While we would like to keep the numbers relatively small so we can use it as a genuine working group, we welcome membership suggestions that build and maintain its balance and breadth. If you would like more information, please email

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  1. Comment by Roy Jenkins posted on

    interesting article
    Question to ask
    Q---Does the land registration DEPT keep all Local area
    land information that is sold off by L-A-Cllr yes or no?
    I put a F.O.I.-Act request for information from my local
    town Council of Pendle/Colne area of Lancashire.
    they will not respond to us residents we do not know WHY?
    to my request so do you have the information I seek?
    Our local area Cllr will not give us residents when asked for.

    Our F.O.I.-Act request was for full clarity on all the land the value
    of land sold off by our local area Cllr and what the amount it was
    it was sold off for (the full price)
    As the land is our resident public ASSETS.

    Could you help as a Govt body in reminding them they must
    give a F.O.I.-Act the information we seek--their local the webpages
    on land + property used as ASSETS is out of date doesn't give
    us resident or publice true information.
    Could you reply please to me thank you with your input and were we should
    go now to get the public information we seek and hold our elected Cllr to account fully for failing us local residents of Colne Lancashire on this matter

    • Replies to Roy Jenkins>

      Comment by AdamH posted on

      Roy - no. We register land and property so if the council sell land or property then we register the new owner. We don’t keep data re the council stock and what’s been sold for example.
      If you have been turned down or received no response from the council then check their own website for details on how to complain or pursue it with them.
      We have no say as an organisation on how the council should respond to such requests but have a look at the GOV.UK guidance for help with next steps if the council channels are unresponsive

      • Replies to AdamH>

        Comment by Roy Jenkins posted on

        thanks for input