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UK Land Registry opens books on corporate owners

Whose land is it anyway?

HM Land Registry made its databases of property owned by domestic and foreign businesses free to access yesterday.

The "Commercial and Corporate Ownership Data" and "Overseas Companies Ownership Data" sets are now available without charge.

HMLR had previously offered access to the latter for fees ranging between £2,000 and £10k for a set of data across England and Wales – depending on the number of updates the user required.

But readers keen to download the dataset and have a poke around should note they themselves will become part of a government database – guidance notes explain you'll to "provide some information about yourself and accept the terms of use" – and register as users.

While its timing could be seen as a coincidence considering the recent release of the Paradise Papers, HMLR said that this plan has been in motion since the release of the February 2017 "Fixing our broken housing market" white paper.

Part of the paper's aim was to make land ownership and interests more transparent. In today's announcement, HMLR also said it aimed to "support growth in the property technology sector and among small and medium-sized enterprises" by removing the charge for access.

The information available includes the address, company’s name, price paid and country of incorporation.

Private individuals, charities and trusts are still unavailable to the public for the time being, but being able to check out who in the corporate world owns what and where will be of interest to those who feel they aren't yet quite annoyed enough with companies based in tax havens with unfathomable quantities of property and wealth.

Last year plans to privatise the Land Registry were halted after criticism that such a move would create a monopoly on public data. ®

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