The Countryside Alliance has warned the Government that the proposed privatisation of the Land Registry needs to have better safeguards to protect land-based rural businesses.

The Government is currently consulting on plans that would move the operations of the Land Registry into the private sector. Under the Government’s preferred option, the Registers which record land ownership would remain in public ownership but the services provided by the Land Registry would be run by a private company with a contractual arrangement with the Government.

The proposals, which were considered under the Coalition Government, are back on the agenda as the Government is seeking up to £5 billion worth of asset sales by March 2020 to pay off the national debt.

The Countryside Alliance has used the consultation to raise concerns about possible increases in fees if the proposals go ahead and has called for more safeguards to be put in place.

The services of the Land Registry have an impact on many land-based rural businesses such as farms, estates, and shoots.

The Government has made a commitment that the fees for core services such as land transfers and first registration will continue to be set by Parliament. However, the fees for additional services such as downloading registered titles and searches of the index map or interactive map are not covered by law and the cost of these services may increase under the current proposals. We have called on the Government to set the fees for these services in any contract with a private company.

Sarah Lee, Head of Policy at the Alliance, comments: “For a farmer looking to renew a tenancy agreement, check access arrangements or settle a boundary dispute, the services of the Land Registry are crucial. Consumers of the Land Registry services are often professional advisers but the cost and quality of service has a direct impact on the cost and quality of service which these advisers are able to pass on to the rural businesses for whom they act."

"It is vital that the requirements of land-based rural businesses are taken into consideration in this consultation and any ownership option taken forward by the Government must reflect the importance of the Land Registry to people who live and work in the countryside.”