Land: the greatest asset is under our feet

By Katerina Harrington, Public Sector Relationship Manager 

The expanding population of Great Britain brings certain challenges for local authorities. Large cities have become accustomed to rapid growth and increasingly dense living situations, but across the country, other councils are facing pressure to adapt to a rising populace.  

Residential property development has plateaued since the 1970s which has led to house prices rising steadily with exceptional spikes in places such as London. Location data can paint a more accurate picture of Britain’s changing landscape by demonstrating trends that differ locally and enabling a greater understanding of how to prepare our infrastructure for a more denselypopulated future. 

To help local authorities to prepare, the government has set housing targets, to encourage councils to prioritise the development of new and affordable housing.

We’ve developed the Land Use Change Statistics (LUCS) and Land Use Layer to support councils across England to meet their housing development and density targets as well as prevent valuable budgets being wasted. It can help identify optimal land for development such as land removed from high-risk flooding areas. It can guide the adaptation of local infrastructure to maximise the economic benefits for residents and councils alike, projecting a promising future for the area. The data was originally created with, and published by, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. 

LUCS and the Land Use Layer provides a detailed snapshot every 12 months, allowing the evolving landscape of England to be monitored. This insight can help guide the creation and conversion of residential properties, as well as classifying pockets of land into categories such as brownfield, forestry, retail and vacant or undeveloped land. This can help councils recognise where high potential land is lying unused and wastedland that could be ideal for the development of residential homes.

In collaboration with Worcestershire Office for Data Analytics (WODA), Worcestershire County Council has used the Land Use Layer to visualise the makeup of the natural and built environment across Worcestershire for their 2040 Vision. Access to this data enabled the council to understand the difference between their 6 districts with capabilities such as comparing agricultural land versus woodland and residential versus retail. Another interesting comparison they’ve been able to make is the amount of industry or community areas within each district. From this, they’ve identified Redditch has the highest percentage of industrial area and Worcester City Council has the largest amount of community areas compared to the other districts. Understanding the makeup of the land can help to plan strategically for the future when considering new homes, highways and improvements to public transport.Critical to the sustainability of new developments and guaranteed long-term economic benefits is recognising that area’s greatest assets. For much of England this includes the much-celebrated natural environment, characterised by the ‘Green Belt’, which makes up around 12.5% of all land in the country. Despite campaigners and policymakers pushing for the protection of these greenspaces since the 1950s, in recent years theres been a sharp increase in development on this land, with the number of finished properties built in the Green Belt doubling between 2016 and 2017 

Continued development on this valuable natural landscape could eat into the attraction of the area to tourists and reduce the potential of the greenspaces to support long-term wellbeing of the community. While most new residential addresses are still being built on previously developed land, LUCS and the Land Use Layer can help local authorities make better decisions about where to build new infrastructure. In turn this not only helps them meet imminent targets but will also support the economy long-term.  

Utilisation of location data through these systems can also help councils keep on top of maintaining other infrastructure, ensuring the newlydeveloped properties or increasingly dense areas have the right access to public transport, leisure facilities and other amenities critical to economic growth and wellbeing. For example, maintenance of bus shelters or cycling routes closest to growing communities can be prioritised, making the smart and strategic management of council budgets easier.  

The wealth of location data OS has collected on the evolving landscape of England has the potential to help towns and cities across the county, by providing unparalleled characterisation of that area’s assets. With a population thats increased yearonyear for much of the last century and is set to become the largest in Europe, its critical were prepared to house and provide for the country by making smart decisions on development.

For more information about how OS data has created Land Use Change Statistics have a look at MHCLG.

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