Surveyors attack government secrecy: Twentieth-century Domesday Book could put all land ownership on the map

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The Independent Online
THE HEAD of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors yesterday launched an attack on government secrecy and called for ministers to 'practise what they preach' about freedom of information.

Michael Pattison, chief executive of the RICS, said a radical reappraisal was needed in Britain's approach to information about where we live and work.

'Millions of pounds of taxpayers' money have been invested in collecting data about our environment but it is not being used,' he said.

Mr Pattison was speaking at the first public demonstration of Domesday 2000, an early pilot of a computer network designed to integrate the many databases around the UK holding information about the use, ownership and value of land in Britain.

Mr Pattison said he had hoped to include information about council tax bandings on the demonstration but had been told by the Department of the Environment that, although publicly available, that information could not be used on a computer database.

He was also unable to use the results of a recent survey on farm land use because, according to the DoE, the information had been collected to help with applications for subsidies from the EC and could not be used for other purposes.

Mr Pattison said the network, which had been funded so far by a pounds 40,000 grant from Capital & Counties, the property developer, needed government support to ensure its success.

If the project went ahead it would integrate information from a wide range of groups, including the Land Registry, the Ordnance Survey, the Valuation Office, local councils and firms of surveyors.

For a fee, users would be able to have up-to-date information on any piece of the estimated pounds 1,300bn of property in the UK. It could be used, for example, by City firms to find vacant property within a certain area at a given price. Other users might include property developers, farmers and local authorities or housebuyers. The system could include text, maps and photographs.

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