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TerraQuest News

- Nov 2021

Part 2: When is the right time to undertake Land Referencing activities?

In Part 1 we provided insight on what Land Referencing is and the key role referencing processes and activities play in ensuring infrastructure projects are completed successfully. Part one can be found here

In part 2 we are going to talk about what key stages of infrastructure projects should land referencers be consulted.

Infrastructure projects cannot happen without land or rights to use land, so a project’s stakeholders will be keen to understand the extent, cost and challenges associated with the acquisition of these as early in the project’s life cycle as possible. The need to understand land ownership begins as soon as activities that have the potential to affect a landowner’s interest in land commence.

Engaging land referencers at the early, planning stages of a project will support early design and optioneering work allowing the design team to test options against their impact on land requirements and cost. 

Early availability of landowner information will allow engagement stakeholders to identify key landowners and statutory authorities impacted by the scheme, helping to facilitate development of engagement strategies and early initial contact protocols.

The time needed to complete diligent enquiries should not be underestimated. Whilst a certain amount of ownership data is publicly available and can be acquired on request at a predetermined cost, many interests in land may be unregistered, poorly documented, and privately held.  The land referencing team has to research all records with the same level of diligence and completeness, so the time taken to identify and confirm these less available interests can be significant.

Infrastructure schemes are often viewed negatively by those whose interests are affected so when engaging with landowners and other interested parties, the referencing team recognise that responses to requests for information and a landowners’ willingness to engage to the level of detail requested will be dependent on that individual’s situation rather than any project timescales. Early and diplomatic engagement with such individuals will help mitigate any impact on the availability of ownership information and will also provide valuable feedback to the engagement stakeholders on the issues being raised. This offers the opportunity for additional stakeholder engagement and the resolution of such issues prior to the later stages of the project where they may cause delay or added costs.

The time needed to complete enquiries will vary from a matter of weeks for small, localised developments to months or several years for more significant schemes. Changes to land requirements that may emerge from negotiations, design changes, or those requested during formal review will all introduce the need for additional research effort and the updating of existing data at a time when provisional project timetables are already in place. The impact of such changes on project program may prove significant.