The Land Registry has said it is keen to involve solicitors in its controversial programme to take over the local land charges database – a vital source of conveyancing search information – from local authorities. An external advisory board which will include solicitors will be in place by next month, the head of the programme Allison Bradbury told the Gazette.

 The registry announced in June that it would become the sole registering authority for local land charges, despite overwhelming opposition in a public consultation. Many critics questioned the wisdom of creating a single database, given the government’s record in IT. Bradbury said that the project would be cautious: ‘It will be a very phased roll-out. We expect it to take about five years.’ The system has already been tested at seven local authorities, she said.

Legislation to enable the change, the Infrastructure Bill, is due to have its second House of Commons reading in December. A contract to set up the new computer system is due to be awarded next June.

Meanwhile, Ed Lester (pictured), chief land registrar and chief executive of HM Land Registry, last week announced his intention to leave both roles. The announcement comes two months after ministers rebuffed a plan to spin off the bulk of the registry’s activity’s into a ‘service delivery company’.

Lester, a qualified accountant, joined the registry in 2013 from the Student Loans Company. The agency said he has been ‘responsible for conducting a major review of Land Registry’s commercial structure and for driving forward an ambitious transformation agenda’.

Mark Boyle, chair of Land Registry, said: ‘Ed has played a key part in formulating a sustainable vision for Land Registry’s future. We are grateful that he has agreed to stay on until next year because the organisation will need the benefit of his wisdom and experience as we begin a major transformation of the organisation. When the time comes for his departure, we wish him all the very best for the future.’

Land Registry will now start the process of recruiting for the new chief land registrar and chief executive.