Researching land with Addland Essential: an Introduction

Key information
  • There are 28 overall different data layers in the Addland Research tool, ranging from land classification to planning history. Addland Essential allows you to access 17 of them, completely free.
  • It takes 173,669,709,994,917,000 (that’s 173 quadrillion, 669 trillion, 709 billion, 994 million, 917 thousand!) individual calculations to compute the whereabouts of all the land considerations in England and Wales and display them on Addland.
  • You can also use Addland Essential to book viewings and save favourites for the thousands of land listings on our Find function.

Setting out to understand a piece of land can be daunting. Whether you’re gauging the exact boundaries of a field or trying to understand the complex web of planning restrictions on a listed country home, getting to grips with a plot has traditionally been a thankless task. Addland’s boundary and consideration data layers change that. Drawing data from the likes of Ordnance Survey, HM Land Registry and the Environment Agency we display crucial information about land visually on our interactive map. Easy-to-use and always up-to-date, the Research tool’s 28 data layers help you gain complete insight into a plot of land, all from a single destination. The team have worked hard to optimise Addland for computer, tablet or mobile, so you can find and research land easily no matter what device you’re using, whether you’re out in the field or at a desk.  

This user guide introduces you to our first two categories of data layers: boundary and land considerations. It’ll give you a brief summary of what the layers represent (for example, the distribution of flood zones around the country), which organisations collate the information, and what it might mean for the plot of land you’re researching. You can then use the layers to see where they fall on the map, and bring up the Addland Land Report Snapshot to see a summary of all the information.       


From finding out which of the numerous government bodies might be responsible for its administration to how exactly it sits in relation to its neighbours, knowing which boundaries a plot of land lies within yields useful information. Our four boundary layers show which of the following any piece of land is part of:    


A parish can encompass anything from a small rural area with hundreds of people to a town with thousands If you’re looking for land with Addland, seeing parish boundaries can help you understand who is responsible for your local parks, community centres and the like. Usually comprised of elected volunteers, parish councils often help organise local events and groups.     


Understanding what district your land lies in can be important to know what body to contact for planning applications. Districts and their city equivalents, boroughs, are often the Local Planning Authority (LPA) for those living within their boundaries and so will be responsible for evaluating and approving your planning applications. Smaller than county councils, they’re also in charge of collecting council tax and recycling.    


Counties are one of the largest subdivisions used to organise the country geographically and in local government. Arranged across historic lines, they are administered by country councils who are responsible for 80% of public services in the area, such as schools and transport (outside of London). Knowing which county your land sits in will dictate who you should contact for everything from social care to waste management.    

Land Registry

Drawing on HM Land Registry data, you can use Addland to see the precise, up-to-date boundaries of all plots of land in England and Wales. All the crucial information about a plot of land, from its exact area in acres to title number and boundary lines. Using this layer can help you understand your land and solve everyday problems like boundary disputes.


The Addland land considerations show a number of factors that might affect your land. You can use them to see the invisible legal protections and rights that lie upon it, such as Public Rights of Way, or whether it's close to protected sites like Ancient Woodlands, which might affect your planning applications. 

  • Ancient Woodlands 
  • AONB
  • Flood zone 1 and 2
  • Greenbelt 
  • Listed buildings 
  • Local Nature Reserve (LNR)
  • National Nature Reserve 
  • National Park 
  • Public Rights of Way (PRW)
  • Scheduled monuments 
  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
  • Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
  • Special Protected Area (SPA)

Ancient Woodlands

These are woodlands that have existed since at least 1600, with some much older. Covering about 2.5% of the UK, they are relatively untouched by human activity and have developed into complex, irreplaceable ecosystems that are vital to biodiversity and fighting climate change. Building within 15 metres of an ancient woodland’s boundary is prohibited so knowing where your land sits relative to one can be important for planning.              

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)

The UK’s 46 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are legally protected from being developed, in order to conserve and enhance their natural beauty. Criteria for designation include: landscape or scenic quality, tranquillity, or cultural heritage. In practice, an AONB designation means that local authorities have to work to protect these landscapes, whilst balancing rural industry and community needs. If your plot of land sits within an AONB, you may find planning approvals harder to come by.  

Flood Zones

Flood zones are a planning tool, created by the Environment Agency, to help understand the likelihood of an area flooding. A plot designated Flood zone 1 is the least likely to flood, with a less than 0.1% (1 in 1000) chance in a year. Flood zone 2 means the plot has between a 0.1 and 1% (between 1 in 1000 and 1 in 100) chance. The final, highest-chance designation is split into two: Flood zone 3a (greater than 1% chance of flooding from rivers, or 0.5% chance from the sea) and Flood zone 3b (5% chance in any given year). A plot being in a flood zone can mean planning difficulties, plus insurance or mortgage premiums so this layer can be useful in researching land you’re thinking of buying.                                          


Greenbelt land is the undeveloped buffer zone between urban spaces and the countryside. Designed to prevent urban sprawl, greenbelts keep the land surrounding urban areas permanently open whilst protecting agriculture and the historical character of towns and cities. Greenbelt development is generally prohibited, so planning permission is hard to come by, though LPAs do allow some exceptions, for example for outdoor sports facilities. 

Listed Buildings

Listed buildings are those deemed by Historic England to be ‘special in the national context’. In other words, they are part of the history of the country and, as such, are protected against alteration, extension or demolition. Grade I buildings are of ‘exceptional interest’ and make up only 2.5% of all listed buildings (about 500,000 total in England). Grade II* are ‘particularly important’ and comprise 5.8% of the total. Finally, Grade II buildings are of ‘special interest’ and fill out the remaining 91.7%.     

Local Nature Reserve

Intended to benefit both people and wildlife, Local Nature Reserves are protected areas of land, such as ponds or parks, that are deemed to benefit the local community that lives on or near them. Used for the likes of exercise, wildlife watching and more. Local Authorities designate and manage LNRs and generally do not approve any developments on them.  

National Nature Reserve

National Nature Reserves are areas deemed by Natural England to be some of the most important in the country for wildlife and natural features. Designated to protect their habitats from being built on, they are managed on behalf of the nation by Natural England, alongside various NGOs, such as the Wildlife and National Trusts. Changing the use of land in nature reserves for the likes of farming or renewables is prohibited so knowing where they lie is useful information for those looking to buy or sell.  

National Park

The National Parks, 14 in total, are large tracts of land created to bring long-term protection to areas of beautiful countryside, in order to conserve their natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage. Covering 10% of England and Wales, each Park is managed by its respective National Park Authority, ultimately funded by DEFRA. They are, however, not owned by the State, rather mostly by private landowners and the National Trust.  

Public Rights of Way

Public Rights of Way are paths that criss-cross land across the UK, through which the public has legal rights to travel through, at all times and regardless of who owns the land. Not always physical paths, they can be anything from well-marked bridleways for horses to invisible legal rights. They do not compromise your legal rights over the land, should you own it, but they do grant access to it.   

Scheduled Monuments

A scheduled monument, also known as an ancient monument, is an archaeological site or historical building considered nationally important and thus protected from change. There are over 20,000 scheduled monuments in England ranging in age from tens of thousands of years old to decades. Historic England is responsible for all scheduled monuments in the country, with the devolved governments all having their own equivalents. 

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

A SSSI (often pronounced “triple S-I”) is an area that has been designated by Natural England, or a devolved counterpart, as extremely valuable to science for some of its features. These can be things like its flora, fauna or even geology. A SSSI designation is among the strongest legal protections for land - it’s a criminal offence to damage Sites and landowners/occupiers have to get consent from conservation agencies before carrying out developments. 

Special Area of Conservation (SAC)

Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) are those that fall under the EU’s Habitats Directive as habitats of flora or fauna that are ‘internationally important’. Along with Special Protection Areas (SPAs), they form a European-wide network of preserved areas, in which development is restricted.

Special Protection Areas (SPA)

Special Protection Areas (SPAs), as designated by the EU Birds Directive, are sites that are home to one or more protected European bird species. Often on the same sites as SACs, local authorities are obligated to prevent deterioration of these sites and every proposed development has to be assessed before approval.                                       

With Addland, there’s no need to trawl countless obscure sources to research land. Our tech platform draws information directly from government and trusted partners’ databases and displays it visually, so you don’t have to collate it yourself. We’re here to Bring Land To Life.

Published: 20 May 2022
Last updated: 27 May 2022

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Frequently asked questions about boundary and consideration layers