Why we need to get back control of the land in this country

Copied below are two items from a recent Sunday Telegraph.  Whether, or not the proposals Edward Malnick will ever see the light of day is debateable.  However, what is of note is the angel, understandable most would say, taken by the letter writer, Stewart Baseley.

Leaping to the defence of the principle of private land ownership and the benefits that brings, especially to many of his members who of course pay his wages, he also claims that his members have done a sound job when it comes to meeting the housing needs of the nation.

Taken as the base argument, given that councils have been actively prevented from delivering any meaningful numbers of social rented housing for the last 40 years, his comments are accurate.

However, what he conveniently ignores, is that this private sector delivery drive has been all about quantity and profit at the sacrifice of quality at every opportunity.

The development industry has carried out an extremely success guerrilla campaign to reduce build standards.  No doubt via the duel processes of lobbying and event sponsoring over many years.  I don’t have any evidence to substantiate my suspicions, but why else would successive governments have continued to reduce the overall standard of housing developments in this country, to some of the poorest in Western Europe?


An online image from the Daily Mail shows how quickly standards are dropping.

UK room size 2003-2013

Taking control of the land BEFORE the value is inflated by the green-eyed monster of the huge financial gains to be had from obtaining planning permission, might just help to begin to reverse the creation of the ‘rabbit hutch’ developments that has become our standard in this country.

It’s also worth pointing out that poor build quality isn’t just limited to the dwellings themselves.  The recent debate about pavement parking is even more valid these days due to the inept and mis-guided government policy on parking standards of John Prescott  when the minister for Labour in Government.

Should the UK ban parking on pavements?: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-44466813


These were designed to force people out of their cars and on to non-existent public transport.  WE also suffer from almost non-existent standards for road widths within housing developments.  A lack of sufficient off street parking for each dwelling, added to streets and roads that are too narrow to allow parking of vehicles on both sides and two-way safe flow between, has forced residents to use the pavement to park on instead.

Pavement parking


Housing adviser to May backed forced land discounting

By Edward Malnick, Whitehall Editor Sunday Telegraph – 26 August 2018

THERESA MAY’S housing adviser has backed a controversial campaign to force landowners to offer huge discounts on the price of their land, it can be revealed.

Toby Lloyd called for an overhaul of compulsory purchase laws months before his appointment to Downing Street in April. Writing on the website of Shelter, Mr Lloyd, then head of policy at the housing and homelessness charity, said the Government should be able to buy up land at “true market value”, rather than current rates, which generally include a speculative uplift based on planning permission that a site could gain for future development.


Onward, the think tank, says agricultural land multiplies in value by 100 once planning permission for housing is granted

“The current value of land is inflated – because its value is dictated by the wildest dreams of the landowner and enforced through legal processes … We need to reset the price of land to its true market value,” he wrote in November.

“That means reforming the compulsory purchase laws … which ultimately determine the market price of land.”

Last week a coalition of organisations, led by new think tank Onward, and including Shelter, started a formal campaign for such a move, with an open letter to James Brokenshire, the Housing Secretary. Mr Lloyd “liked” a tweet by Will Tanner, Mrs May’s former deputy head of policy and now director of Onward, canvassing support.

The open letter to Mr Brokenshire had claimed that agricultural land typically becomes at least 100 times more valuable when it is granted permission for housing to be built. The groups said more of the uplift in value should be “captured” to provide community benefits. They also called on the Government to “reform the 1961 Land Compensation Act to clarify that local authorities should be able to compulsorily purchase land at fair market value that does not include prospective planning permission”.

Today, the Home Builders Federation, warns in a letter to The Sunday Telegraph that the campaign seeks a wholesale erosion of private property rights”.

An ideological attack on private landowners

SIR – Last week, in an open letter to the Housing Secretary, campaign lobby groups put forward the case for radical reform of the land market, claiming that developers “wriggle out of commitments”.

This is a gross misrepresentation of a system which, while imperfect, provides communities with billions of pounds worth of infrastructure and affordable housing each year, as a by-product of private housing delivery. As the state has moved away from direct provision of affordable homes, private developers now deliver half of all new affordable homes, making them the largest funder of traditional social rented homes.

This new campaign seeks an entire rewriting of the system and wholesale erosion of private property rights. The creation of a far more adversarial process would deter landowners from willingly selling land, resulting in taxpayer-funded legal disputes, fewer sites coming forward and fewer new homes being delivered.

The campaigners have ignored the Government’s existing plans to increase the transparency of the negotiations which currently determine the contributions that developers make to the local community. These plans, although not without some challenges, are a more practical, pragmatic and workable approach than the radical theory advanced by this campaign.

Reflecting the gravity of the housing crisis, housing supply has increased by 74 per cent in four years, the fastest increase on record, to the kind of levels seen in the immediate postwar years. After a few years of progress in addressing decades of undersupply, we must not become complacent. Compromising the delivery of homes for families to buy because of an ideological opposition to private housebuilders and landowners would do nothing to tackle the housing crisis.

Stewart Baseley

Executive Chairman
Home Builders Federation

London SE1

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