‘Putting land at the heart of political debate’

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Proposals to radically transform the way that land in the UK is used and governed were unveiled by the Labour party this week. The ‘Land for the Many’ Report contains a series of recommendations for the Labour party to consider which would present a radical shift towards public and community-led development.

The report’s authors, who include environmentalist George Monbiot and Friends of the Earth campaigner Guy Shrubsole, have tapped into a broader distrust among the party’s membership, which blames the concentration of land ownership for various social problems such as economic inequality, the housing crisis and environmental damage.

These are the key recommendations from the 76-page report:

  1. The creation of a Common Ground Trust to buy the land beneath houses and lease it to members as means of ‘socialising land rents’.  It would act as a vehicle to bring land into common ownership and, it is argued, help to reduce the level of rents charged to householders.
  2. An ambitious social house building programme, reforms to the private rented sector and a shift in bank lending away from real estate towards more ‘useful sectors of the economy’; to stabilise land prices and discourage housing from being used as a financial asset.
  3. Reform to various taxes, including Council Tax, Stamp Duty, Inheritance Tax and Business Rates to be replaced with new forms of taxation payable by property owners as well as a Land Value Tax.
  4. Measures to increase the involvement of local authorities and the community in development.  This includes the creation of Public Development Corporations; the introduction of a new ‘Community Right to Buy’; the promotion of ‘Community-Led Housing’ and a new ‘Community Ownership’ use class which would have development rights.  The idea of a ‘Jury Service for Planning’ is also floated aimed at ‘energising and diversifying local engagement in the system’.
  5. Other planning reforms, including changes to compulsory purchase legislation, the removal of permitted development rights and a new D3 (public realm) Use Class for new developments incorporating open space.
  6. Various measures to increase the transparency of who owns land on a free and open access basis are also proposed.

There has been no official response to the report from the Labour party, which will consider the recommendations as part of its policy development ahead of the next general election.

But with the party leadership pushing forward with plans to nationalise large parts of the UK’s privately run infrastructure, the recommendations would fit into the wider policy narrative of creating a country ‘for the many not the few’.

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