‘Land for the Many’, a report commissioned by the Labour Party, was written by a group of academics, economists and land experts, lead authors including George Monbiot, the environmentalist, and Guy Shrubsole, from Friends of the Earth who has campaigned against the lack of transparency in Britain’s land ownership.
It was good to read a measured appraisal in the Financial Times by Jim Pickard, formerly a severe critic of Jeremy Corbyn and his allies. Of late several articles in that paper have been taking a more objective stance – in contrast to the Murdoch Times which usually carries a range of articles belittling Corbyn and his supporters.
A number of polices highlighted by Pickard:
- “Juries” made up of local people would sit in judgment over UK planning decisions under proposals floated by the Labour party on Monday.
- Home ownership would be extended to more people.
- All information about land ownership would be published including the identifies of beneficial owners;
- A community right to buy would be introduced, based on the Scottish model,
- Compulsory sale orders would allow councils to force the auction sale of land left vacant or derelict for a long period.
- Companies which own land in the UK through offshore structures would face an Offshore Company Property Tax under plans first set out in the 2017 Labour manifesto.
- The Land Compensation Act would be amended to allow councils to buy land at prices closer to its current use value rather than its potential future residential value.
- The planning system should be extended to cover major farming and forestry decisions and widen access to farming to more people.
- The Scottish principle of a “right to roam” across all uncultivated land and water should be adopted, with the exception of gardens.
The authors argue that the concentration of ownership in the hands of a relatively small number of landowners has worsened various social problems such as economic inequality, the housing crisis and environmental degradation and write:
“Just as we believe it is important for criminal juries to be socially representative, the way we use our land should have input from all parts of society, juries for plan-making would be comprised of local people selected at random. They would participate in designing local and neighbourhood plans at the earliest possible stage.”
Labour said it would consider the report’s recommendations as part of its wider policy development ahead of the next general election.