‘Land for the Many’: Labour Party publish new land proposals
June 7, 2019

The Labour Party have published a report entitled “Land for the Many”, proposing far-reaching changes to the way that land is owned and used in the UK.

The report makes several key recommendations for the party to consider as part of its policy development process. The strategic aims of the policies are to “deflate the housing bubble” and create a “fair deal for those locked out of the property market”.

Policies of interest include:

“Citizens juries” to have a role in planning applications. The report suggests implementing “jury service for planning” to increase local engagement in the system. The proposals do not say whether these juries would replace council planning committees or what precise role they would play, but that they would be “comprised of local people selected at random” who “would participate in designing local and neighbourhood plans at the earliest possible stage.

A new Compulsory Sale Order – a “new statutory power, giving public authorities the power to require land that meets certain criteria – for example, left vacant or derelict for a defined period – to be sold by public auction to the highest bidder, with community groups offered the right of first refusal.” Other criteria mentioned as being potential indicators were “reports of nuisance”, “previous enforcement action”, and “evidence of locally orchestrated public campaigns relating to the site”.

Reform of Compulsory Purchase Orders to introduce a requirement to pay landowners  “on the basis of what the land is worth at the time” rather thanon the basis of what it one day might be worth if it acquires residential planning permission.”. This would, the Report argues, have the “dual effect of increasing the supply of land and lowering the market price by reducing landowners’ ability to profit from hope value.”

The replacement of Council Tax with a “Progressive Property Tax” calculated on the basis of national property values. The tax would be payable by the owner, not tenants, and higher rates would be charged for “second homes”, “vacant and derelict land”, and land owned by non-domiciled persons (including corporate vehicles).

The creation of a “Common Ground Trust” as a publicly-backed but independent non-profit institution which would buy the land beneath houses and lease it to members. In the long term, it would act as a “state-backed vehicle for bringing land into common ownership” by creating a mechanism for the voluntary transfer of land, and stabilise prices at times of turbulence by bidding up or down land prices. The Trust would not subsequently sell this land, but retain it and build up a land portfolio.

Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office John Trickett MP welcomed the report, saying that people in the UK had “little or no say over the decisions that affect their communities”, and confirmed they would be considered for inclusion in the next General Election Manifesto.

James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, critcised the plans, saying “plans to seize land into public ownership also show Labour’s true colours of more and more state control”. Former Cabinet Minister Priti Patel (Conservative) also said that Labour’s plans amounted to “state sponsored theft”.