Just parking this article here for reference… it is an excellent read about an infamous and widely cited essay which argues that the commons is a poor method of managing land… and why its author was wrong, and a misguided bigot.
Land Justice Network: Policy Working Group (PWG)
The aim of the Policy Working Group is to help the network develop its Common Ground Statement, expanding on the overall vision as well as identifying policies that would make this vision a reality, both in the short and long-term.
A key part of our work is to consider what we would like to see in a Land Reform Act for England and Wales, learning from the Scottish experience. We would also like to work with land campaigners in Scotland in order to develop UK-wide legislation that would enable radical land reform.
As part of this process we are working on a People’s Land Policy, learning from the experience of the People’s Food Policy developed by the Land Workers Alliance and others. We are in the early stages of this work and we welcome any feed-back you may have on our work so far.
The Policy Working Group works closely with other parts of the network- education, outreach and action. All is necessary to build an effective movement for land reform.
Land Reform from the Ground Up – Report
The Policy Working Group of the Land Justice Network held a successful day dedicated to exploring what we need from land reform in order to achieve our goals of a fairer and more equitable society in which everyone is able to benefit from land, the basis of all wealth.
Why land matters
The day began with speakers from Granville Community Centre, Community Food Growers Network, Radical Housing Network and the Save Earl’s Ct campaign, London Co-operative Housing and St Ann’s Redevelopment Trust. They explained why the issue of land is fundamental to their campaigns- being able to have access and control of land for housing, community centres and community food-growing.
The People’s Land Policy (PLP)
A speaker from the Policy Working Group briefly presented its work on a PLP which would be the basis of making policy and legislative demands to meet the needs of a variety of campaigns.
Private Ownership and the Commons
Two speakers gave presentations showing contrasting approaches to land ownership: the history of private ownership and the Commons. The general feeling was that the Commons model shows the way forward for creating a society where we can all benefit from land and have a say in how it is manged.
The Experience of Scotland
The afternoon started with a speaker on what progress Scotland has done on land reform, including the 2003 and 2016 Land Reform Acts. The main point is that though progress is not radical in the sense of truly challenging the massive inequalities of ownership, a positive start has been made and land reform is firmly on the public agenda.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent in groups discussing what policies we think would make good first steps in the rest of the UK. Groups were given a list of policies and asked to choose 5 that they think would make a good start. Groups responded to this in different ways as the feed-back report shows.
Feedback on next steps
There was no clear consensus about the way forward both in terms of some of the polices themselves, eg disagreement about land value tax, or what exactly we should focus on for a Land Reform Bill. However, there seemed to be a strong feeling that we need to move forward towards land reform.
Below is a summary of what the three groups’ discussions. From this I attempt to draw some conclusions about what we might do next.
We need to start with something that grabs people’s attention – gets people thinking about the topic of land reform.
We selected two main policy areas:
1. Free, easy and compulsory land registry so that interest in land, housing, companies is easily accessible. Having this information will make it easier to push for other policies and is also necessary for campaigns for land access.
2. Grabbing reform: we need to democratise land decision-making and make it more collective. It needs to be easy for communities to anticipate what might happen and to come up with solutions. In other words we need to get communities more engaged in making decisions about how land is used.
Further down the line we would see the importance of establishing a Land Commission.
Nearly all points were supported by someone on the table. Nearly all the points are important- a lot of interconnections. .
- Land Commission was supported. But then where does democracy come in- do you need local land Commissions- who is in control?
- Ownership and community control of land were central. This included concern that public land is being sold off as well as how public land could be used by communities. There was criticism of the concept or ‘right to buy’ even if it communities. This implies property and ownership and exclusion. This also applied to agricultural tenants’ right to buy. Should we be taking land from one landowner and give to another even if that landowner may be a small farmer or a community? Maybe we should talk instead of community stewardship.
- Banning foreign ownership was thought to be problematic- associated with nationalism, anti-migrant etc. So maybe we should focus on people or companies based in tax havens owning land.
- Interest in LVT but need to know more about it.
- Taxation policies: eg on underused property and maybe LVT but need to know more about it.
- Squatting- not everyone agreed that squatting should be legalised. Where it takes place needs to be defined.
- Democratising decision-making about land use is a key issue. Many of the policies need to have participation. Issues such as how we define community, how do we get more people involved in decision-making, who represents the community etc. This is a problem of the Land Commission- it needs to reflect a diverse range of people and not be top down. Community groups currently do not have the same power as landowners and developers. It is difficult for community groups to keep up with everything. We need to level the playing field.
- Get away from the banks role in financing purchases of things like housing. Peer-to-peer finance.
This group discussed the LVT as the main way of addressing the issues of land such as capturing increased in land value so that the benefits went to society and also the size of land holdings as the more land you have the more you have to pay. It has been tried in places such as Hong Kong and it has been very successful.
However, others stressed that maybe we need to go for smaller, ‘easy-win’ policies such as right to roam and squatters’ rights. These could help change the way people see the world around them.
Others had some reservations: LVT implies that land is a commodity. It accepts the market as a regulator- the tax tries to control and manage the market to achieve desired outcomes. There should be more taking over of land by the public and community trusts. The more you deprivatise land the less you have to worry about tax solutions.
Tax is a word that might cause people to recoil in horror. Maybe use a different term such as community land charge.
Other issues raised in plenary
- How broad should the grass roots movement be? Just Space, affiliated to LJN, does not support squatting or the LVT so it would be difficult to reach a consensus on this.
- We could use different terms- such as a betterment tax or have a more targeted approach rather than support for an all-encompassing LVT.
- We need to learn more about LVT and hear the pros and cons.
- What support is there for land reform? Who are our allies?
What next for the Policy Working Group
There was general agreement that we would all benefit from more workshops, focusing on some of the issues raised in the last session. These might include:
1. Public ownership: what is happening to public land, how can have more direct and democratic community control over how public land is used and managed, what role for community buy-outs
2. Land Value Tax: to what extent can this be used to achieve our goals?
3. Transparency on ownership: what is the situation at the moment, what information do we need and how could we achieve this
Get in touch
For more information on the Policy Working Group of the Land Justice Network contact Bonnie by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
On Sunday 7 April 2019 a small group set out to walk from Oxshott to Little Heath to honour the Diggers 370th anniversary.
St Georges Hill is completely private land now and difficult to access, so we decided to go to Little Heath where the Diggers went after being evicted from St George’s Hill in August 1649.
After meeting at the station we walked to the war memorial on top of the hill in Oxshott Heath. There Tony gave us a picture of the context of the Diggers’ actions. The Civil War was a war of monarch vs parliament, a war of the end of feudalism vs capitalism.
Several people had come specifically to sing songs and at two points we stopped to sing The Diggers Song, a UK version of This Land is Your Land and the Boundary Song. Of course we also sang The World Turned Upside Down at a place on Little Heath where there is still an unenclosed field, before walking past a very enclosed/encased estate!
We now have a new project of making a Land Songbook. Anyone who has any songs to add please send them to me to collate.
A great day with friends old and new. Thanks so much to all who came and made it so memorable.
Planning and building for a Land Justice Gathering in Bristol in autumn/winter 2019/2020.
Unequal distribution of land in England is an underlying factor which connects many social justice struggles – for housing, food growing, creation of solidarity economies, renewable energy generation, sustainable building materials, nature and biodiversity, and ongoing domination-based international policy (i.e. neocolonialism).
In 2016 a group of housing, growing and energy activists organised the Land for What? event in London, a 2-day series of talks and workshops exploring what land should really be used for, from very high-level policy discussion to very practical direct action. It was exciting to see such a diverse set of activists and campaigners, who wouldn’t normally be in a room together, making a common analysis. There were also talks about recent land reform campaigns in Scotland which showed that it is possible to win so much more than we can imagine based on current politics. Now, 3 years later, the Land Justice Network has a well-developed shared analysis of land as a social justice issue, has run ‘land for what’ events all around the country, and is building a movement for land justice.
This is an exciting moment, and we want to build a broad-based coalition in Bristol to host the next big event this coming winter, which will:
- be inspiring, fun and creative
- share experiences from Bristol, the South West and South Wales,
- develop action plans based on a good understanding of how the land system affects different issues we are working on,
- and strategyse together to build a powerful movement for land justice in the UK.
Join us in the first steps of event planning, and bring your ideas and your questions. Hydra Books, 10am-12pm, Saturday 6th of April. Please share this invitation with anyone you think might like to be involved.
Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/397551094372299/
Our next national meeting will run from 12 midday – 5pm, at the Niamos Centre in Hulme, Manchester. Address: Warwick St, Manchester M15 5EU.
Directions: From Manchester Piccadilly its a 30 minute walk, or you can catch the 85 or 86 bus which takes around 20 minutes.
New faces and curious humans very welcome!
Whether you’re interested in learning more about land justice issues, would like to get involved in the network long term or in our Land Camp in Hebden Bridge from 10th-13th May, or just dipping your toes in, we’d love to see you there!
Plan for the day
12.00 — Meet for pot-luck lunch
12.30 — Opening + personal intros
12.45 — Intro to the Land Camp and issues connected to it.
Discussion as a group
1.30 — // 2 sessions in parallel //
Session 1: Land for What? A participatory session of learning about and challenging the way land is owned, controlled and used in the UK and beyond.
Session 2: Land Justice Network Business Meeting
2.15 — Second lunch break 🙂
2.45 — Land Camp Planning and Plotting!
4.15 — Closing
5.00 — We’ll probably head to Kim by the Sea, just up the road, to hang out after the meeting. Everyone is welcome to join!
Food: We’ll meet at 12 to eat a lunch together before the meeting starts at 12.30. It would be beautiful if you could all bring something to share! We will have coffee/teas/milks on tap all day.
Childcare: Childcare will be available for the whole meeting from the wonderful Seedlings Childcare Co-operative.
Travel: Its also worth dropping us a line if you can offer a car share or need assistance with travel costs (we have some budget to support expenses).
It’d be massively helpful if you could quickly RSVP using the form below so we can send you the agenda ahead of time and also so we can find enough comfy chairs for you all 😉 !
Any questions email email@example.com
Look forward to seeing lots of you there!
A major station for democratic progressive land reform to pass through is updating the human rights laws so that absolute right to property doesn’t trump every other human right, such as the right to housing and food etc…
Scotland is heading nicely along this road and we watch jealously from England, please read this recent article from the Scottish Land Commissioner Megan MacInnes –
A day of workshops and discussion to educate ourselves and build towards grassroots land reform.
Sign up on our Eventbrite page here
Our next national meeting will be in Bristol on Saturday 19th January. Hello South West!
Our network meeting will run from 12-5pm, at St Werburghs Community Centre, Horley Road, Bristol BS2 9TJ.
This will be a really important meeting for our actions in Spring and Summer 2019. If you’d like to get involved in LJN work over the next few months, we’d love to see you there.
Childcare: We have childcare available for the main part of the meeting from 12.30-4.30. Please do get in touch if you have any questions.
Food: We’re having a pot-luck lunch at 12 before the meeting starts at 12.30. It would be beautiful if you could all bring something to share! We will have coffee/teas/milks on tap all day.
Any questions email firstname.lastname@example.org
Look forward to seeing lots of you there!