English Land Secrecy Blog

Three stories about English land secrecy

 

Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net) , from Wikimedia Commons

Professor Antonia Layard’s blog post explores three stories of land secrecy in England: the land registry, beneficial ownership of land, and commercial confidentiality in affordable housing. An informative read reflecting how secrecy about land ownership and deals remain part of English land developments.

 

Also mentioned are Guy Shrubsole and Anna Powell Smith of the excellent Who Owns England blog, as well as Anna Powell-Smith’s extremely useful blog showing how you can use local land registry data to explore who owns land in your area.

 

Anger at government plans to fast-track fracking applications

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/may/17/fast-track-fracking-plan-by-uk-government-prompts-criticism

By Joshua Doubek [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
Ministers have recently revealed plans to classify fracking applications as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects. This would mean decisions regarding fracking applications would be made by government-appointed planning inspectors at a national level, instead of decisions at a local authority levels, essentially bypassing local involvement in fracking applications.

The government is also making £1.6 million available for planning authorities, to assist with fracking applications. Under these regulations, the actual process of shale gas extraction would still need applications at local level, however exploratory drilling can be approved by government-appointed planning inspectors at national level.

Fracking applications have proven deeply unpopular at local consultations, with councillors in North Yorkshire on the Kirby Misperton fracking site receiving 4375 objections as opposed to 36 representations in support of the application to frack. By classifying fracking applications as NSIPs, Greenpeace argue that the government will make ‘exploratory drilling as easy as building a garden wall or conservatory’.

Daniel Carey-Dawes, senior infrastructure campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said in The Independent: “This announcement signals an outright assault on local communities’ ability to exercise their democratic rights in influencing fracking applications. Whilst fracking has been banned in Scotland, the government in England seems determined to introduce shale gas extraction, despite its unpopularity.

Friends of the Earth and Go Fossil Free are currently running divestment campaigns against the fossil fuel industry. Friends of the Earth report that local councils are investing up to £16bn of workers pensions into fossil fuel companies, and are encouraging people to lobby their local councils to divest from fossil fuel investments. Divestment campaigns are a successful way of putting pressure on governments through a public demand for action. Those done at a local level can empower communities in the fight against fossil fuel extraction, giving campaigners a platform through which to protest the government plans to restrict local community involvement in the application process.

Visit the Friends of the Earth divestment website for support and advice in starting a local campaign in your area.

Using Blockchain technology to improve land registry in India

http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/blog/2018/Using-blockchain-to-make-land-registry-more-reliable-in-India.html

IT specialists are investigating how Blockchain technology can be used to make the land registry in India more reliable and accountable.  Blockchain technology allows information ‘to be distributed but not copied‘, creating platforms for sharing information that cannot be hacked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The project, a collaboration between the Blockchain Learning Group and the United Nations Development Programme, is currently in the process of creating a land registry in the city Panchkula, in the state of Haryana. By creating accountable and accessible land registries, Blockchain technologies can provide transparent and secure information about land ownership in areas where there is otherwise limited knowledge about ownership, empowering citizens.

Blockchain is being viewed as a way to minimise corruption in the Land Registry not only in India but in western Europe too.

 

 

Land Justice Network is recruiting a coordinator

Job Description

Time: 40 hours per month, one year contract subject to 2 month probationary period

Pay: £10 p/h (£11.45 p/h higher rate for London) – you will need to invoice as a self employed worker

Interview date will be Thursday 28th June in central London and we have a budget to cover some travel expenses from those coming from out of town.

Place of work: Remote working at home and networking events, some travel costs reimbursed

Reports to: Land Justice Network Coordinator Support Group with additional monthly updates for network members

Continue reading Land Justice Network is recruiting a coordinator

Report from The Landlords’ Game

On Saturday 14th April, after a week of rain, on what felt like the first warm and sunny day of the year, just shy of a hundred people gathered in central London for the inaugural Land Justice Network Landlords’ Game guided walk.

The meet point and official start was Brown Hart Gardens, a POPS (privately owned public space) in the heart of Mayfair.

Continue reading Report from The Landlords’ Game

Mass trespass calling for land justice in the south west

On Sunday about 75 protesters travelled to the Bathurst Estate in Cirencester to participate in a mass trespass, calling for land Justice. Organised by groups including RisingUp and the Land Justice Network the protest included speeches, songs and  marching band.

Gail Bradbrook of RisingUp said afterwards:

[Lord Bathurst] watched on with family and game keepers bemusedly / slightly chewing a wasp at times – but we got a good balance of friendliness and calling out behaviours that need to change I think. It was quite a spectacle!

The protesters marched down the main avenue into the estate and then went to a private field and climbed the fence to surround a tree on the land. A banner was raised over the main road leading into Cirencester saying “No Justice Without Land Justice”.

The trespass was to demonstrate that land is an essential resource that our society, culture and economy depend upon. However, land ownership in Britain is still one of the most unequal in the world. 0.6% of the population owns 69% of the land. More than a third is still owned by the aristocracy whose ancestors seized it during the Norman Conquest and through the use of land trusts they are avoiding paying inheritance tax while maintaining the concentration of ownership to this day. During the enclosures our ancestors were violently thrown off the land and much of our current common land is being privatised (Cahill, 2001).

Peaceful civil disobedience can be a useful tool in changing things for the better. Mass trespasses have achieved successes in the past, such as at Kinder Scout, which celebrated its 86th anniversary on the same day and helped to provide bring about the right to roam.

Simon Bramwell, from RisingUp in Stroud, said:

It’s especially relevant to undertake a civil disobedience on the Bathurst Estate, much of which is owned offshore while the owner receives vast subsidies from taxpayers. Some of the land is being sold off for mostly unaffordable housing. It’s totally illustrative how there is one rule for the rich and another for the rest of us.

Katharine Hallewell of the Land Justice Network added:

Everything flows from the land, our well being, our freedom and our equality. That we are still living under a system of landownership handed down from the Norman conquests speaks volumes about our so called democracy.

The trespass was reported on BBC Radio Gloucester and there has been much discussion and sharing on social media since, including the Lady Bathurst getting stuck in!

You can watch an unedited video of the day here. Guest blog by Gail to follow.

Source: Who Owns Britain, Kevin Cahill, 2001.

 

Adapted from a press release by Gail Bradbrook of RisingUp.

Have your say on powers for dealing with unauthorised development and encampments

The government is concerned about the damage caused by people who occupy land without consent of the owners.

They have opened a consultation in which they mention camps used by Traveller communities. Through the consultation, which closes Friday 15th June 2018, they want to hear your views on existing legal powers that can be used in the case of unlawful camps, and to discuss whether new powers are needed.

Photo: Ferdia Earle

Why does this matter?

If the government introduce new criminal penalties for people who occupy land without the consent of the owner, this will potentially have a harsh and unfair effect on Traveller communities. Many other people (for example homeless persons and political activists) could also be impacted by any change in the law. It is really important that the government hear from as many people as possible from all parts of the community. You do NOT need to know in detail about the law to give your views.

What does the consultation cover?

The government are looking for people’s views on the following issues. You do not need to have an opinion on every part of the consultation. The questions are framed around the idea that camps and occupations are a problem, but you do not have to agree with this to respond to the consultation.

  • What do you know about occupations and camps in your area that happen without consent of the owners? What are your views on the situation in your area?
  • What involvement do the police have when people occupy land without consent? Do you think that the police should have more powers?
  • Do local authorities need more powers to force people to leave land?
  • Should the police have more powers to require people to leave land that they are occupying?
  • Should there be a new criminal offence that can be used where people camp on land without the consent of the owner?
  • How can local authorities make more use of legal orders called injunctions to prevent people occupying land without consent?
  • How can local authorities, police and local communities work together to prevent problems that might be caused by camps and occupations?
  • Could court action to evict occupiers be made to happen more quickly?
  • Should a special quick court process called an Interim Possession Order apply to camps on open land?
  • How can planning controls be used to deal with camps and occupations?
  • Should the government produce new a new policy on camps and occupations?
  • What is stopping local authorities from providing more sites that Travellers can use?
  • What impact might any changes in law and policy have on travelling communities?
  • Do you have any other comments related to camps and occupations?

How can I get involved?

Anyone can let the government know their views via the consultation weblink (https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/NW6G3YD). You do not have to answer every question.

You can also email your thoughts to landjusticeuk@gmail.com and we will try to put together a response on behalf of the network.

The consultation closes on Friday 15th June 2018. If you would like to be part of the land justice network response, please contact landjusticeuk@gmail.com before Friday 25th May 2018.

~ Dr Bonnie Holligan, lecturer in property law at the University of Sussex

London Renters Union take action

In London, tenancies are short, disrepair is common, and rents are higher than almost anywhere in the world.

After just a few weeks of organising, London Renters Union members at Eros House flats in Catford took action to demand an end to evictions and for urgent safety and disrepair issues to be solved.

The steadfast residents of Eros House in Catford took action to demand an end to unsafe conditions and evictions in their homes. They delivered a letter, with lots of energy to Lewisham Council and one of the management companies that runs the tower block they live in. They were supported by LRU members and activists from Newham and across our city.

They’ve struggled with electrical hazards, serious damp and mould and faulty heating for too long – and some residents are facing eviction by the private company they rent from.

Amina and Michael, LRU

London Renters Union was set by a coalition including Radical Housing Network, Take Back The City, Generation Rent, Digs (Hackney Renters), and People’s Empowerment Alliance for Custom House (PEACH). They’re currently building their first pilot branch in Newham and hope to have branches across the city by the end of 2018.

You can show your support for LRU members at Eros House by sharing the report back from today’s action on Twitter or Facebook:

The Tweet to retweet is at https://twitter.com/LDNRentersUnion/status/984081149050916864 .

The Facebook post to share is at https://www.facebook.com/LondonRentersUnion/posts/434286730327689 .

The full blog post with more info is at: http://londonrentersunion.org/2018/04/11/eros-house-letter-hand-in/

Urban Right to Buy Developments in Scotland

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

An Aberdeen community have used new community buyout powers to claim a piece of private land as their own, becoming the first in Northern Scotland to utilise the Urban Right to Buy scheme. The land, that was once a bowls club, will be used as a community market garden and cafe.

http://www.scottishcommunityalliance.org.uk/articles/2720/

Scottish Land Commission publish discussion paper about diversifying land ownership

From Photochrom Prints Collection at the Library of Congress – Picture in the public domain

Scotland, as many know, is quite a few years ahead of England with land reform.

The Scottish Land Commission has just published a discussion paper by Peter Peacock about diversifying land ownership which is our recommended reading this week!

https://landcommission.gov.scot/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Land-Lines-Land-Ownership-Peter-Peacock-March-2018.pdf