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.

 

 

Hypo wot thecation? A blog post about tax

Tax by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0

Hypothecation – I’d never hear about this before but it maybe of interest connected to issues around Land Value Tax and Land Uplift Capture or whatever else we are calling ways of preventing land speculators from profiteering these days…

The Responsible Tax Lab write:

The concept of hypothecation, where revenues from specific taxes would be ringfenced for a particular expenditure purpose – and publicly communicated in this way – has traditionally been unpopular with many. This is because of the notable challenges, relating to complexity, transparency, and public perceptions, with which it is associated. However, there is growing interest in how hypothecation could help engage with tax policy and increase public trust in the system.

Many people who call for a change in the way land is taxed also have called for the new tax income to be ring-fenced for using on connected issues. E.g. a land value tax going towards buying land for self build homes or re-commoning or supporting entrant farmers etc.

Anyways, here is an article written by the Head of Tax from PWC which goes into more depth! https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/could-health-and-social-services-be-safeguarded-by_uk_5a783496e4b0414342903948

 

 

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/

Get Your Facts Straight: Land Stats Everyone Should Know

Facts

  • 69% of land in the UK is owned by 0.6% of the population.
  • UK housing is concentrated on 5% of the country’s land mass.
  • Only 64% of people have a small stake in the 5% of land on which our housing is built.
  • Home and land ownership is in decline.
  • 1/3 of British land is still owned by aristocrats.
  • The value of ‘dwellings’ (homes and the land underneath them) has increased by four times (or 400%) between 1995 and 2015, from £1.2 trillion to £5.5 trillion.
  • The property wealth of the top 10% of households is nearly 5 times greater than the wealth of the bottom half of all households combined.
  • Landlords own almost 40% of all former council houses with the government’s ‘right-to-buy’ scheme.
  • The annual amount of overseas investment in the UK housing market has rise from around £6bn per year a decade ago to £32bn by 2014.
  • 74% of house price increases between 1950 and 2012 in the UK can be explained by rising land prices with the remainder attributable to increases in construction costs.
  • Land often increases in value due to public investment in infrastructure, such as roads, public transport, housing, etc. It has been estimated that the extension of the Jubilee Line of the London Underground which opened in 1999 increased local residential land values within 1000 yards of each of the stations by £13 billion (Riley, 2001). As a result, such publically funded infrastructure projects almost always involve a substantial transfer of wealth from a large number of taxpayers to a small number of land owners – a classic case of economic rent.

Sources:

Who really owns Britain?, Country Life, November 2010.

Modern Land Reform, New Economics Foundation, publication forthcoming.

Who Owns Britain, Kevin Cahill, 2001.

Falling down the Land Debate Rabbit Hole

Once you find out about the way land is controlled you can’t believe there is so little debate about it. Land for what? is a chance to get more people engaged, says Tom Kenny.

Jessie Brennan_If This Were To Be Lost_2016_Painted birch plywood on scaffold_1-9 x 19 m_IMG_4162 (1)

Until a few years ago I didn’t really think about land much. Of course I was concerned about the housing crisis, the damage being done to the environment by industrial land management, gentrification, inequality and so on. But we rarely talk how these issues are all dependent on the way we use and govern land as a society.

When I did get interested, I quickly bounded down the rabbit hole. The more I learned, the more incredulous I got that the status quo is so rarely challenged, or even discussed. You keep having to pinch yourself….

“Let me get this straight – we pay landowners for owning land, sometimes even for managing it badly and destroying environmental assets!?”

“Wait a second, you’re saying that one third of our land is still in the hands of the aristocracy!?”

“So landowners make huge untaxed windfall gains when there is public investment in infrastructure near them? That doesn’t sound right…”

And when you get into it, It turns out a lot of people have been through this journey. We’ve had loads of interest since we started to talk about Land for What?. Interest from other people who have learned about the more absurd parts of the status quo, and are hungry to challenge it.

Yet it is still far from being a mainstream issue. Even where people are firmly entrenched in land-based struggles like housing activism they may not consider the importance of land to these struggles. Whilst it’s easy to fall down the land debate rabbit hole, most people seem not to notice it at all.

In the past, some discussions about ‘land reform’ have been alienating to outsiders (even the term is a turn-off for some). I think some people can get a bit lost down the rabbit hole, fixating on one of the particular paths. Planning policy. Land value taxation. Community Land Trusts. Yes, these things are important, but debates over their intricacies are rarely exciting for newcomers. Moreover, the core issues are much more basic, and should resound with most people in our society.

For me, Land for What? is about pulling many more people down the rabbit hole. It’s about spreading information about the nature of the problem, always relating it to the things people care about, and exploring common ground for solutions. It’s about inspiring other people to continue these discussions in their own communities.

When ideas about Land for What? were first gestating, some of us attended a talk by Scottish land rights campaigner (and now MSP) Andy Wightman. He said that a key step in the land reform debate in Scotland was when people developed ‘land literacy’, and the land debate was added to the list of topics people might discuss in the pub. Sounds like a good goal to me.

Tom is from Shared Assets, a think and do tank that supports people managing land for the common good. Follow @tomekenny and @shared_assets on Twitter.

The great myth of urban Britain

This BBC article has some useful facts and figures from recent comprehensive national studies about how much of the country is built on.

A surprisingly low figure which could be used to challenge the idea that we don’t have enough space in this country to house everyone adequately.

If I have read the article right, it states that 80% of us live on 2% of the land and that only 20% of ‘urban’ land is actually built on!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18623096