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Workshop organised by the People’s Land Policy and the London Mining Network
March 28th, 12:00 – 5:00
New Economics Foundation: 10 Salamanca Pl, Lambeth, London SE1 7HB
The way we use land lies at the bottom of the ecological crisis. Human impact has now spread to all parts of the globe. We need to seriously rethink how we use land so that it contributes to the well-being of both the planet and people rather than our destruction. This conference will look at two important land use issues: mining and the loss of biodiversity.
Mining and release of fossil fuels is one of the major causes of climate change. In addition, the new green technology requires a number of minerals whose supply is limited. Mining also has a serious impact on local communities as the western countries and their corporations turn to the global South to satisfy their insatiable demand for resources and profits.
Land is primarily used to meet the needs of humans. This has meant that other species lose their habitats, with many already extinct. This process has accelerated in recent decades to the point that there is a crisis not only for other species but for ourselves. We ask the question: what role for nature? To what extent should we be reducing human impact and letting the rest of nature flourish?
12:00 – Registration and lunch- bring food to share
12:50 – Introduction to People’s Land Policy and London Mining Network
3:00 – Land and nature
Speakers to be confirmed.
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 email@example.com
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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.
On Sunday 15th April we held our national gathering at the Friends of the Earth offices in London.
This was the day after our buzzing and well-attended tour of London’s housing crisis, organised as part of our Week of Action for Land Justice. Many people at the meeting had organised or taken part in the tour, and celebrated its success long into the evening… I think Nick Hayes summed up the feeling in the room when he said “I’m so happy and tired I think I’m going to cry!”
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.
Scotland, as many know, is quite a few years ahead of England with land reform.
Come to Land Justice Network’s next national gathering to celebrate the start of our Week of Action on Land Rights, discuss what the network’s been up to and plot fresh actions together!
We’ll meet up 12 noon to eat lunch together (bring a dish if you can) and start the meeting at 1pm, finishing 4pm with optional social time at a nearby pub afterwards.
Facebook event page is https://www.facebook.com/events/169320923865119/
If you need financial support so you can make it to the event please drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Friends of the Earth offices, The Printworks, 139 Clapham Road, London, SE1 0DG