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.

 

Urge Local Landowners to Put Their Land to Good Use

As well as councils, private landowners also often sit on disused land that could be used for public good. Using the template below, you can put pressure on a local landowner to push them into putting their land to good use. Share it widely and do not hesitate in sending that email or letter!

Dear [insert name of landowner],

 

I am writing to you regarding [insert name of empty site] and its ongoing state of disuse.

As a local resident, I am keen that the site is brought back into use to the benefit of the local community. Our area is in need of [delete as appropriate: new housing, more green space, land to start a community food growing project] and the land that you own could be part of the solution. Bringing it back into use would be in your own interest as well as in the interest of the local area. I am not interested in purchasing or using the site myself – I am simply hoping to that it will be put to use in the near future.

I urge you to take the following actions:

  • Contact the Empty Property Officer in the local authority to discuss what you can do to bring the land back into use.
  • Make your intentions for the future use of the land known to local residents.
  • Contact me or [name of active local group] if you would like to discuss how best to move forwards.

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

[insert name]

DIY Land Spotting: How To

This simple step-by-step guide is designed to help you spot disused land in your area and raise it as an issue with your local council and local land owners – the people with the power to bring it back into use. Spotting disused land is easy to do and can be done be anyone. Currently, the UK has large amounts of disused land that could be put to use in all sorts of ways: from building community-led affordable housing, to growing community gardens, to increasing local biodiversity. Whatever your goal, this step-by-step guide will help you identify disused land in your area and bring it back into use, as well as potentially feeding into a crowdsourced map of disused land in the UK.

Getting started

Who can spot land?

  1. Go solo! One person can achieve a lot. Decide on the geographical area that you want to spot empty land in. Decide how long a period you want to spend identifying sites – a week? a month? a year? Whatever time period you choose, the aim is to identify as many sites as you can within that time.
  2. Form a spotting group! This could be with your friends, family, colleagues, community group, or other people interested in land reform in your local area. The more people, the more disused land you will be able to identify. You could even meet up to share what you found out!

How to spot land?

You could spot land while:

  • On your way to work
  • Taking your kids to school
  • On dedicated land spotting walks in your area

 

What to gather information on?

It is important that you gather information on:

  1. The location of the site. This is the most important piece of information. The best way to record the location of the site is to place a pin on Google Maps and save it. This data can then be used to create a map of disused land across the UK.
  2. How long the site has been disused. This might be something that you know yourself or it might be something you can find out by asking local people or through Google.
  3. Who you think might own it. Again, this might be something you know, or it might be something you can find out by asking the neighbours or through the Land Registry.
  1. What it used to be used for. Again, this might be something that you know yourself or it might be something you can find out by asking local people or through Google.

 

How to make it an issue?

Gathering information is important, but to bring disused land back into use it is essential to make it into a pressing issue: for the landowner (who has the power to do something with the land), the local authority (who has the power of compulsory purchase if the landowner refuses to take action), and local citizens (who have the power to put pressure on local landowners and the council). In order to make disused land in your area into an issue, you could start by:

  • Taking a selfie in front of the disused land and tweeting it to #Land4What.
  • Finding out who owns the land using the Land Registry.
  • Telling your local councillors about all the empty land in your area and suggesting ideas for how it could be used (a community land trust housing development, a park, an allotment).
  • Using the template letters to local councils and landowners on the Land for What? website: https://www.landjustice.uk/category/resources/

 

Further resources

For more information on mapping land, check out the following links:

Who Owns England? – a blog attempting map land ownership in England.

Empty Homes – advice on how to bring empty homes back into use from a charity that campaigns on this issue nationally.

Plotfinder – a website for buying and selling land.

Oxford session at House Of The Commons on Saturday 22nd October

We will be at House Of The Commons on Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd October. Please see their website for the final program and timings. Three Acres And A Cow is happening at 7pm on Friday 21st October and will feature special guest Peggy Seeger.

http://houseofthecommons.org/

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We’re recruiting a coordinator

Please find downloadable PDF here – Event Coordinator Job Description

Background:

We live in a time of widening social inequality, various housing and health crises, and impending climate collapse. When fire fighting such important issues, it is hard to step back and make time to explore and challenge the roots of these systemic struggles. Land has been the elephant in the room of English politics for so long we have become accustomed to its absence during important discussions. However, if you begin to reframe common questions about housing, environment and health in terms of the role of land, its fundamental importance becomes clear. Land for What? aims to raise awareness, create dialogue and forge connections between affected groups, and inspire us to build long lasting solutions.

The Role:

Coordinator for ‘Land for What’ convergence on 12th-13th November 2016 in London. Managing the logistics leading up the event and on the day. Liaising with the steering group and with other collaborators. The role will be primarily administrative, aimed at coordinating all the elements needed to run a successful event and help build a movement.

Responsibilities:

  • Responsible for ticketing and inquiries
  • Day to day responsibility for event budget
  • Working with the Steering Group to develop and put in place the conference programme
  • Liaising with collaborating organisations, speakers, chairs and event team
  • Overseeing activities on the day – scheduling, venue, catering, speakers etc
  • Communications/ promotions for the conference including:
    • Writing and collating blogs/ newsletters
    • Keeping website updated
    • Maintaining social media
    • Post event work
    • Writing report on key learning/ actions
    • Developing mailing list & network of interested organisations

Ideal candidate profile:

  • Available for event – 12th-13th November 2016 (and ideally the 2 weeks before)
  • Living in London or able and willing to travel in when necessary
  • A proven track record organising conferences, ideally in related areas
  • Experience managing a team, particularly one involving volunteers
  • Good writing skills & a high standard of spoken & written English
  • Good at working towards deadlines. Flexible and resourceful. Well organised
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Knowledge about and passion for issues around land reform and related struggles (housing, food etc.). We value people who have a close association with disenfranchised groups and struggles around land and access to space.
  • Experience coordinating multiple groups
  • Knowledge about social media, comms and PR
  • We welcome applicants from all sectors of society, particularly less represented groups.

Terms:

  • Equivalent 1 day/ week from beginning of September to end of November (14 weeks)
  • Ambition to take this to equivalent 2 days/week depending on funding. Also ambition to extend the role beyond November.
  • Pay £100/ day = total fee of between £1400 and £2800 (assuming role ends in November)
  • This is a freelance role and the successful candidate will be responsible for their own tax affairs.

Application process

  • Please submit a maximum 2 page CV, and a 1 page covering letter that addresses the following three points:
    • Why are you interested in this role?
    • How does your experience make you suitable for this role?
    • How would you approach the role, if successful?
    • We will be using the covering letter as the main method of sifting through potential candidates so please do make sure to submit it and respond to each point clearly and succinctly.

Timings

  • Deadline: Monday 8th August, 12PM
  • Notification of shortlisted candidates: w/c 15th August
  • Interviews: w/c 15th or 22nd August
  • Start: w/c 29th August

Contact:

Quakers interest in Housing and Inequality

Dear Friends

Quakers have an interest in Housing and Inequality which led us to run a conference on 20th February this year, a little while before the recent Housing Act.

If you’re interested in what went on, you can have a look at the open Facebook Group Quakers and Housing Inequality.

One of the outcomes following our conference was a Housing Toolkit, a resource document for use by Quaker groups and individuals. It might interest some of you, so I’ve uploaded a copy to this site here – Quaker Housing Toolkit Part 1

Fred