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/
The next national gathering will take place on the 11th November at Friends of the Earth’s Offices in London from 12-5pm with option pub visit afterwards for the freelancers among us…
The meeting will be a chance for new and old members to meet, discuss, and make plans for the coming months of land justice action! If you’d like to get involved in LJN work over the next few months, we’d love to see you there.
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 😉 !
On the weekend of 12th-13th November 2016, hundreds of people with diverse backgrounds and interests gathered to talk about the issues surrounding land, and to look for spaces for solutions. This report summarises some of the sessions from the weekend. Thanks to everyone who submitted a session summary. We hope it can be useful for people who weren’t able to make it to the event, and will help inspire further discussions.
Read the full report here
- 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.
Who really owns Britain?, Country Life, November 2010.
Modern Land Reform, New Economics Foundation, publication forthcoming.
Who Owns Britain, Kevin Cahill, 2001.
If you and a group of people around you have noticed disused land in your area and you think your council should be acting to do something about here’s how to let them know. Below is a template letter to send to your local councillor to let them know that local land should be used to the benefit of local people. Get emailing, reposting, sending letters and tweeting about it now!
Dear [insert name of councillor],
I am writing to you regarding disused land in the county/borough of [insert name of county or borough].
Our [borough/county] contains significant empty sites of empty land that could be used to build much needed housing, start new community food growing projects, launch new businesses, or create new wildlife corridors. The [insert example of disused land here] is just one example of this. As local residents we are keen to work with the local authority to ensure that this land is brought back into use to the benefit of local residents.
We would like to arrange a meeting with the relevant elected member and the empty properties officer to discuss the council’s strategy for bringing empty properties and derelict land back into use. To be clear, we have no interest in purchasing or profiting from any particular piece of land ourselves – we simply want to see the land in our borough/county used for the benefit of local communities rather than left empty.
Please let us know a convenient time for a meeting.
We look forward to hearing from you.
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.
Who can spot land?
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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/
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.
My name’s Zahra, as you probably guessed from the title, and I’ll be coordinating Land for What?’s first gathering, next month.
After 18 months of building, developing and reflecting the time has come to ask the question: Land for What? We’ll be coming together this November 12th-13th for a full two days of conversation and careful consideration of land, who has it, who needs and of course, what it’s for.
As an activist with a background in grassroots campaigning on housing and protecting community assets, I was immediately drawn into the idea of talking about land. I have spent hundreds of hours in meetings about saving council estates under threat and protecting community centres whose value was manifested in the wellbeing of the community rather than the wealth of their owners. But I’ve only just begun on a journey of understanding what lies beneath: land.
I’ve loved every moment of learning about the complexities of land use, or misuse, as often seems to be the case in this country. I’m enthralled to be working on this upcoming conference as it marks an exciting development in the conversation about land in England and opens doors to a whole new phase in land history.
If you have any questions on Land for What? our upcoming conference you can get to us on firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be more than happy to respond to your queries. I’ll be spending a lot of my time making sure that we’re in touch with you by any means necessary so tweet us, @ us on Facebook and shoot us an email if you so desire!
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.