Why we pay extortionate amounts for small, pokey, cheaply made houses packed within feet of each other.
 

The UK has a land surplus.

We are living in crowded and dense cities, not a crowded and urbanised country
How Land Affects The Average Person
Despite claims of concreting over the countryside, only 7.5% of UK land is settled.

The value of the land accounts for 2/3 of the  average house price.


CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

PROBLEMS

THE UK HAS A LAND SURPLUS

QUESTIONS

PLANNING

SOLUTIONS

1. Nationalise Land

2. Redistribute Land

3. Land Value Tax - Geonomics

THE WAY FORWARD

DATA ON LAND USE


Supporting Links

Unaffordable Housing (pdf)

Bigger Better Faster More (pdf)

Better Homes Greener Cities (pdf)



Supporting Books & DVD


Books:
Who Owns Britain
by Kevin Cahill
(available from Amazon)

Ricardo's Law - House Prices and the Great Tax Clawback Scam. (explains Land Value Tax well with modern examples)
by Fred Harrison
(available from Amazon)

DVD:
Whose Britain Is It Anyway - BBC, 2006
Presented by Peter Snow & Dan Snow


Relevant Facts
  • The UK has 60 million acres of land in total

  • 70% of the land is owned by 1% of the population.

  • Just 6,000 or so landowners - mostly aristocrats, but also large institutions and the Crown - own about 40 million acres, two thirds of the UK.

  • Britain's top 20 landowning families have bought or inherited an area big enough to swallow up the entire counties of Kent, Essex and Bedfordshire, with more to spare.

  • Big landowners measure their holdings by the square mile; the average Briton living in a privately owned property has to exist on 340 square yards.

  • Each home pays £550/ann. on average in council tax while each landowning home receives £12,169/ann. in subsidies. The poor subsidising the super rich. In Ireland where land redistribution occurred, there is no council tax.

  • A building plot, the land, now constitutes between half to two- thirds of the cost of a new house.

  • 60 million people live in 24 million "dwellings".

  • These 24 million dwellings sit on approx 4.4 million acres (7.7% of the land).

  • Of the 24 million dwellings, 11% owned by private landlords and 65% privately owned.

  • 19 million privately owned homes, inc gardens, sit on 5.8% of the land.

  • Average dwelling has 2.4 people in it.

  • 77% of the population of 60 million (projected to be more in new census) live on only 5.8% of the land, about 3.5 million acres (total 60 million).

  • Agriculture only accounts for 3% of the economy.

  • Average density of people on one residential acre is 12 to 13.

  • 10.9 million homes carries a mortgage of some kind.

  • Average value of an acre of development land is £404,000. High in south east of £704,154, low in north east of £226,624. London is in a category of its own.

  • Of the world’s 15 most expensive prime commercial property locations, five are in England.

  • London West End occupation costs of £98 per square foot are the most expensive in the world. They are around 40 per cent more than any other city in the world, and double that of Paris, the next most expensive European city.

  • Prime site occupation costs in Manchester and Leeds are around 40 percent more than mid-town Manhattan.

  • Reservations of land have been placed by builders to a value of 37 billion to build the 3-4 million homes required. The land reserved is almost wholly owned by aristocrats; with none of it on the land registry. This land is coming out of subsidised rural estates, land held by off-shore trusts and companies and effectively untaxed. 

  • Tony Blair ejected from the House of Lords 66 hereditary peers, who between them owned the equivalent of 4.5 average sized English counties. 

Below: The subsidised green fields of the UK - much of them are paid to remain idle by taxpayers money while cramming the population into 7.5% of the land. Most people are excluded from living in the countryside, it mainly being the preserve of the rich.

Below: Small, very expensive, flimsy construction, poorly built, high density housing crammed in as tight as possible, is the norm in the UK. This sort of planning is a  result of an artificial building land shortage. This high density building reduces the standard of living and quality of life.

Below: The idealised picture postcard English village which is portrayed as how the English countryside is, and should be protected at all costs by keeping urbanites in tight urban settlements. The fact is that only a small percentage of villages are like this tending to be tourist hot spots.



"Solving the land question means the solving of all social questions… Possession of land by people who do not use it is immoral - just like the possession of slaves."
- Leo Tolstoy


INTRODUCTION


The UK has a very big problem that lies at the root of many of its problems; it is the usage and ownership of “land”.  Most are not aware that land is a big problem that affects just about every man, woman and child in the UK. This problem has been effectively suppressed.

PROBLEMS


The value of land accounts for 2/3 of the value of the average home in the UK - a very big problem.

Some points relating to high land prices:



a)  House Prices Are Far Too High -
  High prices for very small high density homes are the norm in the United Kingdom.  UK house prices are amongst the highest in the world in comparison to comparable countries. The more land is a greater part of the total house price the higher house prices become.  An acre of agricultural land can be purchased for £2,000, a complete eco kit home for £20,000, yet the average price of a house in the UK is near to £200,000. Obtaining planning permission to erect a house in the countryside in a country with a land surplus will be near impossible. Few realise that the high land value is the reason why their homes are so expensive.

In the United Kingdom the average home costs seven times the average annual income. In the U.S.A. the average person pays three and a half their annual income on a home. In the United Kingdom the average size of the home will be 330 square feet per person, while Americans occupy 750 square feet per person.  In the UK, on average, homes cost twice as much and are half the size as in the U.S.A.

Over a period of thirty years, real house prices in the UK rose up by around 3% per annum while remaining stable in Germany and Switzerland.


b) High Land Prices Disrupt Family Life - High land values cascading into high house prices entails that both parents of homes in the vast majority of families need to work to pay mortgages to keep a very small roof over their heads. Only about 8% of UK families have the wife at home full time. This breakdown in traditional family life results in the latch-key kids, who all too often end up as delinquents and in trouble.  Vandalism and graffiti is rife in the UK giving the country a very poor image.

c)  Average Person Priced Out of Housing Market - The problem of not allowing to build on land is surfacing in parts of the country where locals with low incomes and in some cases not so low, are being priced out of the housing market.  Many cannot afford to live in the towns, villages and city districts where they were born and brought up, having to leave splitting family groups. Many of these towns and villages are surrounded by low grade land which lays idle through public subsidy. Small builders and individual selfbuilders are eager to build on this land to fill the local housing gap; however they are prevented from doing so. 

This artificial shortage of available building land reduces home ownership. Home ownership in the UK is at 68% which is lower than Spain, Finland, Ireland, Greece, Australia and New Zealand and very close to rates in Italy, Portugal and Luxembourg. 

The land is not serving the population.  Not only that, it financially penalises the population.

d)  Houses Far Too Small - The averaged sized new home in the UK is a paltry 76 square metres, while in Germany with a similar population density new homes are 109 square metres, nearly half as much again in size.  In Australia the average sized new home is 205.7 square metres, in the Netherlands 115 square metres and in Denmark 137 square metres. Danish rooms are twice as big as the hutches now on offer in the United Kingdom.  In Japan, a country once notorious for small homes, the average sized new home is now 140 square metres. 

The averaged size living room in the UK is a miniscule 13 foot by 15 foot; a room which has to function as TV room, children’s play room, entertainment room and relaxation room.  If the averaged sized man stands in the middle of a typical British living room and stretched out an arm he will hit either a wall or ceiling.  British TV has many programmes dedicated to giving a larger feel to a room by careful choice of furnishing and colour co-ordination.  This is an attempt to create an impression of space in undersized homes.

The housing charity, Shelter, estimate 500,000 households are officially overcrowded.

e)  Consumer Debt Is Mainly Mortgages - The media is full of tales of high consumer debt in the UK.  Few state that 80% is actually mortgages, not debt for luxury goods; giving the impression the population of the UK are financially reckless and decadent.  In short, the average person pays extortionate amounts for a tiny roof to keep themselves warm and dry.

f)  High Land Prices Discourage Commerce and Industry - High land prices result in high rents, which are passed onto commerce and industry.  Many foreign investors and companies have been discouraged from establishing in the UK because of uncompetitive rents. 

g)  Barrier to Building Affordable Homes - Preventing the population from building affordable homes in the countryside forces them into urban areas where many will be given publicly owned or subsidised homes, paid for from taxes. We pay from public money, which could be better spend on needy projects, to house people who would otherwise pay for and build their own homes. This is obviously a ludicrous situation. Taxpayers money keeps land idle and is also used to house the population.  Better use can be made of public money.

h)  Land is at Root of Traveller Problems - Approximately 300,000 people in the UK travel the roads in caravans, effectively homeless. That is the equivalent population of a city out on the road. Some traveller societies, mainly the original Gypsies, have deep routes and traditions of travelling, most do not.  Many have become a nuisance to the wider society and are firmly unwanted and unwelcome wherever they set up camp. The root cause that initially forced theses people onto the roads was access to land to live on. The Irish travelling communities originated when Ireland’s land was owned by a handful of people forcing these people off the land they lived on.  Many of the travellers in the UK originate from Ireland.  Most traveller families want a permanent place to live. The evictions of Travellers caravans from land they actually own when attempting a permanent settlement clearly demonstrates this. If travellers were allowed to build permanent homes the problem would be alleviated.

i) Immigration is encouraged by boom and bust construction - The planning and land system in the UK does not promote a stable constant construction industry, which is the bedrock of many countries as it is labour intensive. Because of the nature of UK planning and construction and lack of available land released to build upon, housing is always falling behind demand in many respects. When the situation worsens the government steps in to attempt to rectify the housing problem - invariably using taxpayers money. This boom and bust means that when there is a housing boom, the country is desparately short of construction skills and labour. These skills are then imported from aboard, and currently around one million Eastern Europeans are filling the gap. If the planning system was relaxed and land freely available to build upon in urban and country areas, then construction would be a constant and stable industry, out of the hands of a few construction companies and not requiring large scale immigration to fill temporary skills shortages.

- Strange that land can be the root of excessive house prices, however very true.  

- Strange that land can be the root cause of much child and teenage vandalism, however very true.

- Strange that land can be the root cause of forcing people out of their home towns and villages, splitting up families, however very true.  

- Strange that land can result in homes being far too small, however very true.

- Strange that land can be the root cause of disrupted families, however very true.

- Strange that land can discourage business and growth, however very true.  

- Strange that land accounts for vast profits by financial institutions lending money for homes with inflated prices, however very true.

- Strange in that land increases the tax burden on subsidised homes, however very true.  

- Strange in that land created, and maintains, the problem of the travellers, however very true.

- Strange that land encourages immigration with the social problems different cultures and religions bring with it, however very true.

The above is all very true, yet on the surface few would relate the problems to land and its usage.

THE UK HAS A LAND SURPLUS

Contrary to popular belief, the UK has approximately only 7.5% of its land settled upon. The Urban plot of 4 million acres is only 6.6%. The UK actually has a surplus of land.  Despite claims of concreting over the South East of England, only 7.1% is settled with the Home Counties being underpopulated. The North West of England is densest with 9.9% settled. 

QUESTIONS

Question 1. 

So why does land account for 2/3 of the value of the average home, with all the negative spins offs, if we have all this land available?  

Quite simply, the deliberate creation of an artificial land shortage, which ramps up land prices.   

Question 2. 

What creates this artificial land shortage?

The 1947 Town and Country Planning act, introduced by a “Labour” government, who promised land nationalisation during the 1945 general election, herds the population into small isolated highly dense pockets of land in urban areas. Amazingly the Labour government allowed the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) to be involved in drafting the act.  CPRE was formed by large landowners.  They influenced the act to suit themselves. The naïve Labour administration at the time accepted their input. Over 90% of the population now live in urbanised areas, the second highest percentage in Europe, leaving the countryside virtually empty, because of this draconian act.  This crams near 55 million of the population into around 7% of the land, which is only 4.2 million acres out of a UK total of 60 million acres.  60 million people own just 6% of the land. 

The pitiful lack of land for new housing is not helped by the 30 million acres that have ‘disappeared’.
- Peter Snow (referring to the Land Registry & Planning)

The act prevents us from building on the countryside, even though much of it is being paid to remain idle by taxpayers money. A countryside that has lost its population at an alarming rate over the past 30 years. The population of the UK are forced into tight urban pockets paying extortionate prices for land, and subsequently houses. Their taxes are used to reinforce this bizarre situation by paying to:

  1. Keep land unused to maintain an artificial land shortage inflating house prices.
  2. House large sections of the population unnecessarily in public funded housing. 
  3. Overwhelmingly control where the population lives. 

This adds insult to injury.  A contemptuous slap in the face.

The Town & Country Planning act is in effect an act to control the population, rather than ensure adequate agricultural land is available, protect areas of natural beauty or promote first class habitation.  The latter it certainly does not do. 

Question 3. 

Who are the biggest benefactors of this artificial land shortage?

a)  Primarily Large Landowners.   

The ludicrously small figure of 0.65% of the UK population own 68.3% of the land, many are aristocratic families dating back many hundreds of years. Despite propaganda stating that the British aristocracy is poverty stricken and exists no more, they have managed to hang on to their lucrative acres very well, and in many cases expand their empires. 

The root of this situation came about from the Norman conquest.  The Normans gave land to people who were favorable to them.  In short, many of these families were traitors to their own kind conspiring with invaders. The Saxons had a very different approach to land, its ownership and usage. However, the Feudal system imposed by the Normans meant 100% of taxes came from the land, and not from any income tax.  The land owners, mainly Lords, moved taxes away from land to increase their wealth, moving taxation onto individuals.  Later, the enclosures of common lands and the Highland croft clearances completed the land rout with these people greedily stealing land. The situation has never been rectified. 

The UK still has this landowning aristocratic legacy, which still, despite propaganda stating otherwise, has a large effect and influence on the British population. Large landowners are part of the British establishment and do everything in their power to keep the status quo. The late Enoch Powel described the British establishment as “the power that need not speak its name”. A very astute description.

Most of these landowners produce little making their vast profits by taking rent. When the media reports that times are hard for farmers, they omit the word “tenant”. It should be “tenant farmers”.  When times are bad the landowner always gets his rent, or takes the farm back, paying no taxes on it when idle, and leaves it until times are better.  

To justify their monopolies in land ownership, large landowners state they are only custodians of the land and only they can maintain the land properly. “Maintaining the land properly” is rather open and vague, if they ever do such a thing of course. Their excuse to grab land intially, in the English enclosures and Highland Clearances, was to improve and mainatin land. If these people are only custodians and looking after the land for our benefit, then why aren’t the public allowed on uncultivated land? These custodians fence off all their lands and only allow access to the population when forced to by law. Their claims clearly do not hold water. The British prime minister in 1909 stated about British landowners hoarding land and their so-called maintenance and productivity of land:

"Millions of acres ... more stripped and sterile than they were, and providing a living for fewer people than they did 1000 years ago - acres which abroad would either be clad in profitable trees or be brought ... to a higher state of cultivation."
- Lloyd George

The UK has never had a revolution, which tend to strip away the vested interests of the entrenched landowning rich. No political party has had the stomach to face up to large landowners, who are a legacy of our totally unjust past. Landed families infiltrate the top brass of the military. In the 1960s and 1970s, there were two planned military coups against the reforming Wilson government as many in the British establishment thought, amongst other things, he would nationalise land. However, there was full employment, a sound economy and the population were not discontent, only aspects of the British Establishment were. After all, in 1945 Atlee promised land reform, but ran out of time, so Wilson, a major part of the Atlee government, should carry out the promise when the Labour party returned to power, which he mysteriously never did. 

Tony Blair ejected from the House of Lords 66 hereditary peers, who between them owned the equivalent of 4.5 average sized English counties. The Royal family controls approximate the size of one average sized English county. The Duke of Argyle owns vast tracts of Scotland. Historically landowners have been a problem; the Irish famine was a direct result of large landowners. The problem is still with us and in many respects even greater. With large landowners being omnipresent in the Palace of Westminster, land reform would always be difficult if near impossible. Tony Blair ejecting hereditary peers is the first step in land reform, as one barrier has been partially dismantled.

"Stop to consider how the so-called owners of the land got hold of it. They simply seized it by force, afterwards hiring lawyers to provide them with title-deeds. In the case of the enclosure of the common lands, which was going on from about 1600 to 1850, the land-grabbers did not even have the excuse of being foreign conquerors; they were quite frankly taking the heritage of their own countrymen, upon no sort of pretext except that they had the power to do so."
– George Orwell. 

 

"Except for the few surviving commons, the high roads, the lands of the National Trust, a certain number of parks, and the sea shore below high-tide mark, every square inch of England is `owned' by a few thousand families. These people are just about as useful as so many tapeworms.  It is desirable that people should own their own dwelling houses, and it is probably desirable that a farmer should own as much land as he can actually farm."
– George Orwell.

b)  Large Construction Companies. 

Approximately 80% of all homes built in the UK are built by about only 20 companies. In no other country in the western world does such a monopoly exist. The sort of situation seen in banana republics. The House Builders Federation influences the building regulations so heavily in order to maintain the status quo that the UK is backwards in house building technology compared to large parts of Western Europe, Scandinavia and North America. The House Builders Federation opposes any increase in building regulations that they perceive will eat into their members vast profits. They opposed all increases in insulation standards and in 1990 described the proposed insulation increase as “a cosmetic exercise”. 

Graham Chapman, the founder of the Lotus motor car company, wanted to make the best sports cars, and aimed to do so, with making money a secondary object. Large house developers only want profit not caring about the poor quality dross they serve up. None want to build the best designed and constructed houses. As no Graham Chapman is present in the British construction industry, they will have to be legislated into leading edge advanced designs and construction. 

When deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott verbally ordered developers to adopt advanced technology and improve the renowned poor quality of new homes. Otherwise he said he would intervene. However, no legislation was passed to force the issue, although Prescott’s famed left hook might.  All encouraging at the time, however without firm legislation as the driver, quite hollow.  Firm legislation is required not soundbites.

It comes as no surprise that amongst the richest people in the UK are landowners and construction company owners. The richest man in the USA is Bill Gates a creator of software products that the population benefit from – he is productive, he is creative.  In the UK, the richest man is the Duke of Westminster, who primarily takes in rent. 

c)  A Poor Performing Industry

Far too much land is given over to agriculture, about 78%, which only accounts for about 2.5% of the UK economy. This poor performing over subsidised industry is absorbing land that could be better used economically in commerce and for much needed spacious higher quality homes for the population. Much of the land is paid to remain idle out of our taxes. The UK could actually abandon most of agriculture and import most of its food, as food is obtainable cheaper elsewhere. 

50% of the EU budget is allocated to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). CAP is supporting a lifestyle of a very small minority of country dwellers in a poor performing industry.  In effect that is its prime function.

The city of Sheffield, a one industry city of steel, was virtually killed by allowing imports of cheaper steel from abroad. This created great misery and distress to its large population. Yet agriculture is subsidised to the hilt having land allocated to it which clearly can be better utilised for the greater good of British society. 

The justification for subsidising agriculture is that we need to eat.  We also need steel and cars in our modern society, yet the auto and steel industries were allowed to fall away to cheaper competition from abroad, and especially the Far East. Should taxpayers money be propping up an economically small industry that consumes vast tracts of land that certainly could be better used?  What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

The overall agricultural subsidy is over £5 billion per yearThis is £5 billion to an industry whose total turnover is only £15 billion per annum.  Unbelievable. This implies huge inefficiency in the agricultural industry, about 40% on the £15 billion figure. Applied to the acres agriculture absorbs, and approximately 16 million acres are uneconomic. Apply real economics to farming and you theoretically free up 16 million acres, which is near 27% of the total UK land mass.  

This is land that certainly could be put to better use for the population of the UK. Allowing the population to spread out and live amongst nature is highly desirable and simultaneously lowering land prices. This means lower house prices which the UK desperately needs. Second country homes could be within reach of much of the population, as in Scandinavia, creating large recreation and construction industries, and keeping the population in touch with the nature of their own country. In Germany the population have access to large forests which are heavily used at weekends. Forests and woods are ideal for recreation and absorb CO2 cleaning up the atmosphere.  Much land could be turned over to public forests.

Question 4.  

Why is this artificial land shortage tolerated by the population of the UK? 

Quite simply the large landowners have waged a subtle highly successful propaganda campaign. This has convinced the population of the UK that they do not have enough land, that nothing should be built on open countryside and that sterile greenbelts should keep them accessing the countryside. Propaganda may appear too strong a word, however propaganda it certainly is. Large landowners point to very large countries like the USA and Australia as proof the UK is small with open countryside scarce. 

When viewing the UK in isolation it is not small and can easily support its 60 million population and even lots more. Open countryside is in abundance. In persons per square kilometre the UK is about equal to Germany, yet Germany is not viewed as being small and short of land. The propaganda campaign has been so successful, you will find poor people in inner city sink estates agreeing that the countryside should not be built on; people who probably have never even stepped on a field.

Emotive terms have been formed and liberally used such as concreting over the countryside and urban sprawl. With only about 7.5% of the land settled, we can’t concrete over the countryside even if we wanted to. About two thirds of all new housing is built within existing urban areas with the remainder mainly built on the edge of urban areas.  Very little is built on open countryside. 

Cities have a natural footprint limit. The generally accepted limit is that if it takes over an hour to travel from one side to the other its expansion naturally tails off. In olden times this hour was on foot or on horseback, now it is in cars or on public transport. So we can’t “sprawl” too far either. In England the area of greenbelt has doubled since 1980, with nearly 21 million acres absorbed in total. The UK actually has greenbelt sprawl.

Greenbelts, extensively introduced in the 1950s, were intended to be narrow and primarily used for recreation by the inhabitants of the towns and cities they surrounded.  The belts were expanded in width, but continued to be used for farming. The shire counties used greenbelts to hold back the disliked populations of nearby towns and cities. Recreational uses disappeared and the greenbelts became green barriers to keep large numbers of urban inhabitants from mixing with a very small number of rural residents. This is a clear case of the few exercising their will over a massive majority. Often these greenbelts were not even green, containing industry and intensive industrial agriculture. Instead of being a sports jacket for the urban dwellers geenbelts became a straight jacket..

The biggest propaganda organs are: the Council for the Protection of Rural England and the Countryside Alliance. Green movements like Friends of the Earth have been accused of being fronts for large landowners. Large landowners use green groups to keep the population out of the countryside. The former is an organisation formed by large landowners and the latter is funded by large landowners. Their angle is keep the status quo by keeping townies out of the countryside, and also keeping villagers in villages.  A Cabinet Office report described the countryside as, “the near exclusive preserve of the more affluent sections of society.”

The Council for the Protection of Rural England have protected little of the character of the English countryside since world war two, despite their claims. In 1940 the German air force took photo reconnaissance photos of largely southern England. The captured photos, when compared to the ordnance survey maps of 1870, 70 years before, clearly indicated there was little difference in topology. When compared to the ordnance survey maps of today, there are vast changes. The 1947 T&C planning act just allowed landscape raping agriculturalists, who contribute no more than around 2.5% to the UK economy, to go wild.

The Council for the Protection of Rural England claim to be acting in the interest of the land, wildlife and the countryside in general.  This is far from the case.  It is the obscene profits of large landowners they are primarily interested in, protecting little of rural England.  

In Medieval times 100% of all taxes came from taxes on land. Up until the late 1600s 3/4 of all taxes came from land taxes. The aristocracy peeled back taxes on land and put it onto individual people's efforts, income tax.  By the mid 1800s, only 5% of taxes came from land. The shift away from land created the scourge of the modern world's economy - boom and bust.

PLANNING

Land reform must mesh with decent relaxed planning laws that allow the population to build on all land. Laws passed relating to land are rendered sterile if relaxed planning laws are not implemented. Areas of natural beauty, SSSI's, national parks, industrial and commercial sectors, etc, of course should have restrictions, which still leaves a vast amount of subsidised field Britain to build on. Building on a larger mass of land will eliminate the unappealing high density, high impact developer estates; the sort that make people shudder, with many having to buy as they have Hobson’s choice.  Many against building on the countryside envisage high density, high impact developer estates. The vision of these estates stirs negative emotions. That clearly would not occur if the people are allowed to spread out on the land.  With cheaper land, people would build larger houses on larger plots for less money. Having the large developers curtailed will result in a mixed assortment of higher quality homes.  

Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceuticals group, abandoned plans to locate its European headquarters to Britain because of planning constraints. Development of Heathrow Airport’s Terminal Five was delayed for years by planning objections, with Swedish furniture giant IKEA struggling for permission for 20 more stores. The planning system not only strangles the population in choosing a place to live but also discourages wealth creating industry. 

The autonomous house is virtually here. Superinsulation, septic tanks, combined heat & power units, grey water re-cycling, rainwater harvesting, wireless communications, mobile phones, amongst others, are all here. These houses have a low impact on the environment. Connection to urban utilities is no longer necessary. Locating homes with all modern conveniences, just about anywhere in the UK is now feasible. Herding the population into urban communities because they offered basic utilities no longer need be the case. 

Many eco minded people would emphasise that more transport journeys would be needed if the population are more evenly spread amongst the land.  Great leaps in battery and supercapacitors which promote electric hybrid and full electric cars is now a reality. These products are on sale with more constantly coming onto the market with increasingly advanced designs. Supercapacitor technology, clawing back and storing normally wasted braking energy and light-rail trains, have reduced the running and maintenance costs of electric trains.  Electric vehicles have zero emissions creating a clean air environment.

A farmer can build a 40 foot ugly concrete barn structure without planning permission. The agricultural industry in some areas has blotted the landscape as far as the eye can see with polythene tunnels to grow fruits of which some are not native to the UK. If a good looking house was built to the local vernacular visually enhancing the countryside, without planning permission, it would be pulled down by the authorities. Houses are deemed to blot the countryside and undesirable, yet raw concrete and polythene is not, and is accepted. 

We should be living amongst nature, not having to drive out to see it.  Walking on land is another matter, as most of it is fenced off. 

"The vast majority of the British people have no right whatsoever to their native land save to walk the streets or trudge the roads”
– Henry George.

Countryside organisations are demanding all city brownfield sites be built on. Many think all new developments can be on brownfield sites despite only 14% of demand being catered for on current brownfield sites. This should be resisted as we now have an ideal opportunity to leave most of these sites vacant, cleaned up and made natural again by turning them into parks, woods and encouraging wildlife for the local population to enjoy. This is an ideal opportunity to improve brownfield areas, improving the quality of life of urban dwellers. Righting the wrongs of the incompetent planners of the past. Areas like Hampstead Heath could be actively encouraged. Woods in towns and cities would also be a great bonus. The deliberate differentiation between town and country requires abolition as the Town & Country planning act attempts to divide. Using the words town and country sets the tone. It creates conflict. It creates two separate societies.  It creates distrust.

When presenting an advanced German Huf Haus house on TV, Quentin Wilson stated that modern architecture in Britain ceased after world war two. Quentin was totally correct. The 1947 Town & Country Planning act curtailed advancement in design, being hostile to change. Top British eco architects Brenda and Robert Vale left the UK to practice abroad, disillusioned at a planning system that firmly restricts advancement.   

The 2004 PPS7 planning law, may hopefully pave the way for the population to live back in the countryside and build individual homes on greenfield sites. The proviso is that it must be an eco house, well designed, modern, with advanced construction techniques. Taken from the act:

Planning Policy Statement 7: Sustainable Development in Rural Areas

 

“11. Very occasionally the exceptional quality and innovative nature of the design of a proposed, isolated new house may provide this special justification for granting planning permission. Such a design should be truly outstanding and ground-breaking, for example, in its use of materials, methods of construction or its contribution to protecting and enhancing the environment, so helping to raise standards of design more generally in rural areas. The value of such a building will be found in its reflection of the highest standards in contemporary architecture, the significant enhancement of its immediate setting and its sensitivity to the defining characteristics of the local area.”

 The PPS7 law, which on paper actively encourages advanced eco design and construction, is a positive step.  If PPS7 is implemented anything like the previous PPG7, Gummers law, which permitted building houses in the countryside, then hope is lost rendering this law a cosmetic exercise. Approximately 100 houses were built in the countryside under Gummers law from 1997 to 2004, a figure is so low not worth considering. Theoretically you could build, however the planners would block proposals at every angle and opportunity rendering the law virtually useless.

The Kate Barker Review of Land Use Planning Final Report - Recommendations, document of December 2006 holds a belief that any building project that has little or no impact on others should be given the go-ahead, whether it is a private extension, the restoration of an empty building in a town, or even in some cases the development of low-value farmland within green belt areas.". This aspect is encouraging and compounded by the PPS7 law may open the way for the population to build on the countryside with ease.

A planning policy based on the French approach is worth pursuing.  There are no central quotas for housing, with houses being built almost anywhere provided the local community supports the proposal. The system works well and caters for the needs of communities.  The German and Swiss systems are also admirable.

The 1947 Town & Country Planning act is Stalinist in nature being based on quotas which local authorities have to acheive. Demand, market forces, plays little part in this act. Amazingly, Mrs Thatcher in the 1980s reinforced this Stalinist planning act. 

The British planning system does little to assist in alleviating the perennial British housing crisis. Kate Barker Recommendations Report document of December 2006 is encouraging in many respects, however it falls short in many areas, with a lot of emphasis on cutting red tape rather than encouraging a system that would improve the quality of life of the population. Although Kate Barker did point to the inadequate planning system for creating the following situations:

  • Of the world’s 15 most expensive prime commercial property locations, five are in England.

  • London West End occupation costs of £98 per square foot are the most expensive in the world. They are around 40% more than any other city in the world, and double that of Paris, the next most expensive European city.

  • Prime site occupation costs in Manchester and Leeds are around 40 per cent more than mid-town Manhattan.

SOLUTIONS

1.  Nationalise Land
2.  Redistribute Land.
3.  Land Value Tax 

1.  NATIONALISE LAND

In theory, the Queen, the state, owns all the land in the UK. A nation state has sovereignty over its own territory. In short, the state owns all the land. So how can individual people own its land too? Sounds like horse trading. A workaround was to grant an infinite lease on the land, the title, and the ability to sell on the lease. Effectively this is land ownership by individuals or organisations. All and every right attached to the land is not in the title. 

For the state to take direct control of land would be a difficult task to undertake.  It would not be generally accepted by the population, although they own it anyhow.  Compensation would be demanded by landowners. Compensating large landowners would be akin to compensating slave traders when slavery was abolished; as the British government did. The concept of “land ownership” has been in the western psyche for hundreds of years, and redirecting their mindset would be difficult and lengthy.

The Labour Party’s 1945 manifesto, stated “Labour believes in land nationalisation and will work towards it” and “as a first step the State and the local authorities must have wider and speedier powers to acquire land for public purposes wherever the public interest so requires”. Labour took that ‘first step’, however future governments have been unwilling to take the second and much larger one. Nationalising land would mean some form of lease back arrangement, in which the government would receive rents.  Of course, a relaxed planning system must accompany such nationalisation, to allow the population to freely live on the land.

2. REDISTRIBUTE LAND

Most major western nations have re-distributed land having laws preventing large areas of land being in the hands of a few people.  These countries generally have a higher quality of life than the UK because of their sensible land laws.  The British government started the ball rolling in the late 1800s to re-distribute land in Ireland.  It was accomplished in 2000 with the Irish Land Commission being disbanded completing the task.  The land had to be bought from the larger landowners, none was confiscated.  Land re-distribution in Ireland has been attributed as one of the platforms of its economic success.  Large landowners were a direct cause of the Irish famine, which eventually resulted in the Irish rebellion.  Land being in the hands of a few is not ideal from many aspects.

The British government is to pay for land re-distribution in Zimbabwe - using British taxpayers money. The British government can re-distribute land elsewhere in the world, but fails to do so in its own backyard.  A backyard screaming out for land and planning reform.  

In 1945 the USA assessed Japan and how it should cope with the future.  They assessed that land ownership was a major obstacle, being in the hands of a few people. To great effect land re-distribution was forced on the Japanese, being attributed as one of the keystones of their post war economic miracle.

Land re-distribution is effective.  It may mean large landowners will have to sell parts of their estates, with laws capping land ownership levels.  Of course, a relaxed planning system must accompany such re-distribution, to allow the population to freely live on the land.  

"We need to unlock and allot land on a far wider scale than anyone in this country has so far contemplated." 
- Ferdinand Mount (head of Thatcher's policy unit)


3.  LAND VALUE TAX (LVT) - GEOMONICS

"George's blend of radicalism and conservatism can puzzle one, until it is seen as a reconciliation of the two. The system is internally consistent, but defies conventional stereotypes."
- Professor Mason Gaffney (US economist)

The 1929 financial crash and 2008 Credit Crunch crash, were land fuelled as land and house prices spiraled out of control. When the economy expands demand for land increases, LVT, the core of Geonomics, prevents this occurring. LVT is a silver bullet to prevent booms and busts. Henry George, an American, devised LVT in the modern sense. The precursor of the board game Monopoly, was the Landlord's Game, named 'Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit' in the UK. The board game was designed to teach people the theories of Henry George. 

LVT is one tax, a tax on the value of land, no personal income tax, no Council Tax. LVT taxes only the "value" of the land based on the current market value, not the building on the land or any improvements. If a new conservatory or extension is built on a house the owner pays no extra tax as they would do currently. Someone in northern Scotland on one acre will pay very little as the land is not worth so much. Someone in central London with one acre pays substantially more. A larger house will not be penalised, unlike the current Council Tax system.

Henry George initially proposed government ownership of all land, as the population, the state, owned it anyhow. Getting it across and accepted would have been virtually impossible. Redistribution of land, many view as Communism, and would accuse the state of seizing land. Henry George realised that the population will not accept that you cannot own land. It is in the psyche of the western world, especially the Anglo Saxon world. That is where LVT excels. Own land by all means, but if you own half of Scotland just to shoot birds on, tax will be due on that land, which currently is not the case. LVT will force large landowners to sell and not hoard land, discouraging speculators. It will also encourage productive use of the land; if they cannot then they sell it to someone who can make productive use of it. It prevents land hoarding and encourages development in urban areas.

LVT does not tax an individuals labour, and hence their productivity and personal growth, which the current system does, holding back advancement.

Currently the population's labour and lifestyle is taxed. The more you work, the more tax you pay - a disincentive to work hard. If I build a nice extension to my house so my family can enjoy and improve their quality of life, the Council Tax is raised. This is bordering on ludicrous as it is a disincentive to improve the house curtailing the construction industry. With two one-acre plots side by side, I may want to build an eight-roomed house for my family to enjoy and the man next door a two-bedroom bungalow, so he can enjoy the land for gardening. Under the current system, I pay more than next door in Council Tax. Under LVT we pay the same as the bricks on the land is not regarded as taxable, only the land is. A large house creates jobs in building the structure and ongoing maintenance, yet the current system suppresses job creation and curtails the quality of life by penalising those who build larger houses and make improvements to homes and land. The word large is all relevant. A large house in the UKwould be an average house in the USA.

Denmark, Sweden, highly successful Hong Kong and some Australian states, amongst others, use LVT, although none yet as a single tax. LVT is one of the reasons why Hong Kong and Singapore were able to have very low income tax rates and places of opportunity for those who worked hard and make money - the foundations of their success. 

One of the few mass transit systems to operate without a penny of subsidy is Hong Kong's, using only LVT to raiuse the funds. Once the best example of Geonomics, Hong Kong, leases plots to building owners collecting an immense amount of rent, enough to keep taxes on merchandise and incomes quite low. Before reverting to mainland communist control, Fortune Magazine routinely named Hong Kong "the world's best city for business". Although a highly populous city, Hong Kong raises most of its own food in its suburbs. 

Some US cities are now using a dual rate tax, with property taxes being based solely on the land values. Harrisburgh in Virginia is using LVT to finance transport infrastructure. Land Value Tax can easily fund infrastructure, which actually raises values of land, which is not taxed.

Using LVT in lieu of taxing people's productivity, which is income taxes, the urban economy automatically generates higher quality design, affordable housing, stable and safe neighbourhoods, higher urban density, mass-transit transport systems, lower costs for builders and planning made easier. To realise these benefits many authorities are turning to LVT. The most recent were Mexicali and Estonia.

LVT spreads the proceeds of a society’s productivity more evenly than at present.  It does not penalise a person’s effort to advance.

Land should be taxed as much as possible, and improvements as little as possible.”
- Milton Friedman (economist)

"In my opinion the least bad tax is the property tax on the unimproved value of land, the Henry George argument of many, many years ago."
- Milton Friedman (economist)

“I have made speeches by the yard on the subject of land-value taxation, and you know what a supporter I am of that policy.”
- Winston Churchill

In 1909 the Liberal government under Lloyd George and Winston Churchill attempted to introduce LVT to put the land to its best economic use. The House of Lords, or more accurately House of Landlords, opposed forcing in legislate to reform the House of Lords. The King, a large landowner, said to Lloyd George, that LVT was "a menace to property and a Socialistic spirit". The Lords fought and delayed with the key aspect to the finance bill not being implemented, which was the critical land valuation tax, LVT. 

The only war Winston Churchill ever lost was against the British landlords.
- Fred Harrison (economist)

The effect of Tony Blair ejecting hereditary Lords from Parliament cannot be underestimated in forcing through future land reforms or Land Value Taxation. A major barrier has been eliminated.

Land Value Tax:

  • Spreads the proceeds of a society’s productivity more evenly
  • Prevents financial crashes
  • Prevents land housing booms and busts 
  • Keeps land and housing highly affordable
  • Rewards personal effort 
Below: UK price index graph from 1983 to 2007, immediately prior to the Credit Crunch financial crash.

The graph from March 1983 to March 2007, shows the rise in land prices and house prices, which are way above supressed earnings  and building costs.

As the economy rises land values (house prices) follow the economy.
  • What people put into the economy is taxed - People's productiveness is taxed - their income and profits from their savings. What people put into the economy, their effort.
  • What people take out of the economy is not taxed - the value of the land is not taxed.  This value came about because of the communities activities, not the land owner.
Excessive debt is incurred to buy land. Over the business cycle the biggest capital gains are in land. Debt is accrued to exploit the demand for land. Debt rises exponentially. Land values then leads overtaking the rest of the economy. The scales are tipped and an economic crash results. Currently we have an 18 year boom and bust cycle in land (house) prices. The 1929 and 2008 financial crashes were a result of land (house) prices spiralling out of control. We have an Anglo/American culture of accepting making money from nothing - owning land. This culture has to change to a productive culture.

Introducing Land Value Tax will solve many problems. Land (house prices) will not spiral out of control, people's efforts, working, will not be taken from them in tax.

The graph displays there was a land price boom in 1989 and the subsequent crash in 1992. Land prices rose sharply from 1997 to just before the Credit Crunch crash. The crash was inevitable. As the land of this country is provided free of charge by nature, rising house (land) prices do not raise national wealth one single penny. They serve no useful economic purpose and are an obvious target for taxation, eliminating taxation on people's production.

Land Value Tax would put a stop on the root cause of boom and busts.  

Video: Betrayal of the Lords - by Fred Harrison - Click Here

THE WAY FORWARD

Sort out the land and planning systems and many problems that appear unrelated in British society disappear. It is not a panacea to right all the country’s ills; however it will be a superb base on which to spring from, as other countries have effectively demonstrated, and right many, many of the problems of our unfair and uneven society.   LVT will clearly prevent land fulled economic booms and busts, and keep land and house prices to sensible levels.

A stumbling block to any reform is general public perceptions. Many home owners perceive that planning and land reform will devalue their homes and result in negative equity. The country appears obsessed with house price values. The reality is cash with value being an abstract concept. In some areas negative equity may be the case, although some opinion is that this would not occur. A fund taken from LVT taxes could compensate those who drop into the trap in the initial transfer of one system to another is a suggestion. As land prices rise with time, negative equity would cease to be a problem. 

Clearly the public need to be informed that land, the God given stuff under their feet, without which we cannot survive, is the major problem in their own advancement and actually curtails their current living standards and quality of life. That is the man in the inner city sink estate, the man in the terraced house, the man in the box semi, the man in the executive home and the country villager. Once the public is aware and this suppressed problem becomes an open issue, then the road is clear for land reform no matter what method is selected. Until then land and land tax reformers are sailing into the wind. Emphasis must be moved to educate and alert the average man and how he is directly affected.

DATA ON LAND USAGE 

The land cover of Great Britain is 23.5m hectares. Taken from the Office of National Statistics, in 2002, usage was as follows:

  • Settled land - 1.8m hectares. 7.65% of the land mass.
  • Agricultural land - 10.8m hectares.  45.96% of the land mass.
  • Semi-natural land, with much uses as agricultural land - 7.0m hectares.  29.78% of the land mass.
  • Woodland - 2.8m hectares.  11.91% of the land mass
  • Water bodies - 0.3m hectares.  1.28% of the land mass.
  • Sundry, largely transport infrastructure - 0.8m hectares.  3.42% of the land mass.

Note 1:
Many question the accuracy of the above figures as government departments present differing figures.  Nevertheless the figures are a good guide.
 

Note 2:
The settled land figure includes gardens and other green spaces, which are estimated at around 5%.  When adjusted a figure of only 2.5% of paved land emerges.