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The great property swindle – a story about LAND that isn’t commonly known

From a Transition Town point of view there are some interesting observations made by the New Statesman article below and comments that are relevant to the residents of most towns and cities across England. The article below is very illuminating. TT Bolton’s food, housing and development groups have made comments in italics. Please join in & comment if you find more.


      • It is estimated there are 62 million people living on this island, and only 42 million acres of agricultural land giving every man, woman and child a little under an acre apiece. An acre is a little over half the size of a standard Football Association pitch, which is why that measurement is used here. Almost everyone in the country knows what a football pitch looks like. Very few people know how to visualise a hectare.
        The Royal Institute of Town planners recently highlighted a major flaw in the nations Core Strategy development plans. Just one of the flaws relates to food security.Food security are two very boring words that mean nothing until you comprehend the Royal Institute’s report on peak oil and how the affects of peak oil need to be planned into our nations core development plans.From a practical point of view – there is just under an acre of land per person on this island where our food would have to come from if transportation costs to our supermarkets rose or became volatile, a situation that only occurred last week Jan 2012 put the UK’s largest oil refinery into liquidation, if you add this to the current Arab spring and potential disturbances in the middle east you begin to get rising fuel prices – all of a sudden – Tescos, Asda, Morrisons would be as vulnerable to food chain supply disruption as anyone else and there’ll be less food on the shelves & only .677 acres per person to feed the population…. sobering thought when you realise we don’t teach most people to grow anything leaving the supermarkets to supply us from what are long supply chains and the farmers here find it hard to grow and compete with imports.This is not the most sensible way to go forward and one that he transition town movement is actively engaged in raising awareness of. We hope that Bolton’s planners, Education departments and Business Leaders are able to get together and help us to articulate a way forward should these volatile prices continue.
      • An acre of rural land worth £5,000 becomes an acre of development land worth between £500,000 and £1m once planning permission is obtained. Moreover, most land granted planning consent is registered offshore and is thus tax-free, or virtually so.
        TTB Housing and Devlopment Group
        There are going to be all sorts of  views on this. Lets try and break some of them down.Some areas may need some new buildings. If they are genuinely needed that’s one thing and if you are therefore trying to provide affordable housing you need an affordable plot. If you are not trying to build affordable homes then the cost of the land at those prices will add to the mortgage or rental cost. One way to deal with this is to put a percentage of all land that’s granted permission into a community land trust and this way the land is forever placed outside of the cost of the home, whether the home is sold or rented both costs will be cheaper. Obviously if you are trying to keep families in homes you stick to 35% local targets for affordable housing land and there is your guide.
        Lets stay focused on affordable housing.
        So we have no land charges.
        Then we could offer families a home that only costs about £120 of heat. SEE HERE
        Then we could offer to assist with a self build scheme further reducing costs and increasing skills.
        At Transition Town Bolton we see that as the true definition of affordable housing.By understanding that definition a huge swath of affordable housing might kickstart the economy that everyone is talking about. And over time those skills are transferable to renovating Bolton’s existing 113,305 homes to as high a standard as possible.
        Lets go back to those rural homes.

        Many people who live in the country side have to travel further than urban residents. As fuel price volatility increases the cost of living in the countryside is set to rise and the available revenue from salaries is more likely in time to make a difference to the desirability of living in rural areas, some may opt for smaller cars or car share, other demands might rise with small train stations getting overwhelmed – this could over time make some of those homes loose value and therefore banks that lend on these types of properties have some very difficult risk assessments to make – are they really going to get paid back for these homes within the lifetime of the regions Local Development framework / Core Strategy ? The Royal Institute are clear. Peak oil will affect all regions within the lifetime of the current development plans. If these rural homes are not needed then they may be speculative developments. Speculation is how the economy got in this state and anyone who is an investor or developer really needs to think these things over outside of the current circle of friends they know and get a realistic view point in light of a world with less access to cheap energy.

        As far as the proceeds of the sale moving offshore – Transition Town Bolton cannot make any sensible comment on what landowners do with the proceeds of the sale of their land.

      • Together, homes and businesses in the UK pay as much as £57bn annually in de facto land taxes, such as business rates (£22bn) and council tax (£35bn a year, including stamp duty and charges). The subsidy of up to £5bn that the UK agricultural sector receives comes from British taxpayers, not some remote bureaucracy in Brussels.
        If this is so, then one way to think about this might be to leverage that subsidy and call it an investment by the general public in securing a food chain after peak oil. If we were to look at it in this way then £5BN could be seen as a positive thing. Obviously if we could find a way to subsidise local food chains and make local food networks more resilient then this might protect the most vulnerable to food price volatility. This is something Transition Town Bolton are advocating. We support all local food growing and encourage all 261,037 residents of Bolton to understand the importance of local food in light of growing food price volatility evidence.Transition Town Bolton felt that Bolton Council needed to hold onto local green sites and support local growing projects in a meaningful way. We also called for the council not to allocate any of the 38 playing feilds, green space, open space and farmlands in the Local Development Framework pointing out that the council needs to take peak oil seriously and work with the Royal Institute and Local Transition groups in finding a way forward.The subsidising by business and private houshold should be scrutinised to see if some of those funds can be diverted to support local food networks.Transition Bolton recognise there may be objections from supermarket developers wanting to  expand and provide  ’jobs’. However we have to be mindful that food comes first before anyone can go to work and some view points recognise that in todays world local food training and growing within communities is more important than developing another supermarket.


      • The obvious place to look for the land ownership facts is the three land registries of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Here we encounter two extraordinary but related anomalies: we have land registries that do not record the ownership of land at all and a second Domesday book that did record the ownership of all land in the UK but vanished. These facts are not un-related. First, the land registries. Most people think that this is where the ownership of all land in the UK is recorded. They are wrong. Formally created by the Land Registration Act 1925, the current three land registries only partly succeed where a series of earlier attempts failed, beginning in 1875. Before that, there were deed registries in most counties in the United Kingdom. The effort to create a land registry happened at roughly the same time as the publication in 1873 of the Return of Owners of Land, the so-called second or new Domesday Book, a coincidence that almost certainly led to the failure of the push for a registry.The second Domesday of 1873 exposed the inequity of land ownership in Victorian Britain – that all land in the UK was then “owned” by just 4.5 per cent of the population, while 95.5 per cent of the population owned nothing, not even a blade of grass. Domestic home ownership was in its infancy at the end of the 19th century; most of the land was the property of a very small network of aristocratic families, most of which had dual links to the House of Commons and the Lords. Those who owned everything also had political control of everything. The second Domesday recorded the ownership – yes, the word used was ownership – of at least 98 per cent of all land in the four countries of the then United Kingdom: England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The details of each owner’s holding, name and address, together with the valuation of any land of more than one acre, were recorded and printed in four volumes running to 2,300 pages and containing 321,000 names and addresses. The details of the owners of less than an acre were recorded but not printed. And it was all completed in four years. The current Land Registry for England and Wales is at least 35 per cent short of that achievement after 86 years of trying, and in the age of computers.
        We are not expert historians, we believe most people have a good reason not to register land. For one you don’t get a subsidy if you don’t register, perhaps the non registered land is registered offshore as suggested so the sale gets a good price so why would you want to pay your taxes here? Lets face it that land is probably owned by the Normans who invaded in 1066 and they ain’t English so why would they register it here? That’s a loophole for another day when we’re bored of twitter. We could argue all day and nothing would get done that brought affordable local food. We believe dialogue amongst locals is more likely to work. Lets make the best of what we have and look after everyone. When landowners wake up to peak oil there will only be one market in the UK and that is local communities. Are they going to want to fall out with them?
        There are many landowners around Bolton, even Bolton Council have over 1400 acres registered. We are sure landowners need more support from the community and they too will struggle as oil prices rise. The only scheme that might help is a Community that supports it’s farmers by paying a small monthly fee to get food from a number of producers. Some schemes like this even work well by local families getting involved during harvest times. What a great way to re-build a local food chain.
        Another part of the food chain is to understand that you can turn over Bolton’s lawns to productive friut and salads and herb production leaving surrounding farmland more able to supply wood fuels – straw bales for building materials and if we really get brave we can grow hemp again for clothing and produce our own high value insulation materials that reduce the heat loss in our buildings during winter. It wasn’t that long ago that a Bolton Hemp merchant retired upto Grange over Sands and he’d made his fortune from Hemp in Bolton. Now why would we want to do that in a world with rising gas prices – that would be a crazy scheme for mad men? 
        If  you like these ideas and you’d like to get involved in local growing or housing and development there are a number of ways to start – come along to our monthly transition cafe meetings and see our local food growing page above and please feel free to ask your local farmer if they like the idea of supplying direct – you can also help them develop a community share scheme. Yes YOU and your mates can do more than you think. Get involved in the Transition it’s very rewarding.
        Community Suppported Agriculture – more about this type of thing –
        Local food buying groups – Bolton Wholefood Coop meet monthly and bulk buy.
        Collaborative food buying –
        This article is part of a series of articles where local people from Bolton chat over some of the most pressing issues of the day and offer practical ways to deal with them as well as get involved in the local groups.



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