Use it or lose it or sell it or something

Use it or lose it or sell it or something


Who said this about the increased value of land after planning permission has been granted? “I think it’s right that the state takes a portion of that uplift to support local infrastructure and development.”

A: Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party

B: Polly Neate, Chief Exec of Shelter

C: Rt Hon Sajid Javid, Sec of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government

Obviously such a radical state intervention, either through a retrospective windfall tax or further financial contributions must have come from a revolutionary like Jeremy. This is the man who wants the government to buy homes for the homeless.

But no, the latest idea to divide the government is for a more 'muscular involvement' in the housing market on the supply side. Sajid Javid is a man on a mission, and clearly sees an opportunity to float some bold ideas whilst Brexit smashes all other policy and the Leadership drift from one bad news story to another.

Further ideas on 'use it or lose it' type powers, this time coming from the Chancellor, would no doubt be supported by local authorities who are ambitious about their local plans.

What would 'losing' the land mean though? Would the government build out schemes after a developer had stalled on a site? What about sites that change hands, when does the clock start ticking?

Back in 2011 I was part of the team that launched the mini-masterplan type consultation for the Mount Pleasant site. I organised the first stage of the consultation, run by Islington and Camden Councils and saw first hand the complexities that large sites can bring.

Although I moved jobs to work for Camden Council before any of the planning applications were finalised, the political process failed on that site because of tensions between the Mayor and the local authorities, leaving the developer caught in the midddle. Fast forward to 2017 and the site remains, but has been sold. Could the government have found the money to buy the site from the once publicly owned Royal Mail? Shouldn't the state find its own sites rather than do the work of the private sector?

Bold thinking, at a time of small ideas and an austerity of ambition from government should be applauded. Brexit will end at some point and there is still a country to run. More sticks with which to beat 'greedy' developers will play well in the press but is it likely to deliver more homes? Time will tell, but a far more simple solution would be to invest in local authorities and let them build some homes.

Now that would be radical.

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