Last edited 15 Jan 2016

Landbanking and other animals

Rebekah Paczek profile image.jpg

Following on nicely from our ideas competition, Rebekah Paczek from Snapdragon Consulting takes a wry look at the Labour Party consultation on housing

Roll up roll up, it's the land banking carousel in action again!

This time it's Ed Miliband making the claims, who appears to have conveniently forgotten the Labour Government commissioned Barker Review (commissioned by HMT of which Miliband was probably a part being Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors responsible for long-term economic planning). However, it does prove that if you don't get the answer you want just keep asking the questions again and again and you never know, people may change their minds.

Yes, as an extra little Christmas present the Labour Party published their consultation on housing. Well, it's officially an independent review headed up by Michael Lyons who hasn't reviewed anything for a couple of years so was probably getting withdrawal symptoms.

There is nothing like a document full of polemic sweeping statements to encourage the industry to respond warmly. One of my favourite questions starts 'Given the consensus that our current development industry is not capable of delivering the homes we need…' Is it just me or did you also miss the statistically representative poll of a minimum of 1,000 relevant respondents which established this consensus? The document doesn't refer to where this can be substantiated so I can only assume it can't be. Obviously panning the entire development industry as being not only duplicitous in actually carrying out land banking (so subtly that no evidence exists to prove it) but also accusing them of being incompetent when they actually do develop something is the way to win friends and influence people.

The key points for consultation are:

  • How can we get more residential land to market? Isn't there rather a lot of public sector land caught up in bureaucracy and government departments which may be trying to maximise value for money (profit) and therefore get a windfall – the very thing which Ed Miliband declares is appalling behaviour on the part of developers.
  • How can we ensure that land is available for development and not land banked? I have an extraordinary sense of de ja vu…
  • How can a 'use it or lose it' power for local authorities to discourage land banking be implemented? It's a lawyers dream scenario, and as we all know, local authorities have much deeper pockets than the private sector to fight such cases, don't they…
  • With the already established 'consensus' of the development industry's lack of capability to deliver the right product how can we bring about greater diversity, capacity and competition? Probably by not insulting the entire industry, that would be a good start.
  • How can New Towns and Garden Cities be facilitated and what are the barriers to growth? I know, why don't we have a competition? We can call them Eco-Towns and when everyone has spent huge amounts of time and money developing proposals for these new towns we can abandon the whole process and sack the Government Minister…
  • How can we ensure local authorities who want to expand are able to do so? This is called the Right to Grow, but could easily be called the Duty to Co-operate.
  • How can we ensure that a larger share of the windfall gains from planning permission goes to local communities? And there we are, back at the beginning of why developments don't necessarily come forward immediately…

Interestingly there is nothing in the consultation about the issues faced by developers trying to get planning consent from potentially intransigent local authorities, or local authorities without an up-to-date local plan, or local communities who simply don't want development regardless of incentives and benefits. Perhaps that angle would be less of a vote-winner.

The one good thing is that the expert panel genuinely appears to be made up of experts so perhaps there is hope yet…

Responses to the consultation should be submitted by 28th February.

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