Land

Page updated:

  • Major revision Spring 2023
  • Last amendment

Background

LD001 We live on land. We play, work, farm and build on land. However, we share the land with the nature on which our survival depends. Our policy for land-use must balance humanity’s wish to control the earth for human benefit, with the need to share and not destroy what we rely on. Humanity cannot completely control the earth, and neither should it try to, as we are reliant on its full complexity. Our society should strive for a stable environment, in part by taking a stewardship approach to land management. This requires accepting responsibilities, such as to future generations and to other life, when taking land management decisions. (see PB101-105, PB201-206, PB305, MG201, RR200,201,203, 205 RR406, RR1000-1006 and WH001- WH101).

LD002 Land is finite, the primary source of all real wealth, and a common heritage. The way land is managed needs to deliver good soil health, good human health, and a resilient society, as well as maintain a stable climate and diverse ecosystems. This currently is not happening because our economy has a dysfunctional relationship with the land. A small number of people control most of the land, mostly for historical reasons, but also due to wealth inequality. This is unjust. In UK law today the Crown and Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster are the default owners of land if no one else holds the land title.

Principles

LD100: The overrunning of the planet’s natural limits and the unsustainable use of its resources should be considered as one challenge (see the Philosophical Basis)
– Human activity must be managed within Earth’s natural limits
– Land is held in trust and managed by human society for its own needs and the needs of other species and future generations; its use should enhance the richness of life
– Land management is crucial in securing the protection, regeneration, and restoration of nature
– Land management should maximise multiple benefits of land
– The rights and responsibilities of those who hold land will be transparent and accountable
– People may have rights over the use of land but this should not give unconditional ownership or control of it
– Land should be managed for the “common good” of communities and therefore relevant communities should have a role in determining its use
– Land use change should be largely implemented at the landscape scale, at which natural systems tend to work best
– Benefits that come from holding land title should be distributed according to need (mainly via taxation)
– Treating land as a capital investment should be discouraged, as will be trading it for speculative profit

outcomes

LD200: Our policies aim to deliver the following which together define the “common good” within this context:

  • improved transparency of information about the ownership of land
  • increasing equality of access to land for recreation, health, education, to grow food and reduce wealth inequality
  • a transition in land-use that will will be nearing completion in 10 years
  • increased biodiversity and abundance across all land
  • balancing of the natural cycles, including carbon and nitrogen, to deliver a stable biosphere
  • reducing emissions from land
  • increasing carbon sinks and carbon uptake
  • ‘Wildlife and Habitats’ policy outcomes (WH003) and ‘Food and Agriculture’ policy aims (FA101)
  • healthy food and other resources for local need
  • resilient communities and sustainable livelihoods

Policies

land ownership and stewardship

LD301 All land in the UK may only be held by individuals, companies or other organisations that pay full tax on their UK earnings (see EC796 and EC797). The Land Registry will define and provide the record of who holds the land title and is responsible for stewarding it, which in law would be permanent tenure. There will be compulsory registration of all land (see LP517) within a statutory time limit, which will include name and address of the ultimate beneficial owners of the land.

LD302 The holder of a land title (steward), will have responsibilities for stewarding land for the “common good” (PB451, MG201) which will be reasonable and clear. Advice and financial help will be available (see LD502 and FA204 and FA300). Stewardship will be transferred with ownership and they cannot be separated. This will primarily affect large pieces of land rather than private gardens.

LD303 Land unregistered for any reason (for example where an owner cannot be established, which ceases to have an owner, or for which ownership is removed (see LD304)) will by default fall to new organisations called Commons Trusts rather than the Crown or Duchies, as now (See LD002). Commons Trusts will be independent of Government and will be funded by revenues, such as Land Value Taxation (see EC780). The Commons Trusts’ policies, and major decisions will be made in accordance with the principles of democratic participation (see PA102 and PA103).

LD304 The Commons Trusts would be empowered to:

  • provide advice and guidance on land stewardship
  • facilitate mediation on land stewardship conflicts in communities
  • facilitate voluntary reparations for the restoration of land
  • issue warnings regarding failures of land stewardship
  • as a last resort, enforce stewardship requirements by preparing a prosecution case for referral to the legal system

Where land is held by companies or other organisations, directors or board members will be held personally responsible for failures of land stewardship. Restorative justice is preferred, with the minimal intervention required to deliver that justice (see RR1002-1003,CJ200-206 & CJ362).

The maximum penalty for breach of stewardship would be removal of the land, by compulsory purchase by the Commons Trust (as the first charge prior to all other liabilities, including the banks/ and other lenders), with the deduction of reparations and costs. Where land is held by limited companies, directors may be held personally responsible.

Land use transition

LD401 Changing land use is fundamental to delivering a sustainable society. Management of land should deliver multiple benefits. Policy levers (LD502) will deliver the benefits at national scale, so that the following priority order is taken into account within the broad context:

  • reversing biodiversity loss
  • reducing carbon emissions from land (e.g. peatland restoration),
  • being self-sufficient in food production and biological sequestration (e.g. growing forests),
  • managing land for timber and fibre
  • growing biomass (wood and crops) for energy production

Change must start now and should be nearing completion in 10 years time. This will be achieved by encouraging and supporting people to be good stewards of the land.

LD402 Peatlands must be restored as quickly as possible to a near natural condition. Rewetting of lowland farmland on peat must take precedence over upland peat, and begin immediately. Tree planting on peatland is unviable and must stop (and all existing forestry removed). This will be achieved primarily through land management investment and support. (See also CC014, FA206, FA301, WH101&102).

LD403 The land for the production of raw materials, such as wood, hemp and flax, will be significantly increased, to displace non-renewable (such as concrete, steel and plastic) and imported natural resources (that are produced unsustainably). This will be achieved mainly through fiscal measures (see LD502), but may need to be backed up by additional policy to encourage behavioural change through public education, price signals, taxation and regulation, and technological development.

LD404 Scotland has a Land Commission, and we will introduce Land Commission(s) in the rest of the nation that will provide policy and best practice advice on the rights and responsibility of ownership. This will apply at all scales of use – from gardens to estates; from neighbourhood to catchment or bioregion.

LD405 The Land Commission(s) will review the implications of the current distribution of land holdings, and bring forward policies towards a more equitable distribution of ownership.

LD406 Government will have a power to designate land for nationally significant infrastructure.

LD407 Government will also have the power to designate land critical for certain purposes, for example National Parks and ancient woodland; and also may make new land use designations such as peatland, wetland, saltmarsh.

delivering land use change

LD501 Land use strategies and plans will enable the land use transition. These strategies and plans will guide the use of the policy levers (LD502), to ensure delivery of the outcomes (LD200).

Major changes will be needed to the current planning system, which will include a mechanism for delivering the key outcomes of this policy, bottom-up and top-down. Power will be held and decisions made, democratically and at the most appropriate local level (PB302). IN402 contains a duty to cooperate at national level and this will apply.

LD502 Policy levers to deliver the proposed changes include:

  • Capacity building and delivering a just transition
  • The planning system
  • Land management investment and support
  • Fiscal measures (taxes, tax breaks and grants)
  • Direct government ownership and
  • Enforcement of stewardship responsibilities by the Commons Trust(s)

LD503 To build capacity and deliver a just transition we will need to facilitate a mindset change to a new way of using land. We will need education, training, and support services. It is also critical that there is support for people whose livelihoods will need to change (IN205, MC363). Measures will include:

  • Public information campaigns
  • Funding for land use research (see FR1400, FA301)
  • Funding and expansion of agricultural colleges and land based apprenticeships (see FA204)
  • Start-up funding for young entrepreneurs in agriculture/horticulture (see FA203)
  • Farm and land business advisory services (see FA202, FA204, FA301, FA304).
  • Support for retraining and relocating.

LD504 The planning system will provide accountability and local democratic control over land use through compliance with local and regional plans. It will provide a mechanism for levying carbon tax (EC777) against land use change emissions associated with construction. In particular there will need to be land use designations for permanent pasture, forestry, peatland and land under agricultural rotation. See also FA301, LP412, LP505, LP514 and LP517.

LD505 Land management investment and support will be delivered by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Forestry Commission. See also the Economics (EC781), Food and Agriculture Chapter (FA202-204 & 304 ), Wildlife and Habitats Chapter (WH100-106), and Forestry Chapter (FR603).

LD506 Fiscal measures  These measures include:

  • Land Value Tax – see EC780, EC781, EC782, EC792
  • Carbon tax – see EC777, FA301 and CC121
  • Tax breaks and “eco-taxes” – see EC776
  • Grants (including for land use change)

LD507 Direct government ownership (local, regional and UK) includes public forestry estate (FR200), and social housing (HO500-505).

LD508 Enforcement of stewardship responsibilities – As a mechanism of last resort Commons Trust will have enforcement powers (see LD304).

Land chapter last updated: Voting Paper Spring 2023

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