If Michael Gove gets into government, he’ll have to learn pretty quick that we haven’t had a system based on land-use planning since 2004.
Not a lot of people know that, so he’s in good company. Those against the spatial planning system claim the new system is the problem but they are wrong – no system of planning can work in a vacuum of uncertainty over infrastructure.
Planners, planning inspectors and developers are forced to second guess at every level when, where, and how infrastructure will be delivered. No wonder the system is slow and indecisive. Every government since 1976 has ducked its responsibility to lead the planning and delivery of infrastructure, and provide the planning certainty for private investors to support the taxpayer.
If Michael Gove gets into government, he’ll have to learn pretty quick that we haven’t had a system based on land-use planning since 2004
In mainland Europe, when a local authority sells land it reinvests the money in infrastructure. Here local authorities are forced to sell property assets to pay for underfunded mainstream services. So if Gove does become the real minister for children, families and schools, the best thing he could do is to ensure they are properly funded by the taxpayer.
As we are discovering again, land is too important a commodity to be left to the market. The champions of annual land value tax have always had better ideas of when and how to pay for infrastructure than others, but UK politicians have always preferred to chase, unsuccessfully, the fool’s gold of “value uplift”, rather than the less glamourous but efficient and predictable accrual of land rents, despite the evidence of its benefits to public and business. Perhaps they would get the point if it was called “land efficiency tax” or “land-use optimisation levy”.
Stephen Hill, land economist