Campaigners say councils should be able to buy land more cheaply

A coalition of campaign groups has suggested that old laws should be updated to allow councils to buy agricultural land at lower prices in a bid to solve the housing crisis.

Fourteen groups that include Shelter, Crisis, The National Landlords Association and the Campaign to Protect Rural England say that the government should change the system that insists on land compensation and allow local authorities to buy land at the market rate. The group, known as Onward is a Conservative think tank led by Theresa May’s previous advisor Will Tanner.

Currently, land can only be compulsorily purchased by a council if it already has planning permission and at speculative rates, which can be up to 100 times its actual undeveloped value. This prevents councils from buying land and selling it on to developers, or developing it itself and then using the increase in value to fund other infrastructure such as schools, doctors surgeries and road networks around the development.

The group has sent a letter to the housing minister James Brokenshire stating that the housing crisis is due to the way in which land is bought and sold. They believe that any uplift in the value of land following its sale should be to the benefit of the local community. They point out that this is the way things are done in other countries.

The group has pointed out that land reform is an area of rare consensus, despite political division. They say that clarifying these laws is essential if the housing crisis is to be solved.