Category Archives: Posted

The Invisible Land: The hidden force driving the UK’s unequal economy and broken housing market

The reform of the dysfunctional land market is essential if the UK is to be a more equal, more productive and stable economy. It is also vital to creating a better-functioning housing market that delivers the affordable and quality homes the country needs.

https://www.ippr.org/research/publications/the-invisible-land

Land is an essential factor in all economic activity but, if it is not properly managed and regulated, it can play a destabilising role in the housing market and the wider economy. The UK’s dysfunctional land market and soaring land values have helped drive growing wealth inequality, create the conditions for a broken housing market, and are a root cause of an unproductive and unstable economy. Reform of the land market must therefore be focused on reducing the financial speculation that occurs in land and sharing the benefits of increases in land values for the benefit of the public good.

This conclusion is based on five key propositions.

  • The broken land market has a key role in driving wealth inequality in the UK.
  • The broken land market is the driving force behind our broken housing market.
  • The broken land market has played a key role in the financialisation of the UK economy and is a cause of the UK’s poor productivity.
  • The broken land market and high house prices are feeding macroeconomic instability.
  • The UK’s systems for regulating and taxing land do not seek to target or fail to adequately capture the ‘economic rents’ that arise from land.
  • LINK TO PDF OF REPORT https://www.ippr.org/files/2018-08/cej-land-tax-august18.pdf

Cambodia frees leading land rights activist Tep Vanny after royal pardon

by Rina Chandran | @rinachandran | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 21 August 2018
This story is part of  Our new website shining a light on land and property rights around the world

Tep Vanny led a campaign fighting the forced removal of thousands of residents to make way for a luxury real estate projectBy Rina Chandran

BANGKOK, Aug 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A Cambodian land rights activist has been released from prison after receiving a royal pardon, having spent more than two years in detention in a case that came to symbolise the struggle by local communities against evictions.

Tep Vanny had for years led a campaign fighting the forced removal of thousands of residents to make way for a luxury real estate project in the Boeung Kak lake area of Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh.

The mother of two was found guilty of inciting violence and assaulting security guards while trying to deliver a petition to Prime Minister Hun Sen outside his residence in 2013, and sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

Vanny’s return home on Monday night was broadcast live on a colleague’s Facebook page, and showed a crowd of people cheering her. She thanked them and hugged her children.

Rights groups welcomed the release of Vanny and three other women activists who were also pardoned by King Norodom Sihamoni at Hun Sen’s request.

“Tep Vanny symbolises human rights in Cambodia. She was imprisoned for simply trying to exercise her rights and protect those of others,” said Sopheap Chak, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

“Her release is very welcome, and will send a signal of hope amidst an increasingly repressive context for human rights defenders,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The impoverished Southeast Asian country has been riven with conflict over land since the Khmer Rouge destroyed the nation’s property records to establish a form of communism in the 1970s.

Between 2000 and 2014, about 770,000 Cambodians – more than 6 percent of the population – were affected by land conflicts, according to human rights lawyers who filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court in 2014.

They were forced from farmland for mining and agriculture, and neighbourhoods in urban areas for real estate projects, according to rights groups.

Communities that protest come up against authorities and corporations who respond with intimidation, violence and judicial persecution, said a report by non-profit Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights (LICADHO).

Vanny is the most prominent activist from the Boeung Kak area, where local neighbourhoods and backpacker hostels were strung around the scenic lake before it was filled in with sand for construction.

“Tep Vanny should never have been imprisoned in the first place,” Minar Pimple, a senior director at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

“As well as allowing her to resume her activism without fear of further reprisals, authorities must quash all convictions against her and halt any investigations into any other pending charges,” he said.

The royal pardon came just days after a sweeping election victory by Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party, in a poll that rights groups say was neither free nor fair.

(Reporting by Rina Chandran @rinachandran. Editing by Jared Ferrie. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

Planning Problems Faced by Small Farmers by Simon Fairlie

A Presentation to the Conservative  Rural Affairs Group,
6 February 2018

SUMMARY OF MAIN POINTS

Part I: Difficulties Faced by New Entrants

Current Trends

Although there is consolidation in the farming industry as larger  arms expand, there is also a degree of fragmentation of ownership when medium sized farms are broken up. A proportion of these smaller plots are bought by new entrants aiming to make a living from farming and/or woodland management.

Most of these people make a living by adding value through on-farm processing and direct sales. This enables them to employ more people per hectare than larger farms, while productivity per hectare is broadly similar.

Problems Faced by New Entrants

A number of factors including the high price of land and agricultural buildings, and insecurity of tenure on rented properties, means that new entrants often buy plots of land with few or no agricultural buildings and so have to embark on a process of building their farm infrastructure. It will normally be more practical and efficient to live on site, and the cost of rural residential accommodation is much higher than can often be afforded by an otherwise viable farming enterprise. However the planning system is resistant to development in the open countryside, especially residential development; trying to break through that resistance engages the farmer in a process that is mystifying, stressful and timeconsuming.

Current Policy

There is a dearth of national policy relating to agricultural buildings and dwellings. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states only that rural worker’s dwellings are allowable if there is an “essential need for a rural worker to live permanently at or near their place of work”. The National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG) has nothing to say about agricultural development. Most local development plans contain policies on agricultural dwellings which echo advice previously given in PPS7, requiring that applicants should demonstrate an essential need to live on site and that the enterprise should be viable. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with these criteria but they are poorly defined and there is variation in interpretation, particularly as regards essential need. The recommended occupancy condition is weak, since it does not tie the dwelling to the land that justified it, leading to abuse.

Examples of New Entrants Experiencing Planning Difficulties.

Over the years Chapter 7 has documented many cases where planning officers’ resistance to agricultural development is unhelpful, and sometimes unreasonable. These include cases where officers refuse to acknowledge permitted development rights, turn down proposals for modest yet necessary agricultural buildings, or reject applications for dwellings on weak grounds. The high proportion of permissions that are granted at appeal, often after more than one application, suggests that many local authority planning officers are unduly biased against agricultural development on new holdings.

Why New Entrants Meet Resistance.

The main reason is that planning consent for agricultural buildings is notoriously susceptible to abuse from people who pretend or aspire to be farmers but who eventually convert farm buildings to another use, or agricultural dwellings to market housing. This is a genuine concern, inadequately addressed by the current model occupancy condition. Another reason may be that many planning officers have scant understanding of or sympathy for agriculture and forestry.

Part II: Some Recommendations and Suggestions

Policy Clarifications.

To remedy the situation, policies concerning agricultural development on new and bareland holdings need to be clarified. In particular:
• Paragraph 28 of the NPPF should be explicit about the benefits of local food;
• The NPPG should advise LPAs that when assessing “essential need” they should give weight to all relevant factors including the need to deal with emergencies, to manage the enterprise efficiently, to work unsociable hours, to reduce car use, to secure affordable accommodation, and to protect the enterprise from theft
or vandalism.
• The NPPG should remind LPAs that the viability and labour requirements of small-scale enterprises cannot necessarily be assessed using formulae derived from farm management manuals;
• The role of temporary permission should be clarified, noting that: it serves as a trial period when there is some uncertainty about viability; that five years is often a better period than three on bareland holdings; and that an easily dismantled wooden dwelling may be more appropriate than a caravan.

Securing New Farming Enterprises and Preventing Abuse

Instead of the weak occupancy condition currently used, new agricultural dwellings should be secured with a condition or Section 106 agreement that ties the dwelling to the land and farming enterprise that justified it; or sometimes a personal condition is more appropriate There are also a number of schemes to provide small-scale farming opportunities under the umbrella management of a social organization, such as a co-operative or a charity, the most notable in the UK being the Ecological Land Co-op. These deserve more recognition and support from the planning system than they have so far received,

Local Food Provision in the Green Belt

With a massive market at hand, there is no more convenient place to produce local food than the green belt around London and other cities; and there would be benefits to urban schools and community groups from having farms producing local foods on their doorstep. A majority of urban residents say they would like to buy food grown nearby, while substantial areas of green belt land are “neglected.”

Yet it is doubly difficult for producers of local food to establish themselves in the green belt, owing to the hope value attached to the land and to stringent planning policies. The NPPF should be revised so as to encourage local food production and provision in the green belt, and allow that an agricultural worker’s dwelling may be appropriate.

Succession

Existing farms sometimes confront much the same problems as new entrants, when succession can only be satisfactorily resolved by introducing an extra dwelling. The DHCLG should consider whether a second dwelling policy similar to that in Welsh Technical Advice 6 could be introduced in England.

Simon Fairlie, Chapter 7

For a PDF of a fuller version click below:
Planning Problems Faced by Small Farmers A Presentation to the Conservative Rural Affairs Group,

Gove accused of letting wealthy grouse moor-owners off the hook

See also: Who Owns England publish today on the day of the beginning of the grouse-shooting season: The aristocrats and City bankers who own England’s grouse moors

 
Article published today on the Guardian website asserts that documents show that the UK environment secretary suggested owners voluntarily end the deleterious environmental practice of burning heather to head off threat of a compulsory ban.
Background: Pressure for the ban comes from the decision by the European Commission to begin legal action against the UK government who, having made a commitment to the commission to carry out a review of permissions to burn blanket bog in Special Areas of Conservation, delayed acting upon by a number of years the results of Natural England’s review in 2013which concluded that “ongoing burning of blanket bog habitat would prevent its maintenance and restoration”. (Source: RSPB)

Michael Gove accused of letting wealthy grouse moor owners off the hook
by Rob Evans, The Guardian
Date: 12th Aug 2018
Ref: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/aug/12/michael-gove-accused-of-letting-wealthy-grouse-moor-owners-off-the-hook

Papers show UK environment secretary suggested owners voluntarily end controversial practice of burning heather to head off threat of compulsory ban

Michael Gove, the environment secretary, has been accused of letting the owners of large grouse moors who are alleged to be damaging the environment off the hook.

The accusation from campaigners concerns the owners’ practice of repeatedly burning heather on their moorland estates to help boost the numbers of grouse for shooting.

The owners face the threat of a compulsory ban on the practice after the European commission launched an investigation.

However, Whitehall papers show that Gove suggested they should end the practice voluntarily to head off the threat of a ban. The papers record a private meeting between Gove and a small group of owners, two of whom have made donations to the Conservative party.

According to the minutes, Gove advised them to “sign up to a voluntary commitment to suspend the practice” as it would “help the government demonstrate its intent” to end it.

His department confirmed, according to the minutes, that the voluntary commitment would not be legally binding.

Guy Shrubsole, of the campaign group Who Owns England, which obtained the papers under freedom of information legislation, said: “The government faces legal action by the European commission for allowing this practice to continue, yet is letting wealthy grouse moor owners off the hook by pleading with them to take voluntary action.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it had made rapid progress in recent months as more than 150 landowners had committed themselves to ending the practice voluntarily. About two-thirds of them organise grouse shooting. The Moorland Association, which represents landowners, denied that they were being given an easy ride by the government.

As the “Glorious Twelfth” – the start of the annual grouse-shooting season – begins on Sunday, Who Owns England is publishing a map of the owners of about 100 grouse moor estates in England. It estimates that the estates together cover half a million acres – an area the size of Greater London.

A mixture of aristocrats, City financiers and businesses based in offshore tax havens own the estates, charging clients significant sums of money to bag grouse, according to its analysis.

Environmental campaigners argue that the management of the estates harms the environment and wildlife. They say it leads to the illegal killing of birds of prey such as hen harriers, which prey on grouse, and the legal killing of foxes, stoats and mountain hares.

One criticism concerns the practice of burning the bog to encourage new heather shoots – a food source for grouse. They say that burning heather leaves bare peat exposed to the air, harming wildlife that lives in the peatland.

Burning blanket bog to support the elite sport of grouse shooting wreaks ecological havoc – exacerbating wildfires and floods, and releasing huge amounts of soil carbon,” said Shrubsole.

However, the accusations are rejected by the owners, who say their management of the moors protects the environment. They say that about two-thirds of England’s upland sites of special scientific interest are managed grouse moors which helps to conserve the landscape, while other areas have been lost to afforestation, windfarms or overgrazing.

The documents record how Gove invited the landowners to a meeting in London in February.

According to the minutes, Gove told them that he was pursuing a new policy, with the agreement of the European commission, and was looking to the landowners “to sign up to a voluntary commitment to suspend the practice of rotational burning with immediate effect”.

He advised that protecting soils was high on the government’s agenda and introducing an immediate ban on rotational burning on blanket bog could have significant consequence on land management practices currently underway,” say the minutes.

Defra confirmed “the voluntary commitment is not a legally binding document and would show intent from both the government and land managers to achieve long-term outcomes for restoring blanket bog”.

It added that unless “a significant number” of voluntary commitments were in place by next year, it would “need to introduce legislation to cease rotational burning”.

Among those at the meeting was the Duke of Northumberland, who has donated £11,100 to the Conservative party.

A Defra spokesperson said: “Protecting blanket bogs is a priority. We have made rapid progress over the last six months – 157 landowners have committed to cease rotational burning, up from three a year ago, representing the vast majority of blanket bog in England.”

However the environment secretary has made clear that we will take steps to introduce legislation if our constructive, voluntary approach does not deliver.

It added that its advisory body, Natural England, was working closely with these landowners to put management plans in place as soon as possible.

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, said: “The portrayal of the partnership agreement between Natural England and grouse moor managers as being ‘cosy and letting landowners off’ is completely inaccurate.

Law Commission proposal for leaseholders to buy a freehold at discount

https://www.leaseholdknowledge.com/creation-national-leasehold-campaign-nlc
Photo of leaseholder protest 2017 (Source: Leasehold Knowledge Partnership). Katie Kendrick, of the National Leasehold Campaign group, has brilliantly mobilised leaseholders across the country. The group has a Facebook membership of nearly 7,000 and has organised a series of demonstrations across the North West.

Radical plans to end huge costs of buying a freehold unveiled

Law Commission draws up options enabling leaseholders to extend or buy more cheaply

by Patrick Collinson
The Guardian, 19/07/2018
Ref: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/jul/19/radical-plans-to-end-huge-costs-of-buying-a-freehold-unveiled

Millions of homeowners caught in the so-called “leasehold trap” may be able to buy their freeholds at a fraction of the price currently demanded by ground rent companies, under radical proposals from  the Law Commission.

One proposal is for a simple formula where leaseholders will pay just  10 times their current ground rent to convert their property from leasehold to freehold.

There are 4.2m leasehold properties in England, and around half are on leases of under 80 years, leaving residents vulnerable to what critics say are rapacious demands from freeholders for lease extensions.

The Law Commission was asked by then communities secretary Savid Javid in December 2017 to find ways to make buying out a lease “much easier, faster and cheaper”. In its response, the Law Commission, an independent legal body, on Thursday sets out two options for reform. The first is a formula that “could be based on ten times the ground rent” or “10% of the value of the property”, saying that any new rules must reduce the current cost for leaseholders. It added that a simple formula had the benefit of being easily understood and would reduce legal costs.

With ground rents averaging around £370 a year, that suggests a cost of £3,700 – far less than the £10,000 to £40,000 typically sought from a leaseholder for a flat valued at £200,000 with fewer than 80 years left on the lease.

Its second option is to standardise the existing regime for leasehold valuations, removing a complicated element called “marriage value” that it said currently increases the cost paid by leaseholders.

The Law Commission also proposed new formulas for leaseholders who extend their lease rather than buying the freehold. It suggested that they could have a right to extend the lease for up to 250 years, and no longer have to pay ground rents.

The Law Commission said proposals were only at an outline stage, and that a full consultation document would not be published until the autumn, with new rules unlikely until summer 2019. Any changes to the calculation of leasehold extensions is likely to meet fierce resistance from freeholders, with the fortunes of Britain’s wealthiest aristocrats, such as the Duke of Westminster, rooted in lucrative leasehold property estates in central London.

A legal challenge to existing leasehold valuations – which estimated that leaseholders were overpaying by hundreds of millions of pounds every year – was rejected by the Court of Appeal earlier this year.

The Law Commission said it would have to ensure that “sufficient compensation” was paid to landlords. “Any changes to the law that government takes forward will have to comply with human rights legislation and take account of the impact of reform.

“And while some changes – in particular the options that we have been asked to present to reduce the premium payable by leaseholders – will inevitably benefit leaseholders at the expense of landlords, that is not the case across the board.”

Campaigners for leasehold reform, who demonstrated outside parliament on Wednesday, welcomed the proposals. Sebastian O’Kelly of the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership said: “Lease extension and enfranchisement – the buying of the freehold – are two highly lucrative rackets.

“The mathematical formulae agreed by the courts were obligingly provided by estate agents for the richest freehold owners in the country. The only way to end this racket is a fixed formula of annual multiples of ground rent, as exists in Northern Ireland and Scotland, then your home is truly yours.”

Around one in five new-build houses in recent years – and almost every flat – have been sold as leasehold, some with spiralling ground rents that have made selling them near impossible.

[end]

Anglesey dispute with the RSPB car park charges

 Here in deepest Anglesey, we are having a dispute with the RSPB over one of their reserves South Stack, which is in fact 88% public land (leased to them by the council). The RSPB plan to charge for parking on three of the four car parks at the site and there is no access via public transport and it is a remote site.

Not only is the vast amount of the land in public ownership, it was also given to the people of Anglesey for their free use. The birds at South Stack are far from being the only attraction. There is a lighthouse that is over 200 years old and is an iconic part of the landscape in Anglesey and indeed the whole of Wales. This is run on a pay by admission basis by a ‘not for profit’ company who give all of their proceeds to local projects. The rocks at South Stack were formed some 500 million years ago. There is also a scheduled ancient monument looked after by Cadw.

Any payment taken by the RSPB will go to the RSPB alone. They have proposed that on a trial basis, they charge a reduced sum of £2 an hour (originally it was to be a flat fee of £5). They have stated that they cannot guarantee that they will not put this charge back up again as it is subject to review. This parking fee is a large amount for people living on this island that has some of the most deprived areas in Wales. This is at a time when we are supposed to be encouraging exercise and ‘getting outdoors’ for the wellbeing of a nation.

They also plan to upgrade their visitor centre/café to the tune of £840,000 (some of which will be publicly funded), when done they will be sitting on a huge piece of valuable real estate. They say that they need the parking fee to justify the investment from their Trustees for the building work. If pushed, they revert to mentioning that nature needs help.

They have been refused planning permission for 4 parking payment machines by the Council but have indicated that they will now appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. I attach a petition now signed by over 6,000 against the parking, hopefully my updates within will give you plenty of information but I am happy to answer any questions.

Do any TLIO members have experience of large charities acting in this way, against the public good? Interested in any thoughts and comments on either side of the debate. With many thanks for allowing me to post.

 

https://www.change.org/p/rspb-no-to-carpark-charges-at-south-stack-ynys-lawd

Fast-track fracking plan by the government denounced

Fracking opponents have reacted with anger after ministers unveiled measures to help projects through the planning system in England, which campaigners said would make drilling a shale well as easy as building a conservatory.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/may/17/fast-track-fracking-plan-by-uk-government-prompts-criticism
Date: 17 May 2018 (Last modified on Fri 18 May 2018 11.53)
by Adam Vaughan, The Guardian

Shale gas explorers will be able to drill test sites in England without applying for planning permission and fracking sites could be classed as nationally significant infrastructure, meaning approval would come at a national rather than local level.

Planning authorities will also be given £1.6m to speed up fracking applications over the next two years and a new shale environmental regulator will be created this summer, under government proposals published on Thursday.

Caroline Lucas, the co-leader of the Green party, said the plans were shocking. “Britain’s fracking experiment was on life support and now the government is trying its best to shock it back into life.

Rebecca Long Bailey MP, shadow business secretary, said: “Fracking should be banned, not promoted.

Greenpeace said the government had turned a deaf ear to communities and councils, and would make “exploratory drilling as easy as building a garden wall or conservatory”.

The progress of fracking in the UK has been glacial, with not a single well fracked since a ban was lifted in 2013.

Companies including Ineos, Cuadrilla and Third Energy have been bogged down in planning battles with local authorities. In the first three months of the year, seven of eight shale drilling plans were rejected by councils.

However, under plans outlined by the business secretary, Greg Clark, the drilling of shale wells in England will be considered permitted development, meaning no planning application is required.
For full article, click here.
[end]
  

38 Degrees Petition (written by CPRE)
The government’s trying to sneak this through quietly. But if it happens, it could set a dangerous precedent for our democracy. Not to mention the devastation it could cause to our countryside, from the Yorkshire Moors to Sherwood Forest.

This is the biggest threat to our countryside and democracy we’ve seen in a while.
Please drop measures to:
● Treat exploratory drilling as permitted development.
● Include fracking in the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects Regime.
Sign the Petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/don-t-fast-track-fracking
 

Background: The 2015 Infrastructure Bill, which provided new strategic powers in terms of development and planning law for government to make provision for infrastructure development with specific regard to increasing provision for greater housing development across the UK, also included specific safeguards around hydraulic fracturing. It provided automatic right of access given to “deep level” land (300m or lower) for the purposes of exploiting petroleum or deep geothermal energy, i.e. for general petrol extraction and specifically unconventional extraction or hydraulic fracturing / fracking. This put into legislative statute the right of developers involved in fracking to override the interests of surface landowners who are now no longer able to unduly object to or frustrate initiatives on the basis of works amounting to trespass. In addition, “there is the right to leave the deep level land in a different condition than before the right was exercised. This includes by leaving any substance or infrastructure in the land. Liability for any loss or damage attributable to the exercise of these rights by another person is expressly removed from resting with the landowner.” (Source: https://www.walkermorris.co.uk/publications/infrastructure-act-2015-fracking-focus/ ).




References:
[1] The Guardian: Fast-track fracking plan by the government prompts criticism:
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/may/17/fast-track-fracking-plan-by-uk-government-prompts-criticism
The Times: Backlash as Ineos puts fracking on fast track with plans to bypass local councils:
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/backlash-as-ineos-puts-fracking-on-fast-track-with-plans-to-bypass-local-councils-m7wmrcxgm
The Independent: Government announces plan to accelerate fracking developments by fast-tracking private companies’ planning applications:
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/fracking-development-government-plan-accelerate-shale-gas-carbon-emissions-a8355756.html
UK Parliament: Written statement on Energy Policy made by Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which lays out the Government’s plans:
https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2018-05-17/HCWS690
[2] This has made it into a few news articles, like the ones above, but such a massive change to our local councils’ powers should have gone much further than that.
[3] Greenpeace: 4 reasons why we could all be fracked by fracking:
https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/3-reasons-why-we-could-all-be-fracked-fracking-20130812/
The Independent: Fracking could cause earthquakes across huge swathes of UK, warns former Downing Street adviser and seismologist:
https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/uk-fracking-earthquakes-cause-shale-gas-seismic-events-government-planning-a8363411.html
[4] Guardian: How fracking can contribute to climate change:
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/29/fracking-contribute-climate-change
[5] 38 Degrees: “Fracking cannot and will not take place in Scotland”:
https://home.38degrees.org.uk/2017/10/03/fracking-cannot-will-not-take-place-scotland/
[6] The Guardian: UK fracking backlash: seven of eight plans rejected in 2018:
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/08/uk-fracking-backlash-seven-out-of-eight-plans-rejected-in-2018
The Telegraph: Villages across the UK take up the fight against fracking:
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/environment/10209728/Villages-across-the-UK-take-up-the-fight-against-fracking.html
Friends of the Earth: Fracking in Sherwood Forest – we’re winning but it’s not over yet:
https://friendsoftheearth.uk/climate-change/fracking-sherwood-forest-were-winning-its-not-over-yet
38 Degrees: Protect Sherwood Forest:
https://speakout.38degrees.org.uk/campaigns/1787

Residents of Scottish island Ulva raise €5.1 million to buy out aristocrat landlord

They delayed the sale under a new Scottish law, allowing them to raise the money through public funds and private donations.

THE LAST REMAINING residents of a dramatically depopulated Scottish island pledged to rebuild their community after finalising a €5.1 million deal to buy out their aristocrat landlord.

The five tenants on the Isle of Ulva feared their way of life might be coming to an end when the island was put on the market after decades of ownership by the Howard family.

But they succeeded in delaying the sale under a new Scottish law, allowing them to raise the money through public funds and hundreds of private donations.

The Munro family and their only neighbour Barry George held a party on the island today with supporters from the neighbouring island of Mull to celebrate the sale being finalised.

“We paid just over £4.5 (€5.1) million,” Rebecca Munro, 31, told AFP, adding that a large chunk came from the Scottish Land Fund, founded in 2000 to help communities buy their land from their landlords.

We also had some really generous donations from all over the world on our Just Giving page, and we also had a significant one from the Macquarie Bank so that’s gone a huge way.

The island’s “laird” Jamie Howard put the island up for sale for £4.25 (€4.8) million, offering prospective buyers the opportunity to own “one of the finest private islands in northern Europe”.

Soon after, tycoons began flying in for viewings, raising concerns among residents that they might be removed from the island.

“When the island was on the market and the helicopters appeared, it was a real concern for us that a private owner would come in and close the island and they wouldn’t keep the residents or keep our business going,” said Munro.

‘Phenomenally beautiful’

Barry George, who has lived on the island for 22 years, told AFP: “It’s a phenomenally beautiful place, and it would be criminal to shut the place down, and that is my objective, to keep it open so that people can come and see what I see.”

The new legislation has far-reaching implications in a region where half the land is owned by just 500 people, many of them absentee aristocratic landlords with castles and vast country estates.

Ulva is an idyllic location with views of Ben More mountain and the spectacular Eas Fors Waterfall on the neighbouring island of Mull.

It once had a population of more than 800 people. But now empty cottages, an abandoned church and the disused Ulva Hostel are falling into disrepair.

“We’re never going to get back to those numbers but we need to make a healthy community so we’ll have to start doing that now,” said Rhuri Munro, 35, a fisherman.

Its decline can be traced back to the Highland Clearances, when landlords conducted a wholesale eviction of Scottish farmers in the 18th century and turned their lands over to sheep grazing.

Many Scots emigrated to the then British colonies and one Ulva native, Lachlan Macquarie, became a governor in Australia in the 19th century.

The islanders received a £500,000 (€570,000) donation from the Macquarie Group, the largest investment bank in Australia which was named after the late governor.

Roseanna Cunningham, the senior lawmaker in the Scottish government responsible for land reform, said the buyout could be the first of many.

“Scottish government officials stand ready to support any community that wants to think about doing this, urban and rural,” she told AFP.

“Ulva, in that sense, is quite iconic because it’s a big, big signal that, no matter the challenges, if you have the vision, we will support you.”

Tories vote down law requiring landlords make their homes fit for human habitation

72 of the MPs who voted against the measure are registered as landlords themselves
Jon Stone @joncstone Wednesday 13 January 2016
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tories-vote-down-law-requiring-landlords-make-their-homes-fit-for-human-habitation-a6809691.html

Conservative MPs have voted to reject a proposed rule that would have required private landlords to make their homes “fit for human habitation”.

The vote, which came on Tuesday night, was on proposed amendment to the Government’s new Housing and Planning Bill – a raft of new laws aimed at reforming housing law.

The Labour-proposed amendment was rejected by 312 votes to 219, however.

READ MORELandlord Tory MP opposes law to make homes fit for human habitation

According to Parliament’s register of interests, 72 of the MPs who voted against the amendment are themselves landlords who derive an income from a property.

Communities minister Marcus Jones said the Government believed homes should be fit for human habitation but did not want to pass the new law that would explicitly require it.

“Of course we believe that all homes should be of a decent standard and all tenants should have a safe place to live regardless of tenure, but local authorities already have strong and effective powers to deal with poor quality and safe accommodation and we expect them to use them,” he said in a reply.

Teresa Pearce, the shadow housing minister who proposed the amendment, said renters lacked “basic consumer protection” when things went wrong.

“The majority of landlords let property which is and remains in a decent standard. Many landlords go out of their way to ensure that even the slightest safety hazard is sorted quickly and efficiently,” she said.

“So it is even more distressing when we see reports of homes which are frankly unfit for human habitation being let, often at obscene prices.

“Where else in modern day life could someone get away with this? It’s a consumer issue. If I purchased a mobile phone or a computer that didn’t work, didn’t do what it said it would or was unsafe I would take it back and get a refund.”

But the Government claimed the new law would result in “unnecessary regulation”.

The proposed amendment reflects the contents of a private members bill blocked by Conservative MPs in October last year.

That bill, proposed by Labour MP Karen Buck, was “talked out” by backbenchers, including Conservative MP Philip Davies, who is himself a landlord.

During that debate he warned that landlords “appear to be an easy target for the Left in this country”.

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill would have updated a law introduced in the 19th century that requires homes under a certain rent limit to be “fit for human habitation”.

That rent limit has not been updated since 1957, however, and the rule currently applies to all properties with an annual rent of below £80 in London and £52 elsewhere.

The weekly average weekly rent in London is currently £362 and practically zero properties currently fall under the legislation.

The Government’s housing bill includes provisions for starter homes, the right to buy for housing association tenants, higher rents for higher income social tenants, and some changes to speed up the planning system.

According to Parliament’s register of interests, the 72 MPs who are registered as deriving income from property of over £10,000 a year and who voted against the law are:

Nigel Adams

Stuart Andrew

Victoria Atkins

Jake Berry

James Berry

Bob Blackman

Robert Buckland

Alun Cairns

David Cameron

Alex Chalk

James Cleverley

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown

Therese Coffey

Geoffrey Cox

Mims Davies

Philip Davies

Richard Drax

James Duddridge

Alan Duncan

Philip Dunne

Jane Ellison

George Eustice

Mike Freer

Richard Fuller

John Glen

Robert Goodwill

Chris Grayling

Dominic Grieve

Chris Heaton-Harris

Peter Heaton-Jones

George Hollingberry

Kevin Hollinrake

Philip Hollobone

Nick Hurd

Stewart Jackson

Margot James

Sajid Javid

Joseph Johnson

Simon Kirby (teller)

Greg Knight

Brandon Lewis

Julian Lewis

Craig Mackinlay

Tania Mathias

Karl McCartney

Anne Marie Morris

Sheryll Murray

Robert Neill

Sarah Newton (teller)

Jesse Norman

David Nuttall

Neil Parish

Owen Paterson

Rebecca Pow

Jeremy Quin

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Laurence Robertson

Julian Smith

Royston Smith

Mark Spencer

John Stevenson

Desmond Swayne

Derek Thomas

Anne-Marie Trevelyan

Andrew Turner

Shailesh Vara

Theresa Villiers

Ben Wallace

David Warburton

Craig Whittaker

John Whittingdale

Nadhim Zahawi