Town and Country Planning (Land Values)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th February 1964.

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3.45 p.m.

Photo of Mrs Joyce Butler Mrs Joyce Butler , Wood Green

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to establish a central agency to collect a proportion of the increase in land values created by the granting of planning permission; and to transmit the money so collected to local authorities. My proposed Bill has three particular merits. The first is its simplicity. Although it may appear to be a contradiction in terms for a Town and Country Planning Bill to be simple, I believe that the special agency would skim off an agreed proportion of the enhanced land value when planning permission is given in a fairly simple operation. The district valuers already have all the facilities necessary for making the valuations and the money thus collected by the agency would be an important additional source of revenue to local authorities, so that the community itself gained some benefit from these increases in value.

The actual amount of the levy expressed as a percentage of the difference in value between the land in its restricted use and in its newly permitted use is a matter for discussion and debate. The House will know that previous betterment legislation has varied from the 1947 Act 100 per cent. levy, through the 1932 75 per cent. levy to the 50 per cent. development charge of 1925. The levy for land already allocated in development plans at least should be considerably less even than the 50 per cent. of 1925 in order to appear absolutely fair and reasonable, to be generally acceptable and to receive the support of the public as well as of the landowners who would have to pay it.

The second virtue of the Bill is that it is timely. The previous attempts to collect betterment to which I have referred took place in a very different atmosphere from that of today, when there is a ferment of building and redevelopment everywhere and when so much activity is planned and likely to continue for a very long time that the provisions of the Bill could not possibly be said to hamper development. At the same time, properties and land are changing hands at such fantastic prices that leaseholders, householders, shop- keepers and the community generally are losing all the time by having to pay for these increases in value which they themselves have created.

Perhaps I may briefly give one or two examples to illustrate the point. In Bishop's Stortford, farmland that was worth £250 an acre has become worth £10,000 an acre since the local authority allocated it for residential development—a forty-fold increase. At Potters Bar, a site valued in January, 1958, at £769 had become worth £30,000 by November of the same year due to the introduction of the Town and Country Planning Bill. At Enfield, the case raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) in the Adjournment debate of 29th January showed that allotment land which two years ago was sold for £7,500 is likely, as a result of a Ministerial decision, to be worth £200,000 if sold today—again, a forty-fold increase.

All this land derives the main part of its value, not from the activities of the landowners or from its intrinsic value, but because of its situation in relation to roads, drainage systems, transport facilities and other community provisions. The value which the community development gives to land is even more clearly illustrated by an example from Scotland, where the Government announcement of a £20 million pulp and paper mill at Lochaber has resulted in bogland which was worth less than £5 an acre shooting up in value to £750 an acre.

The last example I have chosen illustrates one of the limitations of the Minister of Housing and Local Government's own betterment thinking in regard to public bodies acquiring land in advance of requirements. A quarter acre site for a police station bought in Welwyn Garden City in 1924 for £365 was sold this year to the development corporation for £55,000. I would point out that this has happened despite the special provisions for land acquisition in new towns.

Town and country planning is one of those dull subjects where the technicalities often obscure the human issues involved. But a young couple buying a house at an inflated price, the shopkeeper whose premises are redeveloped and who has to pay a sky-high rent to a property speculator, the ratepayers who have built up the community which gives these sites their value and who now have to pay increased rates because of the high cost of land for housing, education, roads, open spaces and all public services—all these people often suffer acute financial hardship because we have not tackled the soaring price of land.

The Bill cannot of its nature deal with that, but it will ensure that some of this vast increase in land values goes back to the people who created it—the local authorities and the ratepayers themselves.

The third merit of the Bill is that it is eminently just and reasonable. I believe that public opinion is aware of the problem and is ready to support steps to remedy it. I do not believe that it is necessary to debate the principle of betterment today. The Opposition have long supported it and on the Government side the Minister has said Perhaps we should try again. I would not rule that out."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1963; Vol. 684, c. 655.] During this hiatus period, while we are awaiting whatever action the Government might take with regard to betterment, and while the Opposition are not yet in office and in a position to implement their own land proposals, I hope that the House will not only allow the Bill to see the light of day, but will enable it to go forward for Second Reading so that the important principles that it covers can be fully debated.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mrs. Butler, Mr. Silkin, Dr. King, Mr. Skeffington, Mr. Mackie, Mr. Allaun, and Mr. Probert.