Headlines: December 15th, 2006

CAMPAIGNERS SAY COUNCILS NEED POWERS TO COMBAT LAND BANKING

 

A campaign is being launched today against land banking – the process by which small investors buy up parcels of land in the hope of being able to build homes. The Government is being urged to act to stop the carve up of the countryside, including giving local councils the power to remove fences. The Campaign to Protect Rural England says the practice is putting fields and woods at risk of being disfigured and neglected.

Campaigners say land is being sold to people from all over the world who hope to be able to get permission to build. In fact, their chances of being able to do so are small and their investments are likely to fail because in most cases they cannot obtain permission to develop. But, the CPRE says, that has not stopped more than two dozen separate land banking operations that use glossy advertising to attract more investors. Now it fears Kate Barker’s recent review of planning could add to the problem because she recommended a review of Green Belt boundaries across England and that may be used by land banking operators to advertise hundreds more plots.

The CPRE has joined MPs from all parties to call for a Government to clamp down on the schemes. It has found more than 20 operators involved in buying up land in open countryside and subdividing it into small plots, sometimes putting up stakes and fences. It has identified 200 separate sites across England that are affected. It says action needs to be taken across Government. Councils need to be able to remove fences and stakes already in place, and Government should use its powers in company and property law to curtail the operations. The Government is proposing to prevent land being divided with unsightly fences and posts and while CPRE has welcomed that step it is warning that on its own it will not be enough to tackle the problem.

Paul Miner, CPRE’s Planning Campaigner, said, the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Department for Trade and Industry, the Financial Services Authority and the Office of Fair Trading needed to work together to stamp out land banking.