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Labour to give local officials compulsory purchase powers

The Labour Party plans to give local officials powers to buy land cheaply and use it for development, The Guardian reports.

Based on party sources it’s thought local authorities would have the power to buy land at a fraction of its cost if they want to use it to build.

They could buy under compulsory purchase orders without having to factor in the “hope value”, the value of land based on the expectation that it will get permission for development.

A ‘party source’ told The Guardian said: “We want to rebalance the power between landowners and local communities.

“We want local areas to capture a lot more of the value that is created when you build on land nearby. The principal is to tilt the balance of power, which right now is tilted towards landowners and not communities.”

Labour’s apparent plan has been met with some cynicism from the industry, including property service group Leaders Romans Group.

Ian Barnett, national land director of Leaders Romans Group, said: There are several reasons why we aren’t building enough houses as a country – the availability of land or even the price of land are relatively minor barriers to housing delivery.

“The majority of landowners make their land available for development; the price of which is determined by the market, itself determined by the planning status which includes factoring in the cost of any financial obligations payable to the local authority.

“In reality, buying agricultural land unconditionally with simply ‘hope value’ is relatively uncommon given the planning system’s uncertainty and lengthy timeframes.

“Aside from Compulsory Purchase Orders for agricultural land creating all manner of legal challenges, it should be remembered that the mechanism for local authorities to extract more value for communities is already in place and they have the ability to generate revenue through Section 106 agreements and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).

“Proper resourcing of local authority planning departments, and planning for development in the right areas through joined up regional planning should be the priorities for any future government.”

Lawrence Turner, director in Boyer’s Bristol office, said: The problem with Labour’s proposals is that compulsory purchase takes a long time to process and is very costly and resource-intensive for local planning authorities.

“Other complications typically involve protracted negotiations with owners, legal challenges, and extensive public consultation and paperwork.

“I have seen instances in Bristol where I am based, where CPOs have taken more than 20 years on some sites. Unfortunately, this policy doesn’t have the potential to deliver the homes as quickly or as cheaply as the headlines suggest.”

Labour has pledged to unveil pro-building policies, as Keir Starmer has talked up using the green built and bringing back the 300,000 per year new homes target.