The furore surrounding relaxation of planning regulations, and the recent indiscretions of elected councilors only highlights a fundamental weakness in our arrangements for managing land use in the UK. .
As long as we have a system which allows those who own land to collect all the community created value uplift, there will be intense pressure to speculate on land values; to sit on land in anticipation of rising prices; and for others to be squeezed out of the market and potentially into poverty and homelessness.
There is a way out of this dilemma which is economically viable, practical and would eliminate the scourge of speculation which continues to extend the gap between rich and poor in the UK and beyond. It is called a stewardship fee and would be recovered from the owners of land to reflect the benefit they would otherwise accrue solely from ownership of that land.
This concept was originally conceived by Henry George who, in 1879, wrote “Progress and Poverty”, which clearly set out the case for sharing amongst everyone in society, the benefits derived from having access to land. His argument rested on the belief that the rentable value of land should be shared amongst all citizens. All improvements to land, including buildings etc would be unaffected.
Here in Devon, this concept is being promoted by a newly formed group, the Henry George Society of Devon” (www.HenryGeorgeDevon.Wordpress.com) and we welcome others to help spread the ideas of Henry George which are now so topical once again.